Monday, October 5, 2009

Magazines, Guerilla style

Maybe it's me, but I hate it when I buy bags of shit.

I hate it when I buy a magazine that purports to be a "writer's" magazine, or even more insulting, "The Writer's Magazine," and then they turn out to be full of shit. It's like buying an album because you heard the single and then you find out that the single was the only thing the band wrote while fully-functioning humans and the rest of the album is screaming and out-of-key blathering and noodling for nine minutes, usually ending with something like a cymbal crash or a twelve-minute cover of a great song you remember from high school that they systematically destroyed and ruined for everyone who even remotely liked the original.

I once bought a book by Michael Crichton called Prey. I remember that I had read Jurassic Park a million times and had read Lost World and then read The Sphere and had decided, "hey, this guy Crichton knows what he's doing. He spins a good yarn and though the plots are the usual cautions about misused technology, I think I can consider myself a fan." Then I read it, and it was probably the worst book I read by a popular writer except maybe Dreamcatcher by Stephen King (but that's another story). The plot is ridiculous, the "bad guys" are even more so, being obvious cookie-cutter bad guys with no redeeming qualities and the parts that I suppose were supposed to be thrilling were when rabbits were being killed. Yes, you read that correctly: Rabbits.

Anyway, buying magazines anymore (especially specific mags, like ones for Writing) has become more and more like biting into a rotten apple. Either the mag has no content (read: the same content every sixth issue) or it has no entries in the back (you know, where fledgling writers look to find ads for contests and submissions). Sometimes they're printed on high-gloss paper and have a writer you're remotely interested in, but then of course you realize they're asking stupid questions or they're printed on cheap-ass trade paper and endorse terrible writers you've never heard of.

So tonight I decided to go through all the magazines and make my own by taking copious notes from all the magazines and writing them in the margins of another, thereby gathering $30.00 of information for a measly $5.99. That's right. I mean, I arrived at the store late, so I had to rush through the mags a little faster than I wanted to, but I got all the web addresses to conferences, message boards, contests, mag submissions and retreats that I needed. I discovered Ellory Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Magazines, the mystery writers' mainstays of yesteryear have yet to land in the twenty-first century, having no e-mail submissions and even refusing e-mail queries. I've copied at least a dozen websites of writer's groups and even copied down a couple of writing prompts from other mags that looked promising. And then I went up to the counter and purchased one magazine for $5.99, leaving the rest of them back on the shelf.

So next time you see three magazines about music or writing or skateboarding or tranny erotica or whatever and they all only have 1/3 the info you want (or need), do what they taught you in school: take notes. Unless you want to just steal them. Either way.

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