Interview Transcripts

Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello, all.


In just a few minutes, we'll begin our Professional Connection interview with Jay Lake, writer and editor of Polyphony magazine.


Jay Lake's first story was published in September, 2001. Since then he has sold dozens of stories, been nominated for the Hugo and Campbell awards for his writing, and for the World Fantasy Award for his work as an editor.  Welcome, Jay!


I know we pulled out your of a studio meeting or two


and you nearly got a speeding ticket getting herewant to explain to folk what a studio meeting is?

Jay Lake

Hey guys.


My Hollywood agent set me up with a couple of studio meetings today


where we had preliminary discussions about possible work on properties.


One was to talk about possibly making a feature length animation of my Hugo nominated story


"Into the Gardens of Sweet Night".


The other to talk about me doing treatments for possible conversion to movie properties.


The thing about Hollywood meetings is, no one ever actually decides anything.


These were first-step meetings, and there could be literally a dozen over the next year or so on either project.

Mary Rosenblum

Hollywood is long on enthusiasm and short on signed contracts, from what I hear!

Jay Lake

Oh yeah, that's right


Don't call us, we'll call you just like that Robert Altman movie.


Cool, Jay,,,is this your first story that’s being made into movie?


Wow Jay that sounds so neat.

Jay Lake

Coway, it will be a long time, if ever, before I see a movie. The conversion rate from concept meeting to film is about 1000:1


Might see some option money some time, though.

Mary Rosenblum

What about treatments? I don't know much about Hollywoodjust option money. What are the treatments?

Jay Lake

Treatments are where you write a story concept.


For example, if Tolkein had written LORD OF THE RINGS as a treatment, he might have started with


'Midget finds magic ring, trouble ensues'.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

Then gone to the studio. if they expressed interest, he would have written a one- to three-paragraph summary of the plot


then a 3-5 page synopsis. Those are treatments. They can make you , for the basic plot idea


even if someone else writes the script etc.


Hi, Jay. Thanks for coming. These meetings: So who pays for your travel?

Jay Lake

Hey Paja, right now I do. If either of these projects goes forward, the studio will start paying. I happened to be in LA this week anyway


so my agent set up the meetings opportunistically.


Good question


I've hard it's much harder, near impossible to break into Hollywood unless you have connectionsOR in your case are a great published writer.

Jay Lake

Thanks for the compliment. In my case, both. Bluntly, the only reason I got the meetings was the Hugo nomination.


It's not like I could have planned for that. ;-)

Mary Rosenblum

But good you made use of it!

c michael

What is slipstream and what is magic realism??

Jay Lake

Chance favors the prepared mind.


C michael


there's an academic definition of magic realism. There is no real formal definition of slipstream


and besides which, the literary definition of magic realism doesn't quite map to the academic definition (more, this will be a bit long)


Academically, magic realism is a tradition of Latin American fabulism rooted in a strain of Catholicism


which accepts the literal reality of miracles and miraculous occurrences without any need for explanation


cf Marquez's "The Old Man With Enormous Wings".


In publishing terms, magic realism is contemporary fantasy without any effort required or made to 'explain' the magical occurrences and is


often but not exclusively written by writers with Spanish surnames.


Slipstream has a lot of definitions, but the one I like is 'cross-genre fiction with a high degree of literary sensibility.'


That's the definition we go for at POLYPHONY


(I could go on, but thought it might be nice to pause for consideration!)


So Jay tell us about polyphony - exactly what is it?

Jay Lake

Hey, roePOLYPHONY is a serial anthology from Wheatland Press, edited by Deborah Layne and by me (Deborah is also publisher).


We publish once a year (originally twice). We've featured some big name authors you're probably familiar with


but we also have a commitment to publishing a brand-new writer in every volume


and Deb and I were just nominated for a World Fantasy Award for our work on the project. Yeah!!


Oh, pays /word, and the POLYPHONY 5 reading period is late this year, exact dates TBA

Mary Rosenblum

OH, I plan to announce them, Jay, don't worry. I’ve already got a couple of students I'll send your way. LOL.

