West Branch & 'The Great Horned Owls’ Beheadings'


This piece was retrieved from an old archive of my online writing—there will likely be some rough edges!

It’s been an exciting few days around here.

First off, a story of mine, “Cardinine, Seafoamyst, Morningite,” has been accepted by West Branch. This is a big deal for me for two reasons. First off, the editors there, including G.C. Waldrep, were among the very first top-tier literary magazines who gave me positive rejections. They were little filaments of hope, that I was working my way toward some kind of literary value. Back in 2012, they wrote:

Thanks for sending “Panthera.” We read it several times, with interest, but ultimately there were sudden shifts of tone that caused us to trip. As one of my associate fiction editors opined, “this one’s one or two solid drafts away from true excellence.”

That kind of rejection is at once heartbreaking as it is wonderful. I held onto that possibility—if only I worked harder, tweaked that piece one more time, dove a little deeper into the resonance of each sentence. I needed to prove to myself that I was capable. That I could be worthy. I submitted two more piece and received two more kind rejections. Five in all, before the sixth came through.

Two years and a day after receiving the rejection for “Panthera,” things came together. To me (and here is the second reason), it’s proof that no volume of rejections hold one back. It’s all in the work on the page. It’s all about progression, becoming more aware as a writer, aiming for that next seemingly impossible level of quality and care. It’s proof that one should never give up. Keep clawing. Don’t get petrified. Don’t fossilize. Yes, those are references to the story. I love this story so much. I hope people read it someday soon.

On another note, my piece “The Great Horned Owls’ Beheadings” is now up at Big Lucks. Thanks to Michael Beeman and Mark Cugini for their work in getting it put together. I really like this one, too. There is autobeheading owls and hydromorphone abuse and dust on eyelids.