Tag Archives: submitting short stories

Friday Links for Writers: 06.21.13

Sloans summer 2013

Today is a great day to take your writing outside — hopefully it’s as gorgeous where you are as it is here, on this first day of summer.

Summer brings busy writing days. I spent this week transcribing 10,000 words in scenes I’d handwritten or scribbled in margins of books I was reading (!) since January. Looks like I’ll be continuing with this for another week — and then it will be time to integrate this new material and newly-envisioned ending with the fourth draft I’d left off on last fall.

Novel revisions are job enough — but every week has time for reading, and here are some of the great Links for Writers I’ve come across this week. As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments — let us know what you’re writing this week, or tell me what links were meaningful, topics you’d like more of or share your own.

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Okay, and Here’s My Advice to You and Young Journalists in General

As much as I talk about fiction here, I studied journalism before fiction and spend much of my time online following international journalists. Which is lead-in to say it was sad news to hear of the death of award-winning journo Michael Hastings this week. Find inspiration in this link — his frank list of advice to young writers.

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

“Writing a novel is easy. Writing a good novel is hard.” I love the opening line of this article by Randy Ingermanson, as he shares his method for writing a novel that begins by building organization following the nearly scientific structuring of a snowflake. This link was shared by my friend, writer and photographer Rebecca Barray. While it arose in a conversation of plotting for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, several of the steps are useful for a writer evaluating the structure of an existing draft during revisions, and result in wording for an effective query as well.

Story Contest Deadlines by Month

Do you submit short fiction? There are debates that suggest — despite the additional cost of entry fees — contest submissions fight smaller numbers for publication. Here is a surprisingly practical tool via About.com: click on any month to access a list of literary contests with deadlines in that month.

Opportunities for Writers: July and August 2013

Along the same lines, Aerogramme’s blog post lists several unexpected submission targets with deadlines for now through August. “Surprising?” There are classics, like the Katherine Anne Porter Prize (for a short story collection) — but also a haiku contest sponsored by NASA, related to a Mars mission, and a deadline for McSweeney’s internship applications.

Our Lost Jungle 30 by 30 Challenge

My writing friend Khara House is one of the best at hosting challenges on her site, Our Lost Jungle. If you are not overloaded in the throes of existing work, her 30 by 30 challenge this month offers fab inspiration to get artists in any medium creating new work every day. Or, if the last 2 links have you thinking about getting your work out the door, work your way through her prior month’s Submit-O-Rama. She is a great blogger to follow.

A Celebration of Maurice Sendak at 92Y

Other sad news provoked this link, but look for joyous inspiration with this recording from a celebration of children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak’s birthday with James Gandolfini’s amazing reading of The Night Kitchen, followed by Dave Eggers reading a chapter from his book The Wild Things, inspired by Sendak.

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Annual Sing for Hope installation of pianos in public parks, NYC. Photo credit: posted by Ashley Butler on Sing for Hope facebook (http://goo.gl/2PVae).

Annual Sing for Hope installation of pianos in public parks, NYC. Photo credit: posted by Ashley Butler on Sing for Hope facebook (http://goo.gl/2PVae).

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Filed under Friday Links, Novel Writing, Seeking Publication

Running on the Grass

I’ve been happy to say I had a short story accepted for publication, coming out later this month.  Not only was it accepted, but it was accepted by an editor whose accomplishments and taste I admire.  Short of quoting his actual email, I can say I could not have asked for higher praise in the words he used to express pride in publishing the story.

You must understand the relative isolation and uncertainty in which most writers work.  The accepted story was written in parts over a period of nearly ten years.  It is a story of singular intensity — a story I initially wrote in response to the challenge: “Write something that scares you to put on paper.  Write something one would not say out loud.”  I did.  I wrote something that scared me.  And I did it in a way that was unapologetic in not hiding behind any narrative artifice — no gentle introductions, no fluffy segues. (Inspiration for story mentioned here.) It came together as an act of artistry and bravery, but also as a piece that would not fit the needs of all editors as they allocated the limited space in their literary journals.  In its first forays out for publication, it drew praise and near misses, but also confusion over a hurdle I could not at that time see the solution to.

