icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Scott Lax Blog

"Sales Call," My Short Story, Placed Second in a Competition

I was recently informed that I won second place in The Lit's MUSE magazine Literary Competition. I won it for a short story I wrote -- under 3,000 words -- called "Sales Call." The winner was Toni Thayer, for "You Are What You Play." I've never met Ms. Thayer, but send her congratulations and wish her much success.

This is a particularly nice award, as it's the first short story I've submitted to a magazine -- I wrote it for the contest, pretty quickly -- and it's about a subject that I've thus far avoided – sales, and the lost world of American manufacturing.

I was once a traveling salesman, a manufacturer's representative, though the story itself is fiction. I typed “Sales Call,” as a title, and the rest just came pouring out. I had no idea what it would be when I typed that title. I spent so much of my younger years in that occupation. (Drumming, and music, should be coming up soon in my fiction writing, as I was a professional drummer, too - sometimes it takes some distance to write about a thing.)

I'm gratified that the judge chose to recognize something that isn't anywhere close to the de rigueur, MFA fiction that I read so much of in magazines. It's just a story about a young salesman and an old sales pro. That's all I'll say about it, as I heard it's going to be published in The Lit’s MUSE magazine in March.

For me, it's a bit of confirmation that trends don't matter to everyone; that you should follow your heart and write about what you want to write about; and that what's hip today will be passé tomorrow. Don’t worry about what judges or editors or publishers are looking for. You’ll paralyze yourself. Just write cleanly and from the heart.

I'm grateful to Judith Mansour, executive director of The Lit, for promoting writers and literature in NE Ohio. If you want to read an article that ran today about The Lit and the contest, click the link on the Announcements or Home page of this site. As for the story, it should be published pretty soon. Read More 

Sherman Alexie

I just read "War Dances," by Sherman Alexie, a short story in The New Yorker. I thought it was a pretty good story, and then it sneaked up on me and landed as a very good story. Such was the ease of his writing - he allowed the story and theme to unfold.

I reviewed his book of stories, TEN LITTLE INDIANS, for The Plain Dealer years ago, and gave it a rave review, which Alexie has used on his site and when the paperback came out. My editor at the time had me temper the review. I wrote, "Alexie has dipped a big toe into Ray Carver and John Cheever and Tim O'Brien territory," or something to that effect. She thought that was over-the-top, and asked me to cut it. Then about a dozen other newspaper reviews said basically the same thing. Still, I was able to write about what a great book it was.

He's an outstanding writer. He often writes about his vision of the modern American Indian experience in ways that are far from precious. He uses clichés sometimes, in the way that Cheever used clichés about WASPS or Roth about Jews or Baldwin about African Americans. That's what the great ones do: they turn the clichés inside out, and they don't care about being socially or academically correct, which I suppose is another way of using that old chestnut, "politically correct," which is out of style, even if it is a good phrase.

Don’t worry about being correct in that way, or precious. Make your characters honest, even if a particular character is dishonest. To try to manipulate characters to be what they’re not demeans your fiction and corrodes the truthfulness of what you write.  Read More