Monday, October 29, 2012

I (finally) got a story published

Before finishing off my undergraduate degree, I sent off my first short story for publication.  The rejection letter came not too long afterwards and I was excited.  Rejection is a major part of fiction writing, which my teachers made no secret of, and even though the story didn’t get published, I still felt like I had entered the fiction writing arena. 

Three years later, rejection letters have lost their velour and have instead been greeted with a feeling of inevitability.  I’ll open my mailbox and see an envelope addressed to myself with my own handwriting and think, “Oh hey, another rejection letter,” with the nonchalance of finding an advertisement for a car wash addressed to a former tenant.  I’m pretty good with criticism and my generally cynical outlook gives me the ability to continually get kicked in the face and told that I suck and simply shrug it off with an, “eh.”  

I’ll usually go on a barrage of submitting stories, sending out a pile of them within the span of two days, and then sit back and let the rejection letters pile in over the course of the next few months as I try to convince myself that working on new stories is worth my time.  But since graduating college, I’ve done a good job of leaving myself with basically no hope for a “normal,” “successful” future (meaning a job where you work during the day, have weekends off, get insurance through your employer, and make enough money to ship off to Vegas a couple times a year to blow it all and still be able to pay your mortgage) so I kind of have to pour myself into writing and continually hold out hope that someone buys one of my books and then shows it to somebody rich who then makes it into a movie and gives me a gajillion dollars.  That sounds like a simple, solid, realistic plan, right?

A main aspect of being a writer is patience.  And if you’ve ever sat in a car while I drive down the road, you know that I have no patience whatsoever.  I frequently get mad at the elevator doors for not closing fast enough, and that’s only about five seconds.  So when faced with waiting six months or more with hearing the result of a submission, I have to avoid checking my mailbox and e-mail every two minutes and going catatonic with fury.

Quick sidenote:  One thing I really enjoy about submitting stories is that many literary journals, magazines, and agents still use “snail mail,” even though that is a trend that is quickly changing.  Maybe it’s the same idea as people these days buying records because they are “hip” and “vintage”.  But I don’t care; it’s fun.  Opening a letter is much more rewarding than clicking on an e-mail.  It might go along the same lines as how I refuse to read a book on an e-reader because I simply enjoy the feeling of a bound, paper book in my hands.  I stare at screens enough as it is, sometimes I need a break.

Anyways, I bring all of this up because after three years of soul-crushing rejection I have finally managed to get a short story published in a magazine.  It’s called The Feathertale Review and it’s a Canadian humor magazine.  They describe themselves as a cross between Mad Magazine and The New Yorker.  I got a story on an online magazine a couple years ago, but that doesn’t count because the website had a heart attack or something and died not long after its inception.  So yay, it finally happened.

I’ve learned quite a bit throughout this process of reaching publication.  First being this:  That whole patience thing needs to keep running through every aspect of the process.  Just because an editor says they like your story, it’s not going to just be, “Okay great you’re done here’s some money and a copy of the magazine thanks a lot.”  I first got word of this possible publication three months ago and have been trading e-mails with the editor and making changes to the story ever since. 

The first thing they wanted me to do was cut out 1,500 words from the story.  That was 1/3 of the whole story.  Holy shit.  Apparently they liked the it but it simply didn’t fit their format.  I’ve heard the phrase, “killing babies,” when referring to trimming a story and cutting out parts that you enjoy.  Well, you might as well call me Otty Sanchez because I was killing babies all over the place.  After that it was basically a trial in patience, which I passed, but barely.

35 rejections.  That’s how many I’ve acquired (if my records are to be believed) before a story finally squeaked through.  I believe I received my first in January of 2009, which makes it about 46 months of being a loser and a complete and utter failure.  This also makes about ¾ of a rejection every month.  That’s actually not bad.  The rate would have been much higher, except I was really lazy for the first year after graduation, choosing to spend my time drinking Everclear by the pool and falling off of my bike (or, I guess, taking the time to write a book or two probably ate up some submitting time as well).  But that doesn’t matter anymore, because I’m getting published (I’ll post specifics of where you can get your hands on it when it gets closer to publication time) and that obviously means that being rich and famous will shortly fall directly into my lap without any extra effort from me.  Right?  RIGHT?!?!?