I was a young parent by then.  My husband spent three years slashing his way into a higher paying job in order to support our little family so I could stay home most hours with our son.  Babies take more hours than one might think.  By the second son, I’d given up a freelance gig because of its unpredictable demands.

After years of telling myself that being a professional writer required my willingness to make sacrifices to dedicate myself to my work, I was suddenly feeling guilty over the time and expense the writing had cost — and still no bestseller on the shelf.  This fierce story brought home a near miss from Paris Review and The Sun, praise from Esquire.  But most readers have no idea the number of submissions a work might take to find the right editor, the right publication, at the right time.  The numbers game can become wearying.

At a point, I chastised myself over the near misses.  I assumed those close to me were wearying as well, and began to say: “If I were a football player, no matter how close I’d gotten to the end zone, at a certain point, if I’d never crossed the goal line, it was just a lot of running around on grass.”

Sharing this the other day, a writing colleague said that if they’d had near misses at publications like Paris Review, they couldn’t imagine doubting their abilities.  But it felt like time for some professional humility.  If I sold TVs, my shop would not be in business if sets never left the store with paying customers.  I was willing to consider maybe I was more suited to novel length, and just not a short story writer.   No question, it was a little personal trash talk.  The Army goads, “Go big or go home.”  I goaded myself to either be a writer who crosses that endzone, or own up that I might be just running on grass.

My aunt had a national champion quarter horse when I was young.  Gorgeous, gorgeous mare.  As her trophies mounted, they chose to breed her with an equally gorgeous and accomplished stallion, named Robert Redford.  The filly born was a spectacular, glowing chestnut with a perfect star on her forehead.  Next to her chocolate bay mother, she drew gasps.  She would be a star.  Yet, as time came for her to be saddle-trained, turned out there was something off in her fore-cannons (shins, for non-horsefolk).  They’d work her and fail, and have to take a break, a few months off, then try again.  Try and try again.  My aunt stood beside her, this gorgeous horse she couldn’t ride, and struggled with frustration.

Solution?  Turn the filly to pasture, let her legs strengthen.  Turn her out to run on the grass.

In writing communities, how often we run into young writers seeking advice because they are so desperate to have success now — today, on the day and time they scheduled it, within a framework their questioning families can accept.

But it’s sometimes like that filly.

I was thrilled the day it clicked in my head: the ironic parallel between the football metaphor I used to insult my efforts and the memory of that filly out kicking her heels in the thick grass of a Michigan hillside.

Sometimes writing is all about running on the grass.

We schedule our hours to work.  We hone our skills.  We read and write with professional determination.  We push ourselves to reach that completed draft, then whip ourselves all over again through the real work of revision.  We force ourselves to be humble and brave, at once.  But, in the end, as with life itself, a-ha’s and true insight and seeing the forest despite the trees don’t always arrive on a schedule.

I ran on the grass for three or four years while raising tiny babies, steeping in the mortal life’s experience that parenthood is, without scheduling time to write about it.  And one morning woke up with a full novel spilling out so voraciously that I could type fourteen hours a day and still take months to get it down.  A second novel came nearly as easily.  And one day, a short story.

It reminded me I like writing short stories and I went back to them — no longer with the drudgery of one fatigued by unmet expectations, but with the liveliness of one fresh from a wild gallop in the grass.

I understood clear as day, for the first time, why I had named a character Nixon and how a certain meaning I’d always felt about this one story had never made it onto the page.  I rewrote it.  I sent it out.  Acceptance came in a phone message I received while standing in a circle of my writing students, unable at first to explain my sudden emotion.

So publication this month comes with its own double reward.  This story crossed the end zone, but with the refreshed appreciation that there is something to be said for running on the grass.  There would be no game without it and — whether a running back, a red filly or a writer — that time on the grass is when so much of the thrill and accomplishment take place.

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Filed under Novel Writing, Seeking Publication, Time Management for Writers, Writing Life, Writing Mother