11 November 2010

Seventeen November 1949

Please review October 2010’s Double Did you know... as this post was alluded to at the end of it...

Sylvia Plath amassed nearly 50 rejection slips from Seventeen magazine before her first published story, “And Summer Will Not Come Again”, was published in the August 1950 issue.

But, did you know...
this was not her first publication/appearance in Seventeen?

In the November 1949 issue (pictured here), Plath had a contribution to the lead article “When I’m a Parent” for which she was paid, I believe, $10. The article begins,

“Sooner or later, every teen-ager says fervently: ‘When I’m a parent, I’ll do thus and so.’ If your mother or father show particular understanding, you make a mental note that you’ll treat your children as intelligently ... So we asked a number of you what your do’s and don’ts are...Here are the most illuminating and provocative. You said, ‘When I’m a parent...’”


Plath’s response to this question is anonymous: her name does not appear next to her quote. However, if you have access to the issue, see page 77. Plath’s response begins, “I will not pry...”

Plath received a letter from Seventeen letting her know of the acceptance of her “answer”, which is retyped in the letter she received on October 4, 1949. The letter is contained within her "Publications" scrapbook in Box 15 of Plath Mss. II at the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington.

While other libraries likely hold Seventeen, I physically examined a copy held at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study of Harvard University. They own a run of bound Seventeen’s which includes all those issues in which Plath’s work appeared. In the past, I have also worked with bound volumes of Seventeen at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as well. (The Call Number for this periodical is PN1993.S4.) You can see a list of Plath’s periodical publications over here.

I’ve been sitting on this since January when I read the letter at the Lilly Library and confirmed with the magazine held at the Schlesinger Library. This post and the information presented was assisted by the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship.

3 comments :

panther said...

I think every writer beginning to submit poems/stories/whatever needs to know this : there are going to be a lot of rejections ! SP felt secure enough in her gift to keep on going, keep on improving, keep on submitting. . .Sometimes, when I read her journal, I feel "Just SLOW DOWN. Be a bit easier on yourself." But that was SP !

Julia said...

How funny for you, Peter, with your "I've been sitting on this since January..." It must take great restraint to dole out these little portions in regular, daily, well-timed amounts. ;-)

Peter K Steinberg said...

Well, yes, it was the timing I was going for, it being November!! I just hope I don't run out of ideas...

Panther! Yes, the rejections are something to consider and remember and of course we say "slow down" etc. because we know how the story ends... However, the point of this post is that this find changes - in a small way - and updates/improves Plath's bibliography. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have read that letter at Lilly; but before now it appears no one had the (free) time & resources to follow it up. I don't say that to pat myself on the back, but the days of lazily researching Plath must come to an end!

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