I knew it was a rejection before I even knew it was a rejection. I don’t know why, but this particular magazine was bumping around in my thoughts all day on Friday. Nauseatingly hopeful bubbles formed in my head that morning as I thought about some of the pieces they’d published. Mine would fit in snug as a bug with a tidy little graphic next to my name. Then I read a few more stories they just published, and the dread set in. I realized I was too much of something and not enough of something else for them. Still, I tried to keep the positivity and willful ignorance alive.
The notification popped up close to midnight, and my chest seized up. I was furious I was letting this one tiny publication control me at this basest of levels, but I didn’t want to read the email. I’ve become such a coward; my friend T.L. had to log in to my Submittable account and fetch the unflattering news on my behalf.
Getting that rejection was like going on a bad bender. I think it’s because I forgot something about the lit journal scene: Very few things they publish are funny. I’m not saying funny doesn’t exist in the lit scene at all because it does, but it’s rare. So much of it is tragedy porn and waif writing. (All the credit to M Sweeney for the fantastic term waif writing.)
Even the markets that say they want ~quirky~ and ~experimental~ still trend tragic or ambivalent without a ton of humor. This is a problem for someone who can’t help but be a little silly in their writing and hope for some endings to be happy. The obvious solution is to go back to romance, but I don’t fit in there either. I live here now.
Unless you lived in D.C. during the late ‘90s and early aughts, you probably don’t know who the hell Q and Not U is. Even then, you still might not know. They were a catchy post-punk Dischord Records act, and I unfortunately didn’t discover them until well after they broke up. It was weird. When they split, they were doing really well for a D.C. band.
I’m not being snotty when I say that. D.C. bands have this weird yoke around their necks because some of them get really big for the area, which is awesome because D.C. is the U.S. epicenter of– oh. Politics. Right. New York and LA do music. As a result, very few D.C. bands see the mainstream.
This is why Q and Not U is interesting. They had three albums under their belts and were touring internationally. It seemed like they might actually be able to break out of the D.C. indie bubble. Instead, they just stopped. They had a farewell show, but their announcement was so understated:
“After seven years, hundreds of shows, thousands of miles, 46 states, four continents, three albums, only one flat-tire and countless nicknames for Shawn Brackbill, Q and Not U is disbanding. With all of your support, we feel that we’ve reached all of our shared goals as Q and Not U and we’re ready to move on to other projects in life. We all hope to play music together again someday, but we feel that it’s a beautiful and natural time to bring this band to a close.”
Jesus, they make it sound like they consciously uncoupled. How and why did their momentum drop? I’m fascinated by these kinds of artist ghost stories because you don’t get a Behind the Music episode for bands like Q and Not U. Their music still makes me happy, though. It’s a perfect mix of fun, earnest, odd, and catchy. No tragedy porn. This track is probably my favorite:
You can listen to more here:
Featured image by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash