What Editors Want…

Christian films (and movies with Christian themes) are rising in popularity.  A revival is going on.  How much that influences what magazine publishers/editors are looking for, I have no idea, though I wish I did.

For instance, “The Saturday Evening Post” is sponsoring a Great American Fiction Contest, and one of the guidelines is this:  Think local. The Post has historically played a role in defining what it means to be an American. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication’s mission: Celebrating America, past, present, and future.

Now I can do that.  However, being a Christian (especially growing up in the Buckle of the Bible Belt), it is very hard for me not to include any mention of religion (good or bad) in my writings.  It is not only what I know, but it is part of what makes me, me.  I always think, before I send a piece that has even a passing mention of Christianity, that it will be rejected for that reason.  What I write tends to be too liberal to qualify as Christian fiction, and too conservative for mainstream fiction.

Hence my dilemma in crafting a story for this contest.  If I was submitting a piece for this magazine seventy years ago, this wouldn’t even be an issue.  My thought is that I’m writing to impress the editors, not the subscribers, because I have to get past the editors first.

When I think of what constitutes Americana, I think of “Huckleberry Finn”, “Leave it to Beaver”, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, Stephen Foster and Norman Rockwell.  I think rural.  The story I originally wrote for this contest is about a group of young Mormons living in Montana (as I was once a young Mormon living in Montana).  I fear even the mention of the word Mormon, much less most of my main characters being members of such a controversial religion, might scare off the editors, who fear offending anyone.  That’s the kind of country we live in now.  We (or some of us) live in fear offending anyone, and if we do happen to offend, we must apologize immediately.  It doesn’t pay to be honest anymore, but rather, it costs us.  I can write what I want, all I want, but if I want to win a contest, I’ll probably have to censor myself a bit, thus making my piece less authentic.

So, I am at a crossroads.  Because of the ten dollar entry fee, I don’t want to send something I’m pretty sure won’t be chosen, but I am grappling with a story that will appeal to the masses (though I do believe Christianity, portrayed in a positive light, would be appealing to most people, but again, I have to get past the editors).

A few nights ago, my husband and I watched “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain”, a fifties movie starring William Lundigan, as a Protestant minister, and Susan Hayward, as his wife.  I’d read on an imdb.com message board that it was serialized in “The Saturday Evening Post” and it (the movie) was a perfect example of what qualifies as Americana.  The movie is a good watch, but milk without the meat.  Things happened, but it didn’t have a plot (which is fine; “Our Town” didn’t either, and I loved it).

I am thinking of abandoning my original story (or perhaps omitting the Mormon angle altogether, even though that’s what my characters are; I borrowed them from a book I will publish someday in which the Mormon theme is integral to the story), and writing something brand new.  No borrowing.  I am thinking of penning an homage to my hometown of Pensacola, Florida–a small city that is steeped in Christianity.  If I write as an observer, I might just get away with mentioning the existence of churches, maybe even God!





Not the story, but how you tell it

Writing for children has renewed my love for fairy tales, fables and fantasy (“The Wizard of Oz” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, to name a couple), and so, when I purchased a three-in-one picture frame,  instead of filling the slots with the standard 8X10 enlargements, I decided to do something a little different, sort of a storyboard with illustrations (i.e. artsy photographs).  I found a beautiful tablet of “fairy tale” scrapbooking paper at a craft store that was perfect for this project (and will be for others).

I decided to tell the story of the life of the Richards family in fairy tale form.  This is what I came up with:


Funning around

Once upon a time in a Floridian June, there was a woman named Sarah (which meant Princess), and a man named Brian (meaning high and noble).

A writer and a handyman, they were—each complementing the other.

Twas like at first sight, and the friendship flowered into love when this troubadour with a tool belt wrote a poem for this queen of drama writing, beginning in marriage with a rose gold ring.

Fun and in love

 Then what started with two became three, for along came Hannah Beth, born on Tuesday–gifted with twice the grace.  Fearfully and wonderfully made was she, with eyes of cornflower-blue on a rainy day, and a crown of hair that was not blond, nor brown, nor red, but somewhere in between.


And so, this wee family of three still to grow, lives happily ever after still, in a cottage on a row.



Marriage roles


It’s funny how an article I read days, or even longer ago, will pop back into my mind when it relates to my life in some way, when it has found its place.

See:  http://simplemarriage.net/know-your-role-live-by-it-and-redefine-it-as-needed/

My husband and I have what we call a traditional marriage in the modern sense–he is the handyman, and the primary breadwinner; I work part-time, feed the baby (solids and liquids, but he helps with the bottle feeding), bathe her, and read to her (he’s read to her on occasion, but he’s not a reader himself), though we are split on household chores.  He does the deeper, once-a-week type cleaning while I take care of the laundry and dishes.  Because he works more outside the home than I do, I not only believe this is fair, but I am happy and comfortable with this arrangement.