Jay Lake



Unpublished writers who are good are hard to find. As soon as you guys get good, you get into print.

Mary Rosenblum

I do suggest folks, that you buy a copy and read it before you submityou won't regret reading it. The stories are good!


Does magical realism have anything to do with the "mysticism of the saints" in Catholicism?

Jay Lake

lb, that question's a little out of my depth (lacking as I do an MFA or PhD-Lit) but I'll go out on a limb and say, yes.


Remember that Catholicism can be highly regionalized.


Excuse me one sec.


My agent's cat just ran off with a bill in its mouth



Mary Rosenblum

I'll add to that, because I did do some research into the literary origins of Magic Realism, and yes, Catholicism is indeed part of the origin.


I am Laughing!!!!

Jay Lake

Thank you Mary

Mary Rosenblum

Smart cator well trained!

Jay Lake

I'm laughing too, especially since I'm going to make her pay me back when she returns.

Mary Rosenblum

When she brings you two tens, I'd worry!


Is there a website related to Polyphony?

Jay Lake

Two half twenties is more like it


Yes, paja, it can be found at Wheatland Press  


Jay can you talk a little more about slipstream regarding the cross-genre--I have a story that seems to fit into that category.

Jay Lake

Surea lot of my stuff is considered slipsteam.


One of the reasons POLYPHONY exists is that Deb and I were disappointed that not enough of that material was being published in the major markets.


There are some flagship markets for cross-genre, like LEVIATHAN




but by and large it's not well-supported, for marketing reasons which are fairly obvious on consideration.


Did that answer the intent of the question>


"Cross-genre fiction with a high degree of literary sensibility" . . . could you rephrase that for dummies, please?

Jay Lake

Not a dummy question at all


and I apologize if I'm talking at a funny level..


To the question


cross-genre means mixing elements of fantasy, science fiction and horror


without regard to the traditional boundaries between the subgenres


while literary sensibility refers to the value placed on style and voice within the text,


whereas much of genre fiction neglects or even deliberately abandons style as a priority.


Slipstream is often very concerned with it.


Did that help?

Mary Rosenblum

I think it did very well, Jay. Mainly, the difference


as I see it is the 'literary sensibility'. It's like mixing Romance and mystery


but it incorporates the emphasis on style of literary fiction. How does THAT sound, Jay?

Jay Lake

Works for me, Mary. Thanks.


How do you set up for a slip? There must be some transition.

Jay Lake

Eh? Don't quite understand the question.

Mary Rosenblum

I think he might be asking for an example?


Can you give us a book example to read?

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

Of a "slip", meaning how to step between genres? Well, an example book would b


any of the POLYPHONY volumes, or LEVIATHAN 3


or Jeffrey Ford's collection THE FANTASY WRITER'S ASSISTANT.




all excellent books. ;-)


As to the slip question


if I'm understanding it correctly, the answer is not so much that you set it up


as that the cross-overness is embedded in the story in the first place.

Mary Rosenblum

Here is lbaggins elaboration on her question:


Could you write us an example of a slip from one genre to another?

Jay Lake

Ok, one sec.


The cobblestones thundered with the steps of the golems, great brass constructs


with steam-powered hearts beating deep within their armored chests. High overhead


bone angels circled, a gentle mist of blood wafting from their feathers


to fall in a red mist through the sleeping streets of Los Angeles.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool. Is that yours?

Jay Lake

So we have a steampunk skiffy trope, a religion fantasy trope and an element of contemporary modernism


all integrated. Yes Mary, I just tossed that off as an example.

Mary Rosenblum

Nice one.


Would a story incorporating 30's crime/mob and sf be slip?


or is it only confined to blending the genres of sf/f/h?

Jay Lake

tenavari -- it certainly could. In a technical sense, it already is. My judgment would fall mostly with regard to the style and tone, at that point.


the definition isn't strictly confined to sf/f/h, but wider crossovers can be tough to market


.except in romance, which has a set of genres all contained within it that parallel the broader publishing genres.


