|The author in control
I get stumped by computery stuff from time to time, sure, but it’s a lot better than it used to be. Computers got better, and I got better too. Shoot, when I first started word-processing, entire documents used to vanish in the ether. One stray keystroke and all of a sudden text was going backwards and smacking into margins and puddling up and I don’t know what-all. I had to summon the fairy children next door to fetch it back.
But now I’ve got that stuff mostly under control and I’m also familiar with the processes required to get the stuff out into the world.
That was hard at first, too. Back in 2008 when I tried to upload the essay that ultimately won the FieldReport contest, I couldn’t make it go. I had to get my friend Magic Beth. My computer was a big dumb horse that munched grass and wouldn’t move and it knew perfectly well that I didn’t know what I was doing. Beth would come over and saddle up and pop a heel and snap a rein and the horse was all Oh, fine and then it would take right off.
But I’ve kind of got it down now. And I do try to get the stuff out into the world. You don’t get as impressive a stack of rejection letters as I have by not sending stuff out.
Not that anyone’s making it easy. Take Tin House, for instance. Tin House is a lovely and highly-regarded press that publishes about a half-dozen books a year, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking mine should be one of them. Guess the hell what? They take submissions for non-fiction books two days a year. September 4th and September 5th. That’s it.
So come the morning of September 4th, I jumped right on it. They use a form. Name, preferred pronouns (aw), overview, short bio, and your first chapter. Uploading your first chapter is a snap. You hit the button that says “Upload File” and it brings up a window with a list of everything on your desktop. You double-click the document you want and BOOP BOOP it gets sucked into the form. I do it all the time.
Not this time. This time everything on my desktop list is grayed out. That means you can’t BOOP BOOP on it. I have no idea what I’ve done wrong, but I can’t get my chapter into their form. They want it formatted as a Word document or a PDF, and my chapter is totally a Word document. I spanked it over from the Mac program myself. But it won’t light up.
I never use PDF. I don’t even know why there have to be so many formats. It’s like screwdrivers. Just do flat-head and Phillips and be done with it. But no. As far as I can tell, PDF is this real old-fashioned-looking deal that comes spiral-bound and looks like someone scanned a printed book. I see no point in it at all. But just for the hell of it, I spanked my document over into a PDF, and then tried to upload it, and it lit right up and BOOP BOOP got sucked right into the form. So. Done!
But what the hell?
Turns out the form was looking for all the DOC files on my desktop and it didn’t light any up because I don’t have any, because that format got retired fourteen years ago. DOC and DOCX are both Word formats but DOCX has been the norm since 2007. My computer doesn’t even recognize it. So for once the fault is with the submission form and not me. When they asked for DOC and PDF documents, they were giving us writers a choice. We could create a big thick PDF document on spiral-bound 8.5×11 bond paper and shove it over the transom. Or we could do a Word doc from the last century on parchment rolled into a scroll and poked through their tiny scroll hole.
I hope my chapter made a nice satisfying whump when it sailed over the transom.