This piece was retrieved from an old archive of my online writing—there will likely be some rough edges!
2012 has been a good year to me so far. Almost too good. I recently told a good writer friend of mine to bring me down a notch, throw an insult or two my way, so that I might not think that this is the way things will be from now on. I know they won’t.
I had my first piece of fiction published by Word Riot (read it here) in November 2010. That acceptance came almost a year after I started submitting my fiction to literary magazines and websites. In my mind, that was more than the validation of the piece. It was a validation that I had some knack for this mysterious art of writing fiction. It wasn’t the New Yorker, and it wasn’t a Pushcart Prize or an O’Henry Prize or a piece in The Best American, but it was a real person on the other end of the obscure clockwork of the slush pile who liked my work enough to posit it as part of their brand and their message.
I rode on that acceptance for a while, with a kind of bravado, a hubris that ended up causing more harm than good. When I got more rejections, they hurt more than they had before. I had too quickly become accustomed to this idea that my work was worthy of any praise or any attention beyond the orbit of the hard drive in my computer. The realization that no one cares is one that’s hard for young writers to accept, but it’s critical to their sanity. One can go crazy both seeking it out and running from it with all their intellectual youth.
I began 2011, then, with a tepid hope about my very-much-fledgling writing career. I kept on editing and writing, along with working on my novel. I kept on submitting, although perhaps not as much as I should have. The rejections came with a remarkable consistency, and I began to realize that most of the work I had done in 2010 wasn’t cut out for publication. I abandoned most of those pieces. One is a Word .doc that’s been marked up by my own ballooned comments, with the very first line inked: “This feels really stale now.”
I realize now that stale was a good word choice, and probably indicative of how I felt about a year ago. After that acceptance, which came with the pride of being able to put a single publication credit to my name, I thought things would get easier. They got harder.
2011 was the year of personalized rejections. I’d wager about 1 in 5 rejections had a comment that the story was well-regarded, and that the editors would like to see more of my work, but that the particular piece just wasn’t quite right. There’s something uniquely devastating about a rejection that’s not cold and impersonal, e.g. We regret to inform you that your submission does not fit our needs at the time. Sincerely, the Editors. I received one rejection from the Mid-American Review that said my piece made one of the final rounds of debate. The editor who responded supported my piece, but didn’t get the necessary traction to get it in print. I was, admittedly, devastated, because MAR is beautiful, and it has such a history, and it would have been such an incredible honor to see my work there among dozens of names more worthy than mine.
But I have another piece pending there now, and perhaps I’ll get lucky this time around.
Now I can finally circle back to 2012 and its surprising success. Roughly a month ago I received an acceptance from The Lindenwood Review. It’s a new journal from the MFA program at Lindenwood University, and I’ll be in their second issue. They say they received around 1,000 submissions for the first issue, and even if the numbers didn’t match the second time around, I still feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, etc etc. I’m thrilled to be a part of what could be a great literary legacy someday.
Two weeks after that, a short piece of fiction of mine got picked up by the Owen Wister Review. I think the piece will blend beautifully with the fact that it’s produced by the University of Wyoming, considering that I had the Tetons in mind when I wrote it.
And just a few days ago, I received my third acceptance of 2012. I’m not quite comfortable saying where it’s going yet, mostly because the details have yet to be worked out. With any luck, that will be hashed out soon enough.
I’m trying to keep 2012 realistic. I know I’ve recently been given an incredible stroke of good luck and friendly editors, but the rejections have started to roll in once again. West Branch sent me one of those terse and cold rejections, and that’s okay, because it’s West Branch. All I know is that my best plan is to keep my head down and keep writing. Two months ago, I had the problem of having too many finished stories that weren’t being gobbled up by litmags, and now my stockpile is dwindling. I guess that’s about as fortunate a problem a writer can have. Keeps things from going too stale.