What do you consider a "high degree of literary sensibility"?

Jay Lake

Well, attention to details of style. For example, concise word choices, no echoed words or line 'clunks'


elegant, varied sentence structures. It's a sort of Potter Stewart thing, "I'll know it when I see it".


Examples in real life. Let's see Kevin J. Anderson, best paid writer in SF right now


friend of mine, doesn't write with a stylistic focus.


Most stories published in ANALOG are like that, for that matter,


where the idea or the character or the gadget drive the story.


On the other hand, Orson Scott Card is a master stylist.


So is the aforemention VanderMeer.


In other words, the transition is actually established in the beginning of the piece-possibly as a part of the setting of the story--so the reader gets the feel of a fantasy right off?

Jay Lake

Well, not necessarily a fantasy, but in general *whatever* is going on in the piece needs to be established right at the beginning.


That's critical to any story, any trope or method of storytelling.


There are always exceptions, but you have to be real good before you can swack in a dragon

Jay Lake

on page 38 of a hard-boiled cyberpunk story.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

It's an excellent question


Ok.what's a line clunk?

Jay Lake

weekendwarrior, good question


That's a Jay-word, not a formal critical term (though if you haven't read the Turkey City Lexicon, go do so)


but I mean a turn of phrase that falls badly.


Recent example from critique of a story whose author shall remain nameless


"The dog lay down to stand guard"


Think about that for a minute

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

It's a perfectly reasonable English sentence that most people won't notice anything wrong with


but you saw Mary's reaction.


I think it pained her. It sure hurt me the first time I saw it


because the author was using the idiom "stand guard" without noticing


that he'd introduced a logical contradiction.


So he could have said, "The dog settled in to stand guard"


if he'd really wanted 'stand guard' in the sentence.


Another 'clunk' is the repeated word.




"Johnnie stuck his key in the car door. As he was sliding in, he noticed someone had keyed the fender."


'key' appears twice


in two different meanings


but the echo draws attention to itself.


These kind of clunks are quite subtle (or can be) but they also mark out


an accomplished professional when they are absent.


One bit of advice: read your stories aloud to someone (or by yourself, if that makes you happy).


Most of those clunks will be obvious to your ear even if your eye misses them.

Mary Rosenblum

Just 'cause it's grammatically correct is no excuse! How about 'echo words,' Jay? Someone asked about that term, too. Is that your repeated word?


And a tape recorder will do, too.

Jay Lake

Yep, 'echo' and 'repeated word' are the same thing.


Note that 'he', 'said', 'was', etc. don't count.


That issue applies to unusual words which aren't part of the ordinary connective tissue of the sentence


I am really new at this. What is a trope?

Jay Lake

"Trope" is a term from literary (and I think, ultimately theater) criticism, and it just means "common element or theme"


There's a bit more to it, but that should suffice as a working definition.


So for example, 'AI goes berserk' is a trope of SF.


So is time travel and the grandfather paradox.


I think the word strictly means movement, as in that of an actor across the stage.


These stories are written with literary style, but do they have any literary themes? Does slipstream contain the themes or structure of 1 or more genres?

Jay Lake

I think slipstream is a stylistic choice, the themes and structures can vary


but note there is no formal or consensus definition of the term.

Mary Rosenblum

One thing that I think it is important to remember when we start tossing these labels around


is that they are just thatlabelsand one reader's slipstream is another's literary fantasy.

Jay Lake

Exactly. Story is.

Mary Rosenblum

The boundaries are very subjective.

Jay Lake

Everything else is marketing categories.


Is there a specific word count for Polyphony? I printed out the guidelines and it doesn't mention any.

Jay Lake

Here's the original Sterling essay to go read later.


Sterling Essay


Word count.


Our contract caps payment at 10,000 words, or $600.  We pay .06$ per word.


Though you could send something longer if you wished.


I think we state somewhere a lower limit of 2000, but we don't enforce it.


BTW, the Sterling essay is only loosely connected with the current definition of slipstream -- the debate has evolved a lot since then.