We both like to do the grocery shopping, as we both cook (though not lately, because it’s summer, and because he’s been working more and I work in a restaurant).  This is one of my weakest areas because I hate the dirty dishes that come with the territory, so it is something I want to work on.  I want my daughter to see me cooking, and cooking with whole foods (breadmaking will probably be the one thing I’ll never really get in to).  I don’t bother cooking seafood (because it’s so expensive, and I would cry if I had to throw it away), I don’t know how to grill (grilling is my husband’s thing, baking, with the exception of bread, is mine), and my husband is a better fryer (and all around cook) than I am, so I leave that to him.  He’s good with the grease and the outdoors, I’m good with casseroles and the indoors.

As far as the interior decorating goes, my husband loves my taste, and I have the freedom to decorate our home any way I please.  I can make any room look feminine, without looking too frilly.

Anything concerning outside our four walls, including our car, he takes care of.  He pumps the gas, and is always the driver.  I only drive myself when he isn’t with me.

I pay our online bills, and he takes care of any that have to be paid in person.  I am in charge of printing coupons (clipping is so 1990’s) and keeping up with sales and deals, and he does the negotiating.  I stay abreast of the free 8X10 photograph enlargement offers at Walgreens, and I reminded my husband (whose birthday it was today) to get his free birthday sub at Firehouse.

Neither of us, prior to marrying, discussed our marriage roles, though we both knew that whoever made the most money would be the one working, while the other worked part-time or stayed at home.  If, by the time I finish school, I will be making more money, then there will be not so much a role reversal, but a shift.  Whether or not the man should be the breadwinner is the only thing we’re not traditional about.

Like my friend Mandy, I think it’s important to “know our role”, which can sometimes alter or change.  How we determine what our roles are, I think, come down to whatever is best for the family.  It just makes sense that my husband is the picture-hanger, not because I don’t want to do it, but because he’s better at it.  It makes sense that I’m the one who sings to our baby and teaches her new songs, because I sing better than my husband (who I sit next to on my deaf side in church).  That’s not to say we should allow our weaknesses to remain weaknesses, but for now, this works for us.  Meanwhile, I’ll be trying at least one new recipe a week, if I can just stop forgetting to remember that was a New Year’s resolution.

An Interesting Rejection Letter

Dear Contributor,

We received over 150 submissions to Volume 3: Alien and I’m sorry to say that yours was not successful. Believe me, I know how you feel—I submitted my own work under an assumed name and even I didn’t get into this volume. And I run the thing! Two other associate editors also submitted but didn’t make the cut.

This doesn’t mean we’re bad writers, It just means this issue wasn’t the right place for our work. I hope you’ll submit again ( I know I will—I’ll crack this bastard yet!)

-T.J. Robinson


So, my story was, “The Accidental Witch:  A Shaggy God Story”, set in the Land of Oz (one of three short stories/poems I’ve set there).  “Accidental” is what I’d call a novelty story that just hasn’t found the right home yet.  I wrote the story specifically for this assignment, so I have The Suburban Review to thank for inspiring me to come up with something original (even if it was set in someone else’s imaginary setting), and something different than I usually write.


Personalizing the Home

The older I’ve gotten, the more I appreciate handmade items (however, I still love a great sale at Kohl’s or Target).


When I was in my twenties, whatever caught my eye (as far as wall filler) was all that mattered.  Now, in my early thirties, I want art on my wall that means something.

Barbie cards were my thing when I was a kid; in my early twenties, it was candles, and now I’m all about personal photographs (or artsy pictures I’ve taken), and art I’ve created (not necessarily drawn or painted) myself.  If I could only thread a needle, nothing could stop me.

My current project (besides filling all the picture frames I’ve collected over the years) is a wall mosaic of all the seashells I collected on trips to the beach with my husband.  I’m also working on “seashelling” some switchplates, as I couldn’t find anything at Lowe’s or Home Depot I liked.

When I saw a big fork and spoon in Target, it reminded me of an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (the only sitcom I’ve liked filmed in this millennium), in which Marie Barone tells the story of her big fork and spoon (except hers are wooden), and Debra refers to as “Robert’s baby utensils”.

BIG fork and spoon

I’ll admit, onscreen popular culture has had an influence on my decorating tastes.  I want at least one brick (or faux brick) wall in our living room someday, because I loved that feature in Lucy Ricardo’s first apartment.  We also have an outdoor dining table that is similar to the one on “Big Love”.

All the rooms in our house have a theme, as I couldn’t choose just one:  our kitchen is retro, our living room is a juxtaposition of vintage and art deco, my daughter’s nursery and our master bedroom is shabby chic, and our bathroom is beachy.  However, every one of them reflects me, in all my many forms.