There must be a blog post in me somewhere about this. For some reason I’m having a hard time drumming it up.
I know! I’ll include visual aids.
These books were given to me by my paternal grandmother when I was four. They date from the 30s. I don’t know where the rest of the set is; I have found them online and eventually I will replace the missing ones. But the important one–the one that I always loved best–is the one on top here, Through Fairy Halls. Volume six of twelve.
This book is where I learned to love fairy tales. From it I learned what a fairy tale is, that they are found in all countries of the world, and are complex little realities unto themselves. Which is what that story I just sold was about.
Right. I sold a story. It is my first. It’s the sort of thing that I’ve imagined repeatedly over the years, and it did not go down at all how I thought it would. Instead of a month or two of sitting in a slush pile and then getting some kind of formal business-like response, I submitted it ridiculously late at night, and a very personal and complimentary email was in my inbox when I woke up the following morning. I was still in bed, actually, one eye open, reading blearily. Then apparently I hit “Archive” accidentally and the email disappeared. I actually thought “oh, I’m still asleep, that makes more sense,” but when I was a little more restored to myself I searched for it and voila, there it was.
I had expected to be elated. I’ve been working at this for seven years, almost eight, working very hard to learn the craft. I’ve flirted with giving up once or twice, but my tenacious streak always won out, and it seemed like that first sale would be a very emotional culmination of those years of trying. Instead of the kind of chest-bursting joy I had always imagined I would feel, I was just kind of dazed all day. I don’t know how many times I reread the email, checking to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood, that it really said what I thought it said.
When I told my daughter it was hard to even say the words–it felt like a lie. She had to be elated for me that day. That was Monday. On Tuesday I kept getting hit by waves of anxiety, and I had to just put my head down and work to avoid thinking about it. (Being busy is great for that sort of thing.) Yesterday, Wednesday, I finally told the rest of my family and friends, and they, too, were elated for me.
I’ve been trying to take apart what it is that is holding me back from really being as excited as I always figured I would have a right to be, and I think it’s this: the work isn’t done. It’s a milestone, yes, but it is also entirely possible that I will never have a story come together the way that one did ever again. As many kind things as the editor had to say about it, I keep thinking “yes, but so much of that wasn’t even there until the final draft.” It took so long to get it there.
I learned a lot writing that story. I finally figured out some things about voice, and structure, and tension. And that’s great, but now I have to go apply those things to something else, because right now it feels like a fluke. There’s still so much more to learn.
A friend asked me whether I’ll revisit my novels now that I’ve kind of cracked this short story thing. The answer is no, I need to prove to myself that I really have cracked it. I think I’m sticking with short stories for a while yet. I’d like to learn to get those critical elements in much sooner than I did on this one. I want to play with different structures.
So I did what we do: I started working on the next thing. The new story is now steeping in my head, and I’m making notes and planning the way I’m going to structure it. The last one was ambitious; this one is more so. It’s about this guy, who I find super-creepy and fascinating. It’ll be interesting to have him living in my head for a while:
Going to do my best to pull it off. Here’s hoping.
If you were one of the many people who either critiqued TALS or offered their congratulations, thank you so much. <3