Our shortest ever published story is about 400 words I think


And our longest about 21,000


Jay, were you an editor before being a published writer? How did you get started in editing?

Jay Lake

Hah! Nice one, cloux.


I got lucky. No bones about it.


I've been writing seriously since the late 1980's.


Sold my first story in 2001


got into the editing gig in late 2001 more or less on a lark.


But POLYPHONY has gone much further than we ever expected or hoped.


I am a poster child for the million bad words theory

Mary Rosenblum



You waited over 20 years to sell your first story?

Mary Rosenblum

I don't think he waited, curse. :-)

Jay Lake

Oh, maybe 15don't take hope or despair from that either one.

Mary Rosenblum

Jay, you'd better explain that million words rule.


We have some who don't know it.

Jay Lake

It took me finding a good work and submitting ethic, too.


Million bad wordsis that Delany? I don't remember right now.


Someone famous said you have to write a million bad words before you can write good ones.


In my case, I later calculated that I sold my first story, "The Courtesy of Guests", about word 850,000


and I started selling consistently around word 1,000,000.


But here's the thing:


Your work is YOUR WORKbelieve in it, practice hard, and find your voice.


It will come to you.


Don't sit up at night working up lifetime word counts on a whiteboard.


Just write, guy.




Ewww, that means I have a LONG way to go!

Jay Lake



I write a short story every week


sometimes it's flash, 500 words


sometimes it's a full blown novella of 20K words or more


but the point is, like sports or foreign languages


I keep at it all the time.


That's what it takes, that and a supportive community like you guys have here to cheer success


and encourage you onward.

Mary Rosenblum

You don't make the Olympics if you only train once a month.

Jay Lake



When reading submissions, what is the main thing you look for?

Jay Lake

Well, I follow the three strikes rule, for the most part.


So I look for professionalism in presentation of the mss


(an icky or difficult to read mss can be a strike)


(and I pretty much ignore cover letters until after I'd read the mss)


I look for a good, strong title


coz I'm a sucker for titles


though some editors pay no attention to titles, figuring they can be changed at a whim.


Then I look for a strong hook line or paragraph.


If the mss fails on all those points, it might be rejected before I've read the first page.


If it succeeds on all those points, that buys you page one and maybe page two, if you're strong enough, the whole mss being read.


There was a story in the ZEPPELIN slush pile that hooked me so good on the first few lines


that I screamed through it, whispering, "Don't mess it up!"


Except I used a different verb

Mary Rosenblum

Okay, there you go. Taking notes, all? Can, professional manuscript, strong title, hook opening. Then a good story.


How can we learn to judge if our titles are strong or weak?

Jay Lake

Uh, that's so much a matter of taste that I don't have a fair answer for it, paja.


But try them on peoplefor example


"Bill's Big Fight" isn't much of a title


but "In the Garden of Shattered Bottles" might get my attention.


Both could be about a guy in a bar fight


What if the title is bad but the manuscript is good? Read my manuscript first.

Mary Rosenblum

Ha, me, too, baggins. Titles are not my forte.

Jay Lake

I won't reject on a bad title alone, but it influences my reading expectations.


The key to submitting is to never give the editor a reason to reject.


So the better the title, the less reason to reject.


And a bad title on top of unprofessional mss formatting and a turkey of an opening line


--well, you're done. And if the story "gets good on page 4" (which I've heard a million times)





Mary Rosenblum

What are your slush numbers like, Jay? What kind of volume do you get?

Jay Lake

Polyphony 3 and 4 got about 500 subs each.


We accepted 15-20 out of each.


ZEPPELIN got 250 subs.


Same acceptance number."


Hard truth:

Mary Rosenblum

Better numbers than say, Asimov’s or Analog.

Jay Lake

New writers, without established names, are competing for a few of the slots in any market.


Yes, Mary, better than ASI, which I think gets 2,000 slush a month.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

And buys 0-1 from new writers.


Jay, I've learned so much from you tonight, especially in terms and conseptsthank you. Your weekly stories: do you submit each one?

Jay Lake

Paja, you're welcome.


