When I started writing, I never imagined my work would be out there for anyone to read. Now that I’ve had some luck in the short story world and I can look at all of my stories together and see some–well, interesting themes, I’m nervous about the idea of readers. Most of my short stories feature troubled marriages. If you read this blog even occasionally, you know I’m crazy about my husband, Bryan, who seeps into my posts even when I think I’m simply writing about writing.
So what gives? I don’t know. I’ll tell you about my three most recently published “troubled marriage” stories later in this post. But first, I want to speak to writers who want to know how I–a fairly new and untrained writer–managed to get a decent number of stories published in a couple of years.
For some of us *raises hand*a novel is the goal, but not something we’ll see for quite some time. I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting that long to see my work published. Therefore, as I work on novels, I’m always writing stories to practice technique, voice, etc. If you produce enough stories, you’re likely to end up with some that are good enough for publication.
There are no secrets in this business. If you don’t send your stories out, they’ll never see the light of day. In terms of writing ability, I’m like any other beginning writer out there trying to get better. I suspect, however, that I face the “literary world” with a heartier dose of chutzpah than your typical non-MFA, not-even-an-English-major newbie. My attitude: the worst they can say is no.
Let me give you an example: In 2008, having no idea how the journal process worked, I submitted the first story I EVER completed to Glimmer Train Stories. In hindsight, that was a preposterous move. However, Glimmer Train Stories actually listed me as a finalist. HUGE news. I’d seen the words “Glimmer Train Finalist” included on the back of some of my favorite authors’ books. If these novelists felt being merely a finalist (aka, not published in the magazine) was significant enough to list in their bios, then holy moly–maybe I was on to something with this whole writing “thing.” Of course then I got over-excited and wrote an entire novel based on that story. But that’s a post for another time.
I cranked out more stories and sent my work to more realistic places, including online journals. I have strong opinions about NOT being a snob in regards to online journals. I’ve had stories in both print and online publications. Guess how many of my friends and family read the print ones? Right: my mom and my aunt. Guess how many read the online stories? Hey–more than two! I can link to those on Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog. And those journals have editorial boards and a selection process that is sometimes as competitive as the print journals you’ve been hearing about for far longer. (Maybe not as competitive as The Atlantic and the gang, but I reiterate: be realistic.)
Of course I’m not ragging on print journals. In early 2010 I received a “positive” rejection letter from The New Yorker (they called my story “clever”), one from Ploughshares, and another from Crazyhorse. Those three notes continue to fuel my outrageous chutzpah. If you can get your work into one of the many fine print journals out there, great. For the rest of you/us, do your research: READ print and online literary magazines; take a chance on newer publications; and get your work out there.
BACK TO TROUBLED MARRIAGES
I’ve had three stories published in the past four weeks–all centered on, as I said, troubled marriages. “The Pleasure of Your Company” is available from Independent Ink Magazine via Amazon on Kindle. Or via Amazon as a download on your PC, Blackberry, Android, iPad, or iPhone (you’ll have to download the free Kindle software from Amazon first, which takes two minutes). It’s about a young mother named Mara attending her childhood best friend’s wedding. The wedding gives Mara and her husband an excuse for a much-needed weekend without the kids since they haven’t been, um, alone “together” in a long time. A glitch arrives in the form of the bride’s father for whom Mara has harbored a problematic crush since high school. NO, it’s not autobiographical, nor is the next story nor the third. (See how I fret!?)
“Picky Eaters,” published by The Pedestal Magazine, is a flash fiction piece (meaning very short) about the dynamics between a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, and two difficult guys (one a child, one an adult).
“The Safety Wife,” published by The Potomac: a Journal of Poetry and Politics, is about a woman who finds out her husband’s boss has unusual plans for her future.
FINALLY, I’d like to share three excellent resources for writers looking for places to submit their work.
Good luck and let me know about your successes! (And remember, a “nice” rejection note IS a major success in this business.)