Wake up, Polly Parrot.


All I Want For Christmas
by Brian Plante

Dear Santa,

I've been very good this year. Honest. Didn't write nearly as much as I expected, but I sold a few stories. Maybe you could bring me the usual bunch of little things for the stocking: Rolls of 32 and 23-cent stamps, 3X5 index cards, manila envelopes -- that sort of stuff. I didn't really use that voice-activated mini-cassette recorder you brought last year. Dictating notes for stories didn't work out as well as I thought it would. I guess I'm more of a writer-writer than a storyteller. Hey, you could maybe throw in a couple of those rubber pencil-gripper things. They keep me from getting that big callus on my middle finger when I'm writing lots in longhand. If you really want to make it a good Christmas for me, there's a few other things that would make me happy:

Can you do something, Santa, about the editors? They take so long to reply. After all, if they receive 20 submissions a day, eventually they have to send back 20 responses a day whether they go out tomorrow or six months from now. Put a little coal in their stockings, please. And do you think they could write a little comment once in a while about why they rejected my story? I know they're busy, but if they hold something for six months and then just send a form reject, well, more coal please. And why don't more of them accept e-mail submissions? If they did, things might be a little faster and you wouldn't have to leave so many stamps in my stocking. Yeah, I don't like reading fiction on a computer screen much either, but hey, these guys are professionals!

Oh yeah, and while we're talking about "professionals", let me say a thing about the pitiful rates most of these short-story markets are paying. Santa, these magazines have been paying the same per-word rates since the 1940's! And those are the better markets. The smaller markets -- well forget about it! Hey, save some of that coal for the publishers too, okay?

As long as I'm on the subject of publishers, can you do something, Santa, to make them a little more, um, business savvy? Is there a Magazine Publishing For Dummies book out there that you can give them this Christmas? I mean, some of these markets put out just one or two issues and then fold. Heck, sometimes they fold even before putting out the very first issue! Don't these bozo's know it takes a lot of time and money to make something like that fly? If anybody out there is wishing for their very own magazine this Christmas, please don't give it to them unless they know what they're doing, okay?

And what's the story with agents, already? I don't have an agent yet, but one day I'm going to finish that novel I've been kicking around and I'll need one. Why do they have to be so greedy? I know most of them recently went from 10% to 15% commissions, and now I hear that the top ones are asking for 20%. Sure times are tough, but why do they have to always stick it to the writers? If they worked hard to get bigger advances for their clients like they're supposed to do, then everyone would make more money, right? I think a little more coal is needed, don't you?

Hey, something you can do really nice for all the kids out there, Santa, is to give them more of those Goosebumps books. I see all these little kids reading for fun now. The adult horror field has been shrinking lately, except for the Kings and Koontzes, and I figure if you can help hook more of those kids with the R. L. Stine books, we may have a growing audience when those kids grow up and move on to more adult fare.

A lot of other writers I know need your help right now, Santa. I'm talking about the bunch over on the Genie on-line service. The new owner, IDT, says they're scrapping their plans to move Genie to the Internet, and since that was their whole reason for buying Genie in the first place, I'm afraid they'll close us down very soon now. They might even be out of business by the time you read this. Please, Santa, help us find a new electronic home where we can all be together again.

I don't really ask much for myself, Santa. A favorable review in Locus or Tangent for one of my stories would be nice. I know I don't have enough "literary" style to get nominated for any of those fancy awards, but if you have any influence with the anthologists, an honorable mention in one of the "best of the year" collections would be appreciated. Not for me, Santa, but for my dear old mom, who sits patiently in her rocking chair waiting for the day when her sonny-boy finally makes good .

Lastly, Santa, I want something that probably only you can give. I need a stopwatch like the one in that Twilight Zone episode. The one that makes time stop for everyone in the world except the guy with the watch. I figure you, Santa, just gotta have something like that or else how could you deliver those presents all over the world in just one night? Well I need one too. I promise I won't do anything bad with it, like steal money from the bank while everyone is frozen like that guy in the story. I just need it to give me more time, so I can read and write and watch all those TV shows that I tape and never seem to watch. Stuff like that.

Well, I guess that's all for this year, Santa. I hope you can help me out with some of this stuff. If not, a gift certificate for Border's or Barnes & Noble would be okay, too. And index cards, stamps, envelopes and the pencil-grip things. Thanks a lot. I'll leave some cookies on the dining room table for you and the reindeers.

Copyright © 1996 Brian Plante, first appeared in The New Jersey Graveline , December 1996. Count=5387

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