Do you ever think your writing
is pretty great one day but then the next day you think that maybe you're
delusional and your writing actually orally pleasures the world's longest
literary tallywacker (ie, is not very good at all)?
Writers are masochistic freaks. They spend their time alone, reading
and writing, and then they send their writing to editors who more often
than not send a form rejection in a few weeks or several months. This is
not what writers want.
Writers want to know WHY their stories are rejected and they want to
know without having to wait a season or two to find out.
All in all, the submission/response process is slow and sucky and impersonal.
Lots of writers also send stuff to writer friends, who usually hand
out more orchids than onions because it's easier to lose a little integrity
than risk a friendship. It's great to have nice friends and all but it
sucks for writers looking for SOMEONE to tell them exactly what they think
about their writing without pussyfooting around (yes, we used the word
The question, therefore, is: WHERE CAN A WRITER GO TO GET AN HONEST
RESPONSE FROM SOMEONE WHO ONLY CARES ABOUT THE WORDS ON THE PAGE AND BELIEVES
THAT AN HONEST RESPONSE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MAKING A FRIEND?!
Eyeshot was originally founded and
operated for ten years as a volunteer effort, a sort of textual first-aid
for tender literary souls, no matter how bawdy or incomprehensible or odd.
Recently, knowing that submissions
were forever closed and we
wouldn't ever again be posting fiction etc, someone sent a story because
she wanted to receive her "very own sassy rejection letter."
We responded: "I have a crazy idea:
I'll read and respond to your story if you donate some money to Haiti (or
an American literacy organization) and forward the receipt to me. The more
money you give, the more in-depth my response will be. Sound good?"
Hours later, we received an official-looking
receipt for a $40 donation to an earthquake relief organization. An hour
later, we transmitted a response much longer than the four-paragraph story
she originally sent.
Writer gets earnest, helpful, thorough
feedback from someone who only cares about her story (ie, isn't interested
in blowing smoke or stroking ego). Editor gets to keep analytical skills
sharp by helping a writer and, in turn, a relief organization. Relief organization
gets forty freakin' bucks, which helps people in serious need.
So then we configured a little chip-in
account thing (see below) and decided to proceed like this for the foreseeable
Now, instead of reading and responding
to submissions with an eye for posting them on Eyeshot, we will read and
respond to stories as long as you donate money to our chipin account or
forward an official-looking receipt for a contribution to a noble cause
(dated the same day as your submission).
Money collected from the chipin
thing will be donated when it builds up a bit, most likely to a US literacy
effort, and a receipt will be posted to prove we're not a shady scam artist.
The entirely arbitrary goal is $1000 by January 1, 2011.
For the most part, the more money
you donate, the more thorough and helpful the response will be (or performative
and insane and yet somehow oddly helpful, if you'd prefer -- please indicate
such a preference with your "submission").
Please don't send stories longer
than 20 double-spaced pages unless you contribute a really generous
Send your story to submit at
eyeshot.net. We'll acknowledge
the "submission" immediately and send a response within a few days (a week
or two, the latest).
Occasionally we may post our responses
the way we used to post rejection
letters. And we might post your response to our response as a way to
encourage more responses, that is, if your response is positive.
ALSO PLEASE NOTE: If you've ever received a helpful rejection or even
an acceptance from Eyeshot in the past and/or appreciated the site as a
reader etc and you'd like to add a bit of sunshine to our pot of rainbow-smiley
monetary vibes, such tiny gifts are totally welcome without sending a story.
We will love you more than we already do and we will maybe even send you
something in the mail like a book or a CD-R or a homemade oddity.
Final Q: Um, so why are you on this weird do-gooder kick?
A: One of the first
posts ever on Eyeshot talked about the kind of complicated dynamics
of generosity re: DFW's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but things
are simpler now, especially since we recently found out that sex,
food, and altruism light up the same part of the brain, neurochemically
(ie, it feels good) . . .
Otherwise, as always, for your reading
pleasure, here's a longish history
of Eyeshot. Here's the archive.
Here are favorites posted
over the past 10 years. Here are the defunct submission
guidelines. Here are some good books
I totally appreciate the very lengthy and thorough critique -- it's
great to get feedback like this. So detailed and committed. I feel overwhelmed
now, how do I undo and unravel all of this, but when that passes I will
use your fabulous and intelligent critique as my step by step to re-work,
re-write, edit and amputate the arms. And yes I can kill the cat.
Margaret Atwood was heard replying to a friend (a brain surgeon) who
said to her, "after I retire from brain surgery I want to be a writer."
She replied to him, "after I retire from writing I want to be a brain surgeon."
I will for sure use your expertise again if that's OK. I need to sit
down and digest all you said -- it's super valuable. I will try not to
get dispirited and rise to the challenge. Thanks so very much -- this is
just what I needed. I also feel encouraged.
I sent in some money for the Eyeshot chipin thing because I believe
in what you're doing, am glad that Eyeshot will continue in some form,
think that literacy charities are good, etc. I was sad to see that you
stopped taking submissions, but I can imagine that after so long it gets
to be kind of a drag. Plus, I don't know, the vibe right now among online
writers is kind of gross and disheartening.
Went back to eyeshot tonight after an inexcusably long absence and saw
that you were still there and noticed you were doing the donation thing
and thought it was pretty neat and quite worthy of you. Even though I have
nothing to submit and be rejected at the moment I do have a very tiny bit
of spare money to send you so you can give it to Haiti, so I did that (at
least, I think I did ... ). If you have time to reject something,
please reject the songs here.
Or this video
of me singing a song I wrote about Micheal Jackson not long after he died.
The snarkier the better.
Thanks so much for this incredibly detailed and generous feedback. This
will help all my writing. Absolutely I plan to rework and "finish" this
Thank you for your response. That was great! I appreciate your suggestions.
I'm going to sit down with this piece together with your critique and make
it work. Good luck with your Eyeshot and your fund drive. You might hear
from me next month with another submission and another donation.
Thanks for doing this. I hope you get others interested and money goes
where it needs to go. I was interested because I spend a lot of time writing
but I've never been in a writing program and don't have anyone to get unbiased
feedback from. I think you've come up with an interesting truce between
egoism (of the needy writer) and altruism (directed toward the actually
needy). I'll look forward to seeing your mark-ups and seeing if I can maybe
salvage something from this piece.