No, I don't submit each one.


When I started that practice, I gave myself permission to write 50% stinkers


25% salvageable


and 25% decent to good.


My actual ratio turned out to be 25/50/25


and it has improved over time


but 10-15% of what I write still goes in a dark hole


and another 25% winds up in rewrite heck.


One advantage to writing a lot


is that no one story has to be especially good.


You'll find quality in the practice


not in the eyestrain over one piece for weeks or month.


That's Jay philosophy, not Received Wisdom.


I noticed that you have used stories from several authors in more than one anthology. Do you prefer to work with writers you know, or do you like to discover new ones?

Jay Lake



Some writers I like so much I want to see more from them


though we can be pretty ruthless about rejecting.


.Kris Rusch talks about rejecting Ray Bradbury when she was editing F&SF, wow!)


but I really, really love discovering new talent.


That story I mentioned at ZEP?


It was by a guy I'd never heard of.


Turned out to be his first sale.


I'll bet he gets an HM nod in a Year's Best or two, at least.


It was so good..


And did you say that Polyphony prints only one new writer?

Jay Lake

No, we reserve one slot for a new writer.


P1 had two new writers


and I think P3 did.


jSo it's AT LEAST one, not ONLY one.



Mary Rosenblum

At least one is one more slot than most mags have.


Are these stories written for entertainment or impact mainly?

Jay Lake

Deb and I are both so new as writers that we vividly remember the feeling of trying to break in.


lbaggins -- whose stories are you talking about? Mine?

Mary Rosenblum

Polyphony, I think.

Jay Lake

Well, I can't say why those stories were written.


I didn't write them!


But I firmly believe stories are like children.


You raise 'em right, teach 'em manners, dress 'em up and send 'em out in the world.


After that they're on their own, and it doesn't matter what you intended.

Mary Rosenblum

Well, what are YOU looking for in a story, Jay? What is 'good' for you?


As an editor.

Jay Lake

In no particular orderblazing good style, sensawunda/gosh-wow, a clever hook or idea


something fresh I haven't seen before or a new take on something shopworn


something that appeals to my taste, I suppose.


How's that for a weak answer?



Mary Rosenblum

Well, it's the bottom linewhat the editor likes. :-)


What don't you want to see?

Jay Lake

What don't I want to see.


If you can do it well enough, I'll welcome anything.


But in general, avoid Turkey City type stuff.


such as waking up in the first paragraph, driving to the story, weather report,


waking up behind the wheel during a snowstorm.


Also, instant death for quoting lines of songs as an epigram.


That's a one-strike rejection

Mary Rosenblum

I'll post the TC Lexicon on the website, folks, so you can understand these references! It's a good resource for what NOT to do.

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum

It was a dark and stormy night.

Jay Lake

Lots of other stuff there about how to run a workshop.


Here's the thing.


Almost all of those story elements are ideas most new writers try at some point.


I mean, you enter the situations of your life through transition


such as waking up, driving to work, etc


so it's natural to try telling stories that way.


Get past it.



Mary Rosenblum

Cut to the chase.

Jay Lake

Not to mention the nudity, casual sex and bank robberies


Oh, wait, this isn't screenwriting 1010



Mary Rosenblum

You been in LA too long, boy.

Jay Lake

Yeah, about 20 hours


It was enough

Mary Rosenblum

Like I said


Do you have any tips for critiquing others' work?

Jay Lake

That's an EXCELLENT question


and it's something you mostly have to learn for yourself, but here's a few tips.


Listen and observe carefully when other people are being critiqued, to see how both critiquer and critiquee are handling the situation


Be sensitive to the fact that it's someone's work -- critique isn't about scoring points


the writer is NOT the story


and the story should stand on its own.


I find myself reading in one of several ways


first reader reaction, critical read, editorial read, and (occasionally) reviewer read.


So I'll sometimes ask what the writer wants.

Mary Rosenblum

Good way to start.


Thanks from me too, Jay--I have gained some valuable information here regarding my cross-genre story I have been struggling with--I've discovered a whole new concept on how to go.

