The Help Desk: Follow your heart, drench your liver

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

After a long string of rejections, I’m happy to report that a short story of mine has finally been accepted. Unfortunately, it was actually accepted at two literary magazines, neither of which allow for simultaneous submissions. I was having such shitty luck that I decided to ignore the rules and cast a wide net, and my decision came back and bit me immediately.

One of the publications is more prestigious than the other, but I’m more likely to build a relationship and be published again at the less-prestigious publication. I’m pretty much burning a bridge no matter what I do, here. Which publication should I turn down?

Jackie, Tulalip

Dear Jackie,

Congratulations, that is great news! Not to shit on your great news with some of my own, but an investigative piece I wrote about the physical effects of teetotaling called "Sleepy Liver Disease: America's Silent Scourge" was recently accepted for publication as well. I was inspired to write it after noticing sober people forgo fishbowl sangria – a basement specialty of mine – at parties. Not only is it unhealthy to keep your liver out of work for too long, studies show that sobriety can make nearby livers feel sleepy, too. And you know what they say: sleepy livers lead to uppity spleens and rational thought.

Here is how you solve your quandary: Head to PetCo, buy a lap-sized aquarium, and fill it with four boxes of red wine, a bottle of cointreau, and one daintily sliced apple. Insert a mouth straw into the mixture and drink as you ponder: is it more important for you to have bragging rights about being published in a prestigious journal or to build a relationship with a smaller journal who might nurture your talents, offer feedback on your work and publish you again in the future?

A fully employed liver is the moral compass of the heart. An aquarium or two from now, it will know what to do.


PS. If your liver fails you, my liver says to go with the smaller one.