When I submit my short stories should I hide my Israellocation?
This is a real question participants in my classes ask me. Most often these writers use an American address of a relative or the address of a friend overseas in their submissions. They genuinely believe that an address in Israel lowers their chances of acceptance in literary magazines and journals and, as the odds are already so stacked against new writers, they figure: who needs the handicap of an Israeladdress?
I admit that it never occurred to me to alter my Israeli address in my submissions and I’ve been submitting stories since 2005. Is this naive? I don’t think so.
If a publication does not want to print my story because I live in Israel, I do not want to be published by that publication. Is that too simple?
So, how have I answered these writers? I tell them the truth. I use my real address. I point out that if they have altered their addresses, they have also altered the locations in their stories—there are many nods when I say this—transplanting events that took place somewhere around Tel Aviv to New York or London or (worse, in my opinion), they write stories that take place in unspecified locations: that city, town, street, river, downtown, main road, it’s endless. Stories without a strong sense of place probably won’t get published anyway.
I get a lot of arguments in my classes about this too. Why? What does it matter where it happened if it is a story about adolescence, Alzheimer’s or adoption? What’s the difference? These are the angry responses I get. A whole essay could answer this question, but in short:
Part of the magic of a story is that it transports you to another place and often another place in time, real or imagined. If you ask ten people about their favorite stories, good chance they will talk about feeling as though they are really in the American South, in Hogwarts School of Magic, in Elizabethan England and so on. If your stories take place in ‘a city’ you have lost so much. Characters are often built on and reflect their locations, their place, so you’ve lost on character building, speech, dialogue, and atmosphere, not to mention the detail that will bring your story to life.
But what if I live in Israel, but write about events that take place overseas: my magical childhood in London, my nightmare wedding in LA or my heartbreak in Toronto? If Israel has nothing to do with the story, why lower my chances of publication by mentioning my real address? Why get tossed out of the slush pile based on an editor’s political views?
Well, writers in Israel, what would you answer? Is this a classic case of Jewish paranoia or just a way to level the playing field? Do you think writers in other countries hide their addresses?