Ghost Work

This is a post to explain a few posts to come.

I don’t regard this site as a blog, where I post my thoughts from time to time, but as a record of things I’ve written and published elsewhere. Occasionally, I’ve also posted original essays or stories that I couldn’t get published elsewhere or didn’t want another platform to publish (as in, I wanted the piece to be published in its entirety regardless of things like length restrictions of “marketability”).

But increasingly I’m finding I have to post other work that’s disappeared from the places where it was originally published. More and more in the past couple years, the independent digital literary journals or websites where I’ve had work accepted have been shutting down, often without notice. Which, in this increasingly digital-only/print-version-no-longer-available world, means the work that I and other writers and artists have contributed just vanishes.

It’s nothing personal, of course. These places where this happens tend to be small, entirely unfunded journals and sites that the creators/founders/editors are working on in their little free time as a labor of love. Eventually, either they find they have less time and energy to keep the journal going or feel they’ve accomplished just about everything they first intended when they created the journal or maybe more personal, pressing issues come up in their lives. In any case, they shut down the journal/site and all its poems, essays, artwork, and stories disappear from the internet forever. (One outlier case of a journal where an especially favorite essay of mine was published, the website was hacked and the journal only got back its poetry and fiction content–the non-fiction section of the site was just wiped out and never got back. So all its non-fiction content pre-hacking has remained erased.)

Whenever this happens–and again, it seems to be happening more and more in the past two or three years–I feel torn between just being grateful I had work published to begin with and disappointed that stuff I was finally able to successfully place somewhere keeps disappearing from potential readers’ view. It brings up a lot of conflicting feelings in me about writing and my self-worth: If I were a better writer I would be getting published in more stable venues. If I were a more ambitious writer I would be writing and submitting more and getting published more often and have more work out there to balance out the stuff that vanishes. If I were a smarter writer I would pick journals that have a print option for their issues, so even if the digital version comes down someday, I always have my print copy as proof of publishing.

And all of this is true–if I were better, faster, and smarter and less lazy or less insecure, anxious, and self-doubting, I’d be a whole different person. A much more successful person. Probably someone without a homemade website. Probably not someone with four cats who sits on her cheap foam-stuffed couch and writes emotive third-rate poetry and overly-Irish-focused essays and quirky short Midwestern-suburban angst stories that get an acceptance at a rate of one maybe every other year or so at this point before suddenly getting deleted like they were never written or read or accepted or published to begin with.

Or maybe none of its true. I learned several years ago that my pace of doing things is my business and no one else’s. The same goes for my voice–speaking, writing, creative, or IRL. (I’ve had a recurring stammer and a quiet voice since childhood, and if you knew some of the things I’ve heard and dealt with from people because of the way I speak…)

I’ve resolved these cases of disappearing publishing credits by just re-posting the stuff on this site. But because it’s happening more and more now, I thought I should post something to explain why this stuff keeps getting add to my own site.

One digital journal that I had a piece accepted in a few years ago, and then served as a volunteer editor at for a year, seems to have vanished in the past couple months. As volunteer editor, I contributed a few more pieces from that initial essay published on the site–several editors’ notes and interviews–plus one essay I commissioned from a fantastic American poet living overseas whose work deserves more recognition in the U.S. About three of these pieces I was especially proud of. The journal actually closed down a few years ago, around the time my and the other volunteer editors’ tenure there was coming to a close anyway. The founding editor decided they had done what they wanted to do when they first started the journal and was ready to move on–which I respected then and respect now. The journal, however, was hosted by a larger print and digital lit journal, so the site (and all our work as writers and editors) stayed “alive”–up until recently it seems. I have no idea what happened–I suppose the larger journal just felt it was time to close the section of their site devoted to the smaller, defunct journal. It’s their prerogative, and it’s a choice to be respected, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling disappointed.

I found this out only because I’ve recently mustered some bit of confidence again–after about a year and a half of anxiety issues that kept me from much productivity at all–to finish and submit some pieces and was looking for examples of past work to highlight for any editors/venues that might accept my new stuff. It’s always nice to be able to show to a potential future editor that you’ve been able to find readership for your work in the past and there are other editors out there who’ve taken a chance on you.

Because of the personal satisfaction I gained from working on some of those pieces for this journal, I’ll be posting them over the next few weeks. But this yet-another-ghosting of work has got me thinking of how to take better control of my writing, and in a way that doesn’t lead me down a road of self-doubt or irrational guilt.

A couple years ago I started to consider seriously getting a collection of some of my work together to publish, either with a publisher or DIY. I decided on a DIY route and started putting a manuscript together and researching reputable self-publishing methods. I kept putting off finalizing the project though because there were still a few more pieces I was working on and wanting to complete and include in the collection. Would it make you lose all respect for me (assuming it was there to begin with) if I admitted I’m still snail pacing my way through one of those pieces? And that in the meantime I’ve maybe diverted myself by writing other (less pressing, in terms of fitting into the DIY project) stuff?

But these vanishings of time, heart, and work–of labor, there’s no less of a word for it–bring back to me the urgency of finalizing the project. Whether or not any of these disappeared sites and journals ever come back, and whether or not I keep re-posting my vanished work on this site, I want something of my gathered work in print that myself and others can have in hand as a record of my labor and proof of the importance of my voice as much as anyone else’s in this world. I want something that the fickleness and transiency of the internet can’t erase. And I still prefer print anyway. I’ll ride or die with print.

So here’s hoping by the end of the year I can get something together and make some print collection offering a reality, something that will include a few of these pieces that the internet has ghosted away.

Watch this space.

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