Jay Lake

Cool. Glad I could help. :: buffs nails :: I can see that I have once more used my powers for good.

Mary Rosenblum

Want to talk about small press and Wheatland a bit? You used Print on Demand, right? Do you find people misunderstand what you are, because of the POD?

Jay Lake

Thank you Mary.


Yes, some people react negatively to POD


which is sort of like reacting to fax machines


POD is technology and a process, not a publishing model.


The confusion arises when predatory or vanity presses use POD for their product


and so legitimate POD work, such as Wheatland, can be difficult to distinguish.


I think our review history


and the number of HMs and award citations our stories have gotten


along with our World Fantasy nomination


will have put paid to that idea for people who've been watching us


but the question comes up over and over.



Mary Rosenblum

Sadly, there are pros who use the term POD to mean 'vanity press'. But as you say, Polyphony's reputation stands out.

Jay Lake

And in all fairness, until the last few years, that's what it was


but like I said, they're confusing a process with a business model.

Mary Rosenblum

What about small press publication for someone who really wants a serious career in fiction. Is it a good place to start?

Jay Lake

Well, I think so


but that's my bias.


A lot of established pros will tell you that publishing in small press will kill your career,


which might have been true in 1974 but is not true in 2004.


Some of the most exciting work in genre today is small press


and there's not enough big press left to go around.


Small press has the same problem as POD


it's difficult to quality filter.


Or can be


Is there a way to tell the difference between legit POD and vanity publishers?

Mary Rosenblum

Make that ALL small publishers.

Jay Lake

Look at a couple of things:


First, what and how they pay royalty-only deals are a bit of a red flag -- legitimate for some purposes,


NEVER pay money to be published, that's vanity publishing.


Also look at who else that house publishes.


For example, Wheatland has done a Howard Waldrop collection, and we're doing stuff


upcoming from Lucius Shepard and Steven Utley.


Pretty credible guys.


The same goes for short fiction markets

Mary Rosenblum

Predators and Editors and SFWA's Writers Beware are good sites for lists of scam publishers and agents. Links are on the LR site in Writing Craft: New Markets

Jay Lake

Look who else publishes there.

Mary Rosenblum

Does a novice writer have to establish a strong voice in his or her writing before that person can be published? And just what IS a 'strong voice' anyway?

Jay Lake

Hah -- the 'voice' question.


Speaking as someone who's been accused of having a 'strong voice,' I'm still not sure what that means


but good fiction will sell regardless. Voice is inherent in the mss, and develops with time


and many writers have multiple voices. Don't worry about it.


Worrying about voice in fiction is like worrying about rotational physics while riding your bike


a recipe for disaster.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding! Head on collision!

Jay Lake

But it's worth listening to critical advice about it


as long as you're good at filtering criticism.


What writers originally inspired you to start writing?

Jay Lake



you win the brass button for that question.


In the dim and distant past of my childhood, the juveniles by Norton, Heinlein and Asimov were very important to me.


As a writer per se, my most important "I want to do that: books


were Gene Wolfe's BOOK OF THE NEW SUN cycle, SHADOW OF THE TORTURER being the first


(recently reprinted as SHADOW AND CLAW).


Also a lot of Delany's stuff.


Did you ever have a problem with sending material out even though you're a prolific writer?

Jay Lake

Depending on what you mean by problem, sort of.


Do I fall into a funk or a motivation lacuna? Sometimes, not often, because I've become so habituated to the process of submitting.


Do I have issues with market queuing? Absolutely, especially since I try to follow


the 'Start at the Top' theory of submitting


and most markets aren't into multiple submissions.

Mary Rosenblum

Writers block, Jay? Ever had it?

Jay Lake

Never for more than a day or two


Don't ask me why not.


One of my gifts or something


Either that or someday I'll have the Grandmother of all writer's block --


another reason for my story a week thing.   The habituation helps defeat block

Mary Rosenblum

Yeah, nothing defeats writers block like writing. LOL


I meant having a phobia of sending things out. Too scared to.

