Judson Merrill Places a Story

Dearest Editors,

Please find attached my story, “Tolliver’s Grocery,” for consideration for publication in Rabbit Punch. It’s an intimate account of a ‘60s-era grocery cashier confronted with some bikini-clad customers. As a heads up, I’ve also submitted this story to Granta and they’ve had it for quite a while, so there’s a good chance it’s climbing the editorial ladder over there. I’ll let you know if they pick it up.


That’s tremendous news! It will be my honor to appear in Rabbit Punch. I understand that you’re not able to pay, but for this to work for me you’ve got to come up on my number of contributor’s copies. Frankly, I can’t go any lower than seven. Hit me back.


Thanks for asking. Judson Merrill is fine for the byline, but I’ve always thought the byline was a part of your magazine that could use some spicing up. Maybe give everyone a nickname? For example, you could credit me as Judson “The Next Updike” Merrill. And one of your other contributors could be Stan “The Next Merrill” Jacobs. As an example.


For some legal reasons I don’t want to bore you with, we can’t publish the story you recently accepted. Admittedly, I was a little turned around on the exact interpretation of some copyright laws, but the restraining order I just got makes me think some bigwigs in the lit world consider me an “artistic vandal” and a “criminal self-promoter.” They probably called in a few favors to stymie my career. Kind of flattering in a way. (It also sort of makes you wonder what ever happened to that Granta submission, huh? Still a pretty good chance I hear back from them this week, in which case, we’ll have to part ways.) Anyway, no worries because I’ve attached another story of mine which you can use instead. “Kiss of the Blanched Rhubarb” is a 9000-word exploration of a young man’s destructive addiction to the locavore lifestyle. It’s perfect for Rabbit Punch.


I’d really be more comfortable signing a contract. Should the story take off and be adapted into a documentary or feature film or television pilot or amusement park ride or lunchbox, I want to make sure I’m not robbed of my ancillary rights. The attached contract is mostly my boilerplate stuff, except appendix C.iii, which relates to all that silliness with my previous story. Sign, initial, and notarize, please.


You can classify me as an “emerging voice.” (Although if you check your records, you’ll note I’ve been submitting to Rabbit Punch for over six years.) But I don’t see what that has to do with the font-size of my name. Isn’t the best way to promote a debut author to treat them like an established author and hope most people don’t notice the difference? Get a John Updike story for this issue, for example, and then put my name and his name next to each other on the cover. Relatedly, please find attached some art to run alongside my story. It’s a woodcut of a man spying on a farmer’s market, with my name subtly spelled out in the carrots for sale. I think it captures the spirit of my piece.


Here’s the bio you asked for. It ran a little long because most of my previous credits require a host of legal disclaimers. However, a few of said disclaimers are from the Updike estate, which should lend the magazine some panache.


I was shocked to get your latest email. You’ve already accepted the story. I’m not sure why your “edits” didn’t come up during contract negotiations. Frankly, my voice requires that I bend and break many of the traditional rules. So, to start, I’ve rejected all the changes you’ve suggested and also tweaked a few spots where I thought the prose could use a stronger challenge to the tired grammar hegemony. As for your suggestions for more comprehensive changes, I’ve developed a workable compromise. We’ll publish the story as I wrote it in this issue and then, next quarter, you can include an Editor’s Cut version. Like a reprise. Of course, this will require a host of appendices to our contract (and my bio) but I’m working on those and will get them to you soon.


The full Judson Merrill archives can be found here.

–Judson Merrill lives and writes in Brooklyn. Some of his work, including his e-novella The Pool, can be found at judsonmerrill.com.

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