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Dear Agony,

What is the best way to ensure authors adhere to submission guidelines? No matter how many times I try, eager authors fail in reading them. Whether it is using Comic Sans or a PDF file, it never fails. Sure it would be easy enough to just delete the file or plug their email into a list for various porn sites, but I want something that serves as a permanent reminder to follow the guidelines. Any thoughts?

Losing my Marbles, Here or There


Dear Loser,

Aren’t authors just the worst? One minute they’re like, “Boo hoo, nobody wants to read my work! I’m so hungry! If I don’t pay my rent by tomorrow, I’m going to be out on the street.” The next minute, they’re all, “You can’t hold me here against my will! What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you write your own damn advice column? This is totally illegal! When I get out of these shackles, I’m going to–” bla, bla, bla.

Which is it? Make up your mind, Shakespeare!
The trouble with authors is their brains. They have brains, but they only use them for evil. Go ahead, try to get an author to help you out sometime. Even when you provide perfectly adequate nourishment and housing, they’re always like, “I can’t eat these pine cones! This cardboard box with towels in the bottom is bad for my sciatica! Why don’t you write your own damn advice column? Someone help me, I’m being held in a–”

Not so fast, smart guy.

You see? They can use those brains when they want to, but always, always for evil.

My advice in this situation is to start your authors off right with a good daily learning regimen. Try to make training time fun time– if they use Courier or Times New Roman, they get a pine cone. If they trot out that damn Comic Sans again, well, it’s going to be a towel-free cardboard box until they think about what they’ve done and adjust that attitude. If they send you a PDF so you can’t edit their work? That’s going to be a problem, and I don’t think deleting the file is going to drive the point home. You may be able to file down a pine cone or two, grab a hammer and drive their points home, however, if you catch my meaning. I’m sure you can think of an anatomical location (or two) that will encourage that authorial brain to retain the lesson.






Dear Agony,

I never thought I would be writing to you, but I am at my wits’ end! The crotchety old woman who lives on the other side of the privacy fence keeps throwing pine cones over the fence and into my yard! Never mind that the pine cones fall from my tree into her yard; I feel she should dispose of them in another manner. How can I deal with Grambo other than throwing the pine cones back?

Annoyed in Anioa


Dear Annoyed,

Boy, do I hear you on the subject of crotchety neighbors. When they try to bring their nonsense over or under my privacy fence, they find out pretty quickly that it is now my nonsense. And what I do with my nonsense is my own business.

When it comes to pine cones, however, I recommend a three-pronged investigative approach.

Prong the First: throughout human history, the humble pine cone has symbolized eternal life, resurrection, and regeneration. In fact, the oldest known living organism on earth is a bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains with nearly 5,000 candles on its cake.

Which begs the question: why is Grambo hurling immortality over your fence?

Prong the Second: The pine cone’s sacred geometry has long been worshiped by ancient cultures. The Aztec goddess Chicomecóatl is pictured with pine cones in her hands. So is the Hindu god Shiva. A pine cone tops the sacred staff of the Egyptian god Osiris, and a giant bronze pine cone flanked by peacocks graces the Vatican in Rome. Illumination. Enlightenment. Spiritual consciousness and awakening. These are the spiraling, entwining avenues of the pine cone. Its Fibonacci swirl is a perfect expression of the Golden Ratio of the ancients, mirroring every aspect of life from DNA’s double helix to a curling snail shell, the deadly spiraling winds of a hurricane, and our own Milky Way galaxy.

So why is Grambo tossing sacred geometry and awakening consciousness over your fence?

Prong the Third: You may be familiar with a 1934 short story by a funny-looking racist from Providence, Rhode Island titled “From Beyond.” In the story, a mad scientist’s resonance wave device awakens his pineal gland, enabling him to observe cosmic horrors from, well, beyond. (The 1986 film version will make you cringe yourself inside-out.) My point is that the pine cone is light sensitive, retiring in the crepuscular gloaming of dusk and blooming forth with the aurora’s effulgent lambency. So too is the pineal gland intimately linked to the rhythms of darkness and light, of waking and sleep, of circadian cadences. The pineal gland, philosopher René Descartes’ “Seat of the Soul,” is shaped something like a squishy little pine cone. It’s even named after a damned pine cone. The only difference between your pineal gland and an actual pine cone is that it is nestled snug in the brainy cleavage of your epithalamus instead of being hucked over your fence by Grambo. The only vertebrate creature we know of that lacks a pineal gland is the hagfish, which, I mean, when you think about it, brings up another interesting question.

This Grambo of yours. Does she have fins? Gills? Is she an eel-like, jawless vertebrate, by any chance?

So, if we combine the three prongs of inquiry together into a trident of neighborly diplomacy, we see that Grambo is most likely a multidimensional hagfish from beyond, hurling galaxies and DNA at your pineal gland for the purpose of infecting you with immortality. My advice, in this case, is clear. Pick up that trident of neighborly diplomacy, take aim, and from Hell’s heart, stab at Grambo.

What they say about fences making good neighbors goes double for tridents. Make that triple.





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