14 April 2013

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

I only started this online diary as a publicity stunt for my books. Yet fame continues to elude me. It seems that a genius for self-promotion requires something more than a complete lack of modesty. You have to do things, and I’m not sure what. I keep trying to think of ways to become notorious without actually ruining my life. Nothing occurs.

In the meantime, I decided to use excerpts from my rejection letters as blurbs for my 2012 Diary. Some of them are awfully nice. And I don’t think they’re wrong for turning me down. They’re in a business, and so far I’ve made exactly $69.20 on my three paperbacks and I can’t even figure out how much on my Kindle books, but it must be less than a hundred since they’re supposed to mail you a check when you make a hundred dollars. And they have overhead, which I don’t. (I still think it’s a miracle that you can publish yourself, on paper, for free.)

The not-nice rejections would make the funniest blurbs, but mine just aren’t nasty enough to be amusing, so I’m stuck with the nice ones:

I found [The Life of Johnston] quite funny and full of charm–if a bit for from my usual line…My only concern is that the form this has taken will not be enough to sustain an book-length narrative, but we shall see. — W.W. Norton & Company 1998

 I really, really wanted to believe that this would work as a book. As with the first draft, there’s a lot to like here. Johnston is smart, talented and very funny, but when I finished the book, much as I liked it, I still had the feeling that it didn’t add up to much.” — Reader #1, Algonquin Books 1997.)

 When I first started this manuscript, I couldn’t believe what a gem I was reading…Here was a lesbian who managed to make her experiences universal and funny, and who made her quotidian events come alive for all readers on a wonderfully witty way…But alas, what goes wrong here is that everything goes right. She gets the girl, and thereafter, everything is smooth sailing, the kind that makes you want to take a nap…But this could be a real winner if it ever finds a shape.” — Reader #2, Algonquin Books 1997

 Your voice is quite appealing, wonderfully  effortless and often very funny. You are not misguided to assume that this has a future. Unfortunately its future is not here…We worry that its free-floating, life-like themelessness sometimes makes for less-than-compelling reading, no matter how charmingly the material is rendered. — W.W. Norton & Company, Later in 1998

Well, that wasn’t as satisfying as I expected. But what can you do?