A Farewell to TSAT
by Andy Hollis and Paul Carmichael
©2001 Andy Hollis and Paul Carmichael -- all rights reserved
Three years ago, I sent in my first short story The Lady's Choice to Jeff Mahr for editing. Here I was, new to the TSA-Talk list, I had posted one general message at that point, but I did see the first issue of TSAT and liked it. I was an English Major, and an ex- English teacher, and thought my writing was really hot stuff. I wrote a story from a plot that I had been kicking around for a while, and sent if off. So how dare he send it back to me a week or so later with corrections? Corrections? My story was perfect, after all, and certainly didn't need editing. Or maybe -- no he had no idea what he was talking about, my ego was shattered and I'd never bother doing this again.
A few days later, I was willing to admit that Jeff did know what he was talking about on some things, but he had no clue how to punctuate dialog. I wrote back to tell him that I did agree with the changes but I gave him an "F" in English Composition skills. He wrote back and blustered a bit but admitted the "F" was a fair cop, and we have been working like that ever since.
[Editors' Note: Andy is the reason I finally bought a Style Manual, so I could argue grammar with him with a least a glimmer of a chance of winning.]
I have always been amazed at how some writers can turn out stories so quickly -- Bob Stein and Phil Geusz come instantly to mind. It takes me weeks and weeks for a short story and months for a long one. Having TSAT and a bi-monthly deadline, certainly helped me keep going, however. After the first couple of issues, I found I could get into a pattern, write the story and get it edited on time. Of course, I have always been able to edit other people's stories very easily, and hardly ever see the glaring errors in my own.
But somehow it all worked. I felt very glad that I was able to get my best friend, and partner in crime Paul Carmichael writing again. I am also glad I was able to get Jason Mitchell to contribute and co-write with me. I think Jason will be a fine writer, that is if he ever finishes the great American AR novel and gets back to work on regular stories again.
One thing I noticed about this entire experience was that I finally learned that my words are not carved in granite, that they can be improved on and that I was taking writing way too seriously. In fact, the entire series of Bennett City stories was written to counter that. I will admit that the story line got a bit -- okay a lot -- lame but I had a blast writing them, so did Paul and Jason and all they were ever meant to be was fun.
Of course, the hardest part of my job as story editor was to try and convince other writers to lighten up a bit, not take their creations quite so seriously and that getting edited was not the end of the world. Although I know I did step on some people's toes, inadvertently for the most part, I do think that my editing actually did help a few stories to get better. Of all the stories that TSAT received, there was only one that was just too bad to be salvaged. Jeff and I both tried with that story, but the author, a very young person, was not willing to listen and eventually withdrew the piece.
I, for one, do understand that after writing a story, getting told that it needs to be fixed is hard to take and I still wonder if that is the reason for the overwhelming lack of submissions to TSAT. It was always a struggle, from issue to issue, to get enough people writing for us, besides staff and friends, to make a respectable story list. I'm still amazed that we did it.
It's hard saying goodbye to something that has been such a big part of my life for so long. Turning over the zine to -- strangers is like sending a kid to boarding school. You know he can make it on his own, he needs his independence, but you are still ready to jump in and protect him at the first sign of trouble. To those who are taking over I say, "be good to my kid or else."
I do intend to keep on submitting stories to the new editors, but not on a per issue basis again, more due to health reasons than anything else.
Thanks for all your support over the years.
June 22, 2001
Thanks are also due to Jeff Mahr for providing this forum for TF writers. This was his vision, one that he created with remarkable success, and for the service that he and Andy gave, for free, to so many writers.
Thanks to everyone that read and liked my stories over the years as well.