Betty Duffy

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Non-sectarian lit

The editor said my writing is a bit sectarian for his liking. Just a bit too Catholic, which is not bad, in itself, just is not his particular interest, as he likes more literary styles.

"And working towards a definition of literary non-fiction, you would say it is non-sectarian?" I ask.

"I tend to think of it as being a bit more ambiguous, morally speaking, where the absence of a particular truth allows the reader to intuit more universal themes."

Here's an excerpt from a poem by Ruth Lilly Prize winner, Eleanor Ross Taylor that would contradict editor's definition of literary:

To Future Eleanors

How will you
cut off from Zions,
fall on your knees among the lions?
What if you
cut off from hymns
confound worksong with anthem

Cut of from Scripture
find sense suspect
and worship incoherence--
distrust the laces and adore the tangled thread?

What of you
without a holy thing,
but every sacrilege
of the sacrileged class?

Read the rest


wifemotherexpletive said...

i liked the last post quite a bit, but it was the things 'left out' that were so powerful. huh, i say to the editor, huh. power is what power is...

BettyDuffy said...

I guess, if I'd had a more clear thought process while I was on the phone with him, I might have said that literary tradition over the past hundreds of years has dealt with the ambiguous ways people have behaved in light of or in spite of universal truths.

Ambiguous truth and non-sectarianism feels modern to me, but I suppose it's been around for a long time too.

He was up front from the beginning though--said he wasn't religious, and that he might not be the best person to read my work. He just confirmed that.

~beautyandjoy~ said...

Yesterday and today were just agonizing to read - in all the right ways. Painful and perfect. Yesterday's title has me thinking, too. I am so glad to find your writing.

Karly said...

Friend, you are more than worthy of the call....and in time the right editor will come along, I believe. Thanks for writing with conviction.

Amy Welborn said...


I don't know what type of work of yours or the subject he read or who he was or what type of publisher but I wouldn't assume that literary qualms were at the heart of his final evaluation. Reading between the lines, they seem more like sales qualms. Sectarian = narrower public to whom to market. That's what it's generally all about. Cold, but true.

I'm sorry. Don't stop trying to take your writing to a broader audience, though, because you're really good. Never stop!

Pentimento said...

I think it's awesome that a literary editor consented to read, and then did read, your work. And that he was impressed enough with it to call you and tell you his qualms over the phone. That is something that almost never happens. I believe he was saying what he was saying: that your work is not for him, but that it is impressive enough to warrant his call.

By the way, if you don't see your recent comment on my blog, don't think I trashed it. I'm having trouble publishing comments for some reason.

BettyDuffy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone. I do feel honored by the call, and I appreciated his honesty and courtesy. It is really difficult not to play the beleaguered Catholic card, though, because it gives me an excuse to throw in the towel and suspend future rejections.

I'm not done yet, though. The anticipation is half the fun, even if it ends in rejection.

some guy on the street said...

There is no non-sectarian litterature. Anyone who writes out of not believing only to prevent belief is wasting your reading time.

meg said...

I read somewhere long ago that F. Scott Fitzgerald used to hang his rejection slips on the wall and at one point there were over one hundred of them - kind of like wallpaper. For what it's worth.

eaucoin said...

This makes me think of that quote about the only good experience being bad experience. At least for a little while longer you won't be chained to your computer trying to meet some artificial deadline. (Isn't death the only deadline that isn't artificial?)