And while I don't mind, overall, spending a lot of time giving feedback on stories, I have several friends whose work I could be critiquing. I don't need to join a group of strangers either to get or to give feedback. And I feel a bit uncomfortable commenting on the work of strangers, anyway. Perhaps if I hear back from the fellow whose work I critiqued I'll feel better about the whole process. Besides, having taken part in their contest, I feel a certain obligation to at least try to participate in the group as a whole.
But devoting an entire evening to analyzing just one short story was rather more time than I'd expected to invest. The group doesn't even do short stories, normally -- it's all pieces of novels. I've been even more hesitant about jumping in to comment on the middle portion of a novel.
An evening, in retrospect, isn't all that much time. And it wasn't quite the whole evening, anyway. I think it's just that I feel I've got enough commitments on my time already; I've become exceedingly jealous of what's left.
Other things I did last night: Lut and I went to Barnes & Noble. I had two goals: first, I wanted to locate copies of these magazines I've been submitting short stories to, and second, to purchase a copy of Writer's Market. I did neither.
It turns out -- I'd been warned about this by a review on Amazon.com -- that I don't want Writer's Market. I want Writer's Market for Novels and Short Stories, or something like that. They had the 2004 edition of the former, and the 2003 edition of the latter. I guess that this means the 2004 edition of the latter will probably be out Very Soon Now. As I'm not likely to use it in the next few weeks anyway, I'll wait a little and pick up the newest version.
As for fantasy or science fiction periodicals: I looked for them in the section with "periodicals", where I would have expected to find them, even though from a practical standpoint I thought they'd sell better in the science fiction & fantasy section. They weren't with the periodicals, so I checked the sf section. They weren't there, either. With resignation and heavy heart, I went to ask for directions. (Lut: "You can do that, you know. Because ... " *dramatic pause* " ... you're not male." Me: *gasp* "I'm not! I keep forgetting.")
I asked at information if they carried F&SF. Clerk consulted computer. "No." "Analog?" *more consultation* "No." I could've asked about Asimov's, too, but given the lack of the other two, and the conspicuous absence of them in any logical location, I concluded that they just don't carry these things.
I know these magazines still exist -- one of them just sent me a rejection letter, after all, and they all have websites and offer subscriptions and ostensibly pay other people (if not me) for stories to publish.
But where do the publishers sell them? Are they subscription-only now? It's hard to imagine that a drugstore or a Waldenbooks would stock a short-story periodical that a Barnes & Noble doesn't. Perhaps I'll simply email one of them and ask.
In any case, it was rather disheartening. The whole point to publishing with an established house is to gain access to their distribution network. If their distribution doesn't even get them into a three-story bookstore that stocks over a 100,000 volumes .... Well, it seems an ill omen.
The other thing I did last night -- and this took surprisingly little time, perhaps as cosmic counterbalance for how long it took to do the critique -- was 600 words for "Prophecy", which I churned out in around an hour. Hurrah for me. It's almost as though I making real progress this month. Finally.
And now -- I shall get back to work.