Actually About Marketing: Should We “Clean Up” a Story For An Editor/Market?

I’m not going to tell you
. . . all about how I had the stomach somethings last night and was up all night barfing up Chinese take-out. Or about how I finally took one of the pills they’d given me at the last ER visit (Rezulan), even though there are so many warnings about it on TV (I called an all-night pharmacy and he said it would take away the pain and nausea so I could sleep, so that’s what I did.) I’m not going to tell you (YET) about how “something” got into our sunroom (which is closed off from the main house–the back door that leads into the sunroom got damaged and stuck such that the only entrance was from the back patio, so I hadn’t been out there for a while) and had a lot of fun TEARING THE SPINES OFF OF A BUNCH OF “ANTIQUE” BOOKS we received from various friends/relatives’ estate and shredding them across the floor . . . the “something” was going to make a nest, I think, but just made a mess. *sob* I’m not EVEN going to complain about the lady whose storage building is next to my mother’s and who parked her car in front of our roll-up door so she could load some stuff . . . for several HOURS . . . but I’ll keep quiet about that because it kept us from checking that storage building to see if “something” got into THAT (which was my mother’s big fear today.)

No! I’m really not going to tell you about that stuff!!

Instead, I come here to ask for artistic advice.

Remember how the first place story from that NETWO conference is to be published in THE STORYTELLER, a magazine done by an Arkansas university press? Well, today I got an e-mail message from the editor confirming that she’d received the copy from the conference group and was looking at it for her fall issue, EXCEPT. . . .

She says that her readers subscribe so they don’t have to read “dirty words” or nasty stuff. She says that she wants my permission to “clean up those dirty words” and take out one particular reference that a mean boy says about a girl he was mean to (it has to do with “doing” him.) Now, I have no recollection of that stuff being in the story, except that it is a realistic story that deals with three buddies in a small Texas town, three rednecks, one of whom is a mean braggart and bullies everyone. So I can see where I might have put some words into his mouth as he was bragging to let readers know what a jerk he is.

Okay. Since I don’t even really remember it, it must not be a Big Issue for me. However, should I take into consideration that to sanitize or Bowdlerize the story might be compromising it artistically? The conference people probably didn’t think of this little hitch, or maybe they’re used to being edited. Still, they’re small-town East Texas residents, and they didn’t flip their lids over the “f-bomb” or whatever it is that’s in the story (I still haven’t even looked yet.). Should it be this big a deal in this day and age? Especially since turning on the television in any small town will expose these readers to much worse situations and language? Should I say, “Hey, they told me that the prize was publication AS IS, not in a modified form,” and play the jackass for The Principle Of The Thing the way my hero Harlan probably would? (I don’t really want to, honestly . . . one picks one’s battles. But it’s an option on the table.) Perhaps I should just say, “Let me take a look and I’ll do the editing until you feel it’s Clean Enough.” That’s what I lean towards doing.

But it IS an artistic issue, I think. So I felt it was worth bringing it to the Hivemind. What say ye? Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Does this happen a lot? I see novels (even YA novels) getting more and more edgy, so I would suspect this doesn’t happen too often.


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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