Tagsnowfall

A month of firsts

Oh, look. Snow.

Yes, it’s already that time of year. Actually, we managed to miss all but a dusting of snow last night, a rather pleasant surprise. But it’s blustery cold outside, so I’m mainlining tea, mostly to keep my hands warm.

In looking back over my notes, I’ve discovered that November is a month of beginnings for me. Strange month to pick, but so be it. November is my January.

How about a little story about November beginnings? On October 6, 2010, I sent out my first short story submission. I had no idea what I was doing, but I’d been reading Shimmer’s blog faithfully, and the posts there made me feel like maybe I could survive submitting something. Especially posts like this one.

So, I submitted to Shimmer. I told myself that my story would be rejected, and that it would be okay. I had a lot of experience with rejection at that point, having recently come out of querying a novel. I told myself that there were many many places to send a short story, and I’d just keep going.

I waited just over a month. On November 9 I received a rejection. It made my day. It made my week. It made me feel like maybe I was actually on to something with this writing thing, and not merely torturing my family.

Why? Because of one line: “I really hope you’ll send us more of your work in the future; we’d love to read more from you!”

There are times when writing feels like being a mole, with endless stretches of work underground, occasionally popping your head up through the soil without knowing what you’ll find–a forest, a field, a freeway. Personal rejections like that one feel like breaking through into fresh air and sunlight. Even when someone says hey, I don’t quite get this, but I wish I did.

Because ultimately writing is communication. Yes, it’s easier to write alone, to squirrel away your stories and poems, to stay underground. But by writing you’re admitting you have something to say, and it’s entirely possible someone else in the world would like to hear it.

Because of that rejection I blithely fumbled my way through two more submissions with that story. First short story rejection, first sense that a total stranger had found something of worth in my writing. Pure bumbling luck that both firsts coincided.

A last happens tomorrow, when “This Place From Which All Roads Go” becomes my final published story of 2012. The anniversary of another first happens this Sunday–my first blog post. November may not be the cheeriest of months, but it seems to have its charms.

Ash and Dust and Strange Horizons

There’s a black market in breastmilk here.

Ash and Dust” is the second story I ever tried to sell. Sold, as well, but let’s focus on the trying instead. “Snowfall” was the first, and it was something else entirely–a little piece about family and what matters at the end of the world. Short, very short, the shortest story I’ve ever written.

When I first decided to send “Ash and Dust” out, I didn’t know the markets. I didn’t know what I was doing, really. I’d written a story that was just shy of 6,800 words, that included a miscarriage, a death from a postpartum hemorrhage, multiple births, and a lesbian midwife living in an refugee camp with her two children. And there was that opening line, which at the time I was writing it made perfect sense, but once I decided to send it out suddenly felt very very heavy.

Write the stories you want to read. Isn’t that the advice everyone gives? “Ash and Dust” was exactly the story I wanted to read at the time I wrote it. It was many things for me–a farewell to a chapter in my life, a love letter to an exceptional midwife, grief over someone who shouldn’t have died, an outlet for anger and fear, and a reminder of hope. The thing about writing a story like that is that when you get to the point of trying to sell it, you suddenly wonder who could possibly want it.

The answer is Strange Horizons. Not because they specialize in midwives and apocalypse, but because they believe in stories that explore the full range of the human experience. The thrill of that sale is one that stays with me, that encourages me when I’m wondering what exactly I’m doing as a writer.

It’s an experience I wish on many other writers. It is one of many reasons to donate to the Strange Horizons’ fund drive.

It looks like they’ve almost reached their minimum goal for the year–what they need to continue for another year with no changes. But I’d love to see their additional goals met. The poets deserve a raise. So do the reviewers. If you haven’t donated yet, there’s still a day left to do so.

And if you have? Thank you!

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