Jay Lake

Hey, I understand the phobia, believe me.


One advantage to having a bunch of stories in the mail (meaning, to having WRITTEN a bunch of stories)


is that the phobia attenuates.


I keep 30-50 stories in the mail at once.


I can't *remember* where they are without checking my spreadsheet.


Takes out a lot of the sting.


I guess you put the "editor" away when you write.

Jay Lake

I try. ;-) I've become pretty good at compartmentalizing.


I’d like to hear more about the voice. I’m not sure I know exactly what that means. I believe my voice is very simple and clear but I’m not sure if that’s my voice or not. Is there a better way to explain what the "voice" is?

Jay Lake

Tough one, molly


but a story that has a strong voice will have a distinctive 'feel' to it.


Jeff Ford's 'Creation'


Jeff Ford's "Creation", available from FictionWise for .75$, has what I consider to be a powerful, but subtle, voice.


In that there is a sense of the story having almost a personality of it's own.

Jay Lake

I'm not explaining this very well, am I?

Mary Rosenblum

Okay, I’m going to throw my writing teacher self into the arena here.

Jay Lake



Saved by the bell!

Mary Rosenblum

And add my two cents worth. DONG! Which is that voice is a distinctive


blend of rhythm, word choice, nuance, and perspective that doesn’t' get in the way of the individual story


but rather transcends it and makes the prose recognizable from story to story. Howzzat?

Jay Lake

hoot hoot!


You can't write that IN to a story


but you can polish it OUT of a story.

Mary Rosenblum


Jay Lake

My very best work has been first draft plus minor edits, where my raw voice has been preserved

Mary Rosenblum

Jay, tell us what YOU are writing these days.


Tell us about the books you have out, and the ones I'm going to give to a lucky person.

Jay Lake



Well, I'm working on a number of things, including an alternate history/magical OldWest novel called ORIGINAL DESTINY, MANIFEST SIN.


Several short projects.


An upcoming book from PRIME, DOGS IN THE MOONLIGHT (my third collection)


plus, just out from Wheatland Press, one of the giveaways, AMERICAN SORROWS,


my collection from last year, GREETINGS FROM LAKE WU,


and I'll be giving away a POLYPHONY of the winner's choice from among the first three volumes.


Also got editing projects under way, including POLYPHONY 4 and 5, 44 CLOWNS, EXQUISITE CORPUSCLE and TEL : STORIES

Mary Rosenblum

What's your alt history OldWest novel about? Sounds cool.

Jay Lake

Uh, basically Lewis and Clark discover the ruins of Biblical Eden in the Missouri Breaks, Clark accidentally kills Lewis then goes on the run from a band of marauding angels (that's backstory)


The main conflict is between Thomas Edison and another character named Peony Sykes.


Tom wants to rationalize the West in the name of progress


while Sykes wants to preserve the angels, mastodons and Neanderthals which roam the region


while an immortal Aaron Burr schemes from his spiderweb palace in Spanish Tejas.


Hijinks ensue

Mary Rosenblum

Sounds like WAY too much fun! LOL

Jay Lake

It's fun as heck to work on


I thought I saw "Dogs In The Moonlight" in a QPB catalogue.


QPB-Quality Paperback Book Club.

Jay Lake

And I've been to a lot of the locations in the past year or so




Wow, weird


unless there's another book with the same title.


It's not out yet, for one. ;-p

Mary Rosenblum

Might be a similar title.

Jay Lake

I copped the phrase from Paul Simon


Surely someone else could do the same.


So you are somewhat a stream of consciousness writer?

Jay Lake



I often have no idea what's going on until the words hit the page, sometimes not till long after that!


Hard to write a novel that way, though


Want a good example?

Mary Rosenblum

How different is it for you to work in long form? What changes?

Jay Lake

I have to write in bursts though I plot or synopsize first for novels


I can handle up to about 20-30K words without summaries


More than that, ouch


I'm writing ORIGINAL DESTINY as a series of linked shorts, for example

Mary Rosenblum

Aha.. Linked by setting or theme or characters?

