Dylan McKay is Not that Into Me
Or using your lit mag crush to be a better writer
By Leonora Desar
I’m obsessed with a certain magazine. Let’s call him Dylan—after Dylan McKay, the hot surfer boy on 90210. I was obsessed with Dylan. I am obsessed with this certain magazine. In fact the more they reject me the more obsessed I get.
I even write him letters—
I love you—
and I want you to love me too.
My real letters are a little better (not much). This magazine publishes this kind of thing and it is my dream, my wish, that if I write to them enough they may publish me. Hell, I may even send them my missives wrapped up in a bow, with a picture of me as Brenda—
Brenda Walsh (aka Dylan’s squeeze)
Anyway—my point is that Dylan has told me (very nicely) he’s not that into me—But his rejection just spurns me on. I must go to the prom with Dylan McKay—Aaron Spelling and teenyboppers and better writers everywhere be damned.
This column will probably ensure I never get a date. But that’s ok… I need Dylan’s rejection to be better—write better—be good enough so that I can hear him say, hey, that Leonora, she’s kind of cool—or maybe not, she’s a weirdo, but I dig it.
Use rejection to get better. Use everything—jealousy, desire, but especially rejection.
Next time write something for your Dylan. Then send it elsewhere. Think Dylan’s going to see it and get very jealous (he probably won’t). If you do the best part will not be Dylan coming to the door with a corsage, but the actual writing—cheesy as that may sound.
The worst thing can be acceptance. It’s like you’ve just run a 5K and now you’re chilling at the Olive Garden. The Olive Garden slump can be the worst—it’s like, great, I’m published but what am I doing now? (Answer: eating breadsticks.)
The best thing that ever happened to me was a fling with X magazine (let’s call him Dylan’s hot older brother—Kevin). Kevin said, you know Leonora, it’s a shame you hooked up with Steve, I really wanted to you know, hook up.
In other words, X magazine liked one of my stories, and I ended up withdrawing it when it was accepted elsewhere (by Steve). X magazine was a good one. Is a good one. And they wanted more—I had bupkis. My friend, who is an amazing writer AND with discipline to envy, was like—Leonora, this is why you should always be writing. In case Kevin comes along.
So I did what I should have been doing all along. I wrote. My boss was like, how are those files coming? Great, I said—
I wrote a story about the files. They had magical properties and filed all by themselves. This is brilliant, I thought. Kevin will LOVE this. A day later: thank God I didn’t send that to Kevin.
I wrote more. Now there was a grandmother. She too had magic properties. Unfortunately they didn’t help me with my file problem. That was ok. Now I had thousands of words that didn’t make any sense. I started over. Wrote more—Now there is a grandfather. He eats a lot vitamins and guess what—he too has magic properties.
You probably think you know where I am going with this. Well, you’re wrong. Neither of these magical beings got me into X magazine. But I did (eventually) get into Z magazine, which was like Kevin and Dylan’s weird alternative older cousin—Max.
My friend was very proud—and smug. You did the work, she said. This was something she used to tell me. I’d be reading Fifty Shades of Grey and she’d be like, what are you doing? Reading fine literature, I’d say. You need to do the work.
I told her about my date with Max. He took me to the racetrack—it was awesome. We sat there and watched the horses. He said, I’ve been waiting for this. Always. He may or may not have really said this.
Then he took me home.
Takeaway (since this is an advice column and there should be one (maybe?)— The bad words will eventually get you to the good ones. Use whatever you need to get there—sleep with a giant poster of James Dean or Dylan McKay—draw a heart around it and write your name.
Me and some scary guy (not Dylan) (but I needed some kind of headshot so there you go)
Leonora Desar’s writing can found or will be found soon in River Styx, Passages North, Black Warrior Review (online), SmokeLong Quarterly, Quarter After Eight, and New Flash Fiction Review, among others. She recently won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest and TSS Publishing’s Flash 400, and was a finalist/runner-up in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She lives in Brooklyn. When she’s not writing you can find her at the diner drawing stick figures.