More of the Best, more BAHLER, plus: JERSEY!

Michael was asked: How Has Being From New Jersey Influenced My Writing?

Answer: Got me.

Dan Wickett asked me to help spread the word about this new anthology by letting New Jersey writer Michael Bahler guestblog at Jersey City's own Fernham...I hope it's sparked your interest in checking out more literary magazines and, especially, picking up a copy of Dzanc's new anthology...

BEST of the WEB: More Michael BAHLER

Michael Bahler writes:

The Perils of Online Publishing

My first online story, “Stephanie’s Blood,” was about a woman who bit her toenails. My girlfriend at the time was so excited when it came out, and she emailed the link to all her friends. The next day, however, she was not so excited.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Will you please tell everyone I don’t bite my toenails?”

My second online story, “Virgin Annie,” was about a guy lusting after a Korean woman named Annie K— who he suspected was a virgin. Just last year, I received a surprise email from a real-life Annie K—.
“I googled my name and found your story,” she wrote. “I am Korean, but I am definitely not a virgin.”

I recently showed the “The Stiff Jew” to a colleague.
“Michael, you’re Jewish?”

But my most harrowing online publishing experience had to do with a story I wrote entitled “My Blankie. My Penis.” The opening paragraph of the story read:

“Herpes. Could it be anything else? I’d slept with Adina on a Saturday. The condom had burst. I’d woken up five days later with itchy red dots up and down my penis.”

Around the time it was posted, I was interviewing to become a federal prosecutor. I’d made it all the way to the third round, and had met with the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. “I have no doubt,” he had told me, “you could do any job in this office.” I was also doing online dating, and had been emailing a woman I really liked.

I received a form rejection from the U.S Attorney’s Office, and the woman blew me off. These two developments could have had something to do with “My Blankie. My Penis” showing up first when my name was googled.

I love online publishing, but I think it’s unique from print journals in that stories become readily available to people who might not necessarily be interested in reading them as stories. It makes publishing a little dangerous. My father told me that I should start writing under a pseudonym, but instead I changed the heading on my resume from “Michael Bahler” to “M. F. Bahler.”

The site that posted “My Blankie. My Penis” later reinvented itself and took down my story. I changed my resume back to “Michael Bahler.”

Guestblogger MICHAEL BAHLER: The Saga of The Stiff Jew

Michael writes:

I originally wrote the “The Stiff Jew” for an anthology about Jews dating gentiles (called something like “Was She Worth It?”). The editor of the anthology ultimately passed on my piece, emailing me: “Hi Michael, I thought the narrative was obtuse and underdeveloped . . . . Best wishes and Happy Rosh Hashanah!”

So I took “The Stiff Jew” and I showed it to my writing mentor, an established fiction writer who usually heaped praise on me.
“This is probably the worst thing you’ve ever written,” she said.
“I don’t remember showing you everything I’ve ever written.”
“I’m not saying it’s not salvageable, but it needs a lot of work.”

So I forgot about the “The Stiff Jew” until I saw that Swink was accepting submissions for an upcoming online edition with the theme “taking sides.” Since my piece was—on a basic level—about taking sides on Jesus, I sent it over. Almost two years later, I got a response:
“We love it. We want to publish it an upcoming edition. Please say yes!”

Somewhat ironically, “The Stiff Jew,” written for a Jewish anthology, has now ended up in an anthology with so many gentiles.

Curious? Check out the new Dzanc books anthology, collecting the best writing from online literary mags, The Best of the Web 2008

We interrupt this blog...

A few weeks back, Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network, Dzanc Books and formerly a force behind the Litblog Co-op wrote to ask if I'd let a guestblogger pop in to help draw your attention to Dzanc's new anthology, The Best of the Web, 2008 (edited by Steve Almond). To me, Dan is one of the real heroes of the literary blog so I jumped at the chance to participate.

The idea behind the anthology is to collect some of the best writing from online literary journals in one place: a *great* idea, and one that really shows the coming-of-age of blogs, online publications, and the links between technology and literary life. It's an exciting prospect.

Since I blog from New Jersey, Dan's paired me up with a New Jersey writer and contributor to the anthology, Michael Bahler. He'll be posting here tomorrow. Enjoy!

(Cowper and Stevenson, Jones and Robinson will have to wait...)