Jay Lake

All of the above


and with an out-of-synch time signature


so I am playing around.


Maybe your organization is subconscious, like playing a song

Jay Lake



I’ll tell my little story now.


A couple of summers ago I went hiking on Mt. Hood with my Mom and a friend of hers.


We got up in some deep snow on Cathedral Ridge, even though it was late July and 80 degrees


and there were these flights of orange butterflies on the snow


having flow up from lower altitudes where summer was already present and accounted for --


a strikingly beautiful sight, one of which I never could have conceived.


That night I woke up around 11 pm, got out of bed, and wrote this


Jay's story


With no idea what it meant or why until long after I was done


except that the orange butterflies meant something.


ALL the work happened deep inside the plumbing


and the story just sort of erupted from my fingertips.


Jay, what's next for Wheatland Press, besides the next Poly?

Jay Lake

Hey Carrie! Are you used-to-live-in-Austin Carrie?


What's next is a collection of Lucius Shepard's movie reviews,


the All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories book


a collection of boxing poetry (really, it's quite good)


a Steven Utley collection


and Polyphony 5.


I'm the still-live-in-Austin Carrie. Missed you at dillocon

Jay Lake

Meant to be there.  Next year.


Guys, Carrie saw me in a writer's group back in 1991 or so.


She can attest how long I've been at this.


Jay has paid his dues and slogged in the trenches.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding.


Good example for all of you out there.


We're really about out of time.

Jay Lake

Thank you very much, Mary.

Mary Rosenblum

Tonight, Jay is giving away a copy of his new book, AMERICAN SORROWS, his recent


GREETINGS FROM LAKE WU, and a POLYPHONY of the winner's choice - 1, 2 or 3. Stay put for a moment, while Jay chooses the magic number and I see who that is.

Jay Lake

: water clock song ::

Mary Rosenblum

Choose a number,.

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum




Jay Lake



Mary, have lbaggins contact me privately for shipping info etc

Mary Rosenblum

You'll have to send me your mailing address up here on the stage.

Jay Lake

I'll send stuff out next week

Mary Rosenblum

I'll pass it to Jay.

Jay Lake



Congrats on the Hugo nomination and the World Fantasy nom.

Jay Lake


Mary Rosenblum

Yes, for those of you not in the know. these are VERY big nominations for very big awards.

Jay Lake

Campbell, too, he noted immodestly


I can't believe I won something!


You are amazingly busy Jay, Thank you for taking the time to come here!

Jay Lake

Thank you for taking the time to ask, and listen.


Thanks, Jay. It has been fast paced and fascinating.

Jay Lake

I really appreciate everyone's being here


Thanks for coming Jay . Tonight was very informative


I think you should write; Jays Definitions for Writers

Mary Rosenblum

LOL not a bad idea!

Jay Lake

If any of you are going to be at WorldCon, come find me.  I'll be in the bar


Fun, informative night guys:-) Thanks!

Jay Lake

Gotta go, me

Mary Rosenblum

You're a hit, Jay.

Jay Lake

Thank you very much, all

Mary Rosenblum

Take a bow and run!


Thanks for coming and good luck at Boston!


And WFC!

Jay Lake

: bow ::


Return to Interview Transcripts

Home | Writing Course | Short Story | Full Story Writing Test 
Send Me Full Info | Enroll | Our Instructors | Our CredentialsSample Lesson 
College Credits | Tax Deductibility | From Overseas  | Writer's Bookstore  
Free Writer's News | Life Support for Writers | Chat Room  | Live Forum | Writing Craft
Calendar of Events | Professional Connection | Transcripts | Post a Note | Surviving & Thriving
Student Center | Privacy Policy | Web EditorComments | Writing for Children 

LongRidge Writers Group
91 Long Ridge Road, West Redding, Connecticut 06896
Telephone: 1-800-624-1476 ~ Fax: 203-792-8406

Copyright Writer's Institute, Inc., 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
No part of the electronic transmission to which this notice is appended may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the express written permission of Writer's Institute, Inc.