So, it’s official.  I’ve gotten my first rejection letter – or rather, rejection email.  I submitted an essay to a quarterly literary magazine six or eight weeks ago, and recently got back a form reply from the editors, saying “Sorry – not a fit for us at this time…”  It feels like a milestone!  I finally submitted something, and having gotten over that hurdle, it seems much less like a hurdle at all.  Now I can start that collection of rejection letters all those other published authors talk about.

Then, not long after the rejection, I got an email from someone asking me for a 2-3 sentence bio.  A few months ago, I submitted a short two paragraph piece to a website about a book I had recently read.  The email didn’t explicitly say they were going to publish my blurb – but I can’t think why else they’d want 2-3 sentences about me.  Now, though I’m thrilled to have anything published, this really is just a couple paragraphs I wrote about someone else’s book, so nothing to go bonkers over.  Still, it feels like another milestone, and positive feedback is always a good thing, right?

Memory Loss

The first campaigner challenge calls for a 200 word short story/flash fiction, beginning with the phrase, “The door swung open…” Below is my entry for the challenge. Enjoy!  If you are so inclined after reading, you can vote for it (#183) here.

Memory Loss

The door swung open – a door that was locked for years, guarding feelings of pain and loss, banished in the black cellar of my brain.  With it, my past attacked me, bent on revenge.  Debilitating anxiety replaced the solid thoughts that once roamed my mind.  Even when I try to look hard at the memories of my twenty-two year old self, face them down, give them their moment in the spotlight, I can’t locate them.  Instead, there is sorrow, confusion.  I rack my brain for details that will bring her back to life, if only on the pages.  Her death made it impossible for me to come to terms with our life.  I convinced myself it was something much smaller than it was – because she left me early – because I called it a relationship that wouldn’t have lasted anyway.  I minimized it in every possible way, no idea how much I was minimizing her, minimizing me.  I fumble through the few things I have left of her – a few letters, a prescription bottle – anti-nausea pills, a handful of photographs.  They don’t tell enough.  They don’t fill in the gaps that I so desperately need to fill in.

More exercise

On Sunday, killing time and surfing various writing websites, I decided to check for free contests to see if there was anything fitting for me to submit something from my memoir to.  I have no illusions that I’ll win – I’m too new at this, or at least, I’ve been on hiatus so long, I might as well be new at it.  I think it’s good practice, though. Anyway, I saw that there was a memoir contest – 10,000 word maximum – at Memoir (and). I was inspired – then I saw the deadline was today at Noon Pacific time and thought I might be crazy to even try. I had no time free Sunday to start, and had a job interview at 10am on Monday that lasted 3 hours. I’d have less than 24 hours to pull it off. Plus, the current draft of my memoir is more than 80,000 words – probably at least 20,000 words too long, but that’s where it stands at the moment, while I wait for feedback from my editor friend.

I decided to go for it, despite the little time I had to pull something together. I wanted to use some of the material I’d already written, so I flipped through the pages and attempted to pull out what I thought would be a cohesive, but much shorter, story. The stuff I chose was initially 20k words and some change. I spent 6 or so hours trimming it down to 15k – because my brain failed me and for some reason, morphed the max word requirements into 15k instead of 10k. When that much was done, I went back to the contest submission guidelines with a feeling of triumph. That changed to a strong desire to stick a pen in my eye when I realized I really needed to get it down to 10k. I didn’t give up, though. I kept pushing and cutting and trimming and editing, and I came up with something I was comfortable submitting – another 6 hours later. I let it sit overnight, made a few last minute tweaks this morning, and submitted it. I’m exhausted, but my instinct was right – it was really great practice. The word limit made me re-examine every word in every sentence and make tough decisions about which memories and anecdotes really carried the main thread of my story. I recommend going through exercises like this when you get the chance. It’s tough work, but it told me a lot about just how loose some of my writing was, and how much room there was to tighten it up. Mission accomplished.