My story in print!

IMG_2962.JPG

The issue of PRISM with my story in it spotted in the wild.

I meant to post this ages ago, of course, back when it came out. But I wanted to include a photo of the magazine actually in a store, and though I visited several branches I couldn’t find it anywhere in the time before I left on my adventure. By the time I got back in late November, it didn’t seem worth posting anymore. Although I did go back to the bookstore to snap my coveted photo.

But this whole year-in-review time seems to be as good as any for remembering that someone paid me for a story I wrote for the very first time this year. It came out in PRISM 53.1, the Fall 2014 issue. I’m delighted with the cover art on the issue, too, which is both classy and whimsical. The little blurb on their page about my piece reads:

“On the non-fiction side, PRISM 53:1 includes K.A. MacKinnon’s “Character Sketch,” a uniquely-structured piece about two women traveling through Europe as circus employees.”

I also wanted to include a link to Ayelet Tsabari’s web page. (If you haven’t read her stuff, you really should. ‘Yemeni Soup and Other Recipes’ is my favourite.) She taught me in the two Continuing Ed. creative non-fiction courses I took last year. Those classes turned out to provide exactly the right information at exactly the right time for me, in terms of the progress of my writing, and the piece PRISM published originally started as an assignment in one of those classes.

Anyway, Ayelet wrote a lovely post recently in which she bragged on behalf of a few of her students who are doing well, and I was one of them.

In other writing-related news, I have two stories out being considered at the moment. For one, I should hear sometime in January, for the other they’re saying ‘the first quarter of 2015’, so sometime before April, I guess.

I’ve been writing with reasonable dedication this month and I have another story that is about 500 words from being finished. I have sworn the first draft will be done this month, so that’s mostly my plan for this evening.

Advertisements

I sold my first story!

Over the summer I sold my first story! It’s a creative non-fiction piece called “Character Sketch” about a woman I fell in love with while I worked on tour with the circus. It will appear in the fall issue of PRISM International, a CanLit (Canadian literary) magazine, which should come out in October.

I’ll post again if and when there is a link to the issue on their website and/or a sighting of the hard copy out in the wild.

Needless to say, I am very, very excited about this. There may have been dancing in the kitchen.

This was also my first experience working with a professional editor, and I enjoyed it enormously. I was really nervous when I first opened the file with her comments in it – I was worried the sensitive bits of me might shrivel up and die if it was harsh, and more worried that I might not be a good enough writer yet to fix whatever problems she found.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find comments about what the editor liked in particular, what she thought worked well, in among the handful of grammatical corrections. The changes she requested were minor and mostly involved adding bits of information for clarity. She really helped me to make the piece better, and I am hugely grateful for that.

In moderately related news, I haven’t been keeping up on my blog posts about other submissions I’ve been sending out this summer. So, to update: I sent out three short stories (one of them twice) and they were all rejected. Just so I don’t get too big for my britches.

I’ve done another draft on one of those stories and will hopefully send that out again shortly. There’s another draft in the works on one of the other two as well, and then I need to look for another potential home for it. One day soon I’ll be able to celebrate my first fiction sale, too.

When did you start writing?

On her blog, Jodie Llewellyn posed the question “When did you start writing?” and invited her readers to answer. I suspect my answer is going to be on the long side, so I’m bringing the question back here.

The short answer is: I don’t actually remember.

I do remember being nine years old and writing a project on the arctic fox for my grade four class. My teacher that year had held up my notebook to the class to shame me over the state of my handwriting, and as I was laboriously copying out my text for the project with a blunt pencil, I thought, “how can I be a writer when I hate handwriting so much?” I have such a clear memory of that. Apparently I already knew at age nine.

The first story I remember writing was the year I was thirteen. I sat in the little office area my mum had set up in the unfinished basement of our house and wrote on her old typewriter about mermaid girls who lived in an underwater country called Flamania. I found that typed page recently among my old notebooks full of writing, but didn’t reread it. Again, the memory is so clear. I remember the weight of the typewriter keys as I pressed them, and the smell of the basement, and the exact shade of brown of the floor joists above my head.

When I was fifteen I started writing fan fiction, although I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I was a Star Trek geek that year, and read all the tie-in books, and I decided I wanted to write my own. I wrote to Pocket Books to inquire about this possibility, and I was so proud when they mailed me back the author guidelines. I felt like I was being taken seriously. I would bring my handwritten pages of fan fiction to school to share with my best friend Sara, and she would write me notes in class about all the things she thought should happen in the story. Sadly, we never finished it.

By my late teens I knew that I wouldn’t be a writer as my primary career, but I also remember standing at the top of the basement stairs and telling my dad that no matter what else I did, I would always write.

Last year, I took a couple of continuing education classes in creative writing, more than twenty years after that first story I wrote on my mom’s typewriter. Those classes provided the right information at the right time, and I felt something shift in my writing. I feel like I took a step from being an aspiring author to being an emerging author. I don’t know that this is a meaningful distinction anywhere but inside my own head, but it meant a lot to me. My confidence in my ability has grown.

In the last six months or so I’ve been sending out my stories to magazines, online and off. So far, I’m collecting rejection letters, but one day there’ll be an acceptance in the mix. And I’ll have another milestone to remember.

Submitted!

I just sent off my entry to the Geist 10th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. I workshopped the entry with my writers’ group twice, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. The deadline was originally February 1st, so our group added an extra meeting to give us a chance to whip our pieces into shape in time. When I was checking formatting rules and submission guidelines today, though, the deadline had magically changed to February 28th. So if you’re interested in entering, there’s still time. It’s open to international submissions, as well, not just Canadian content.

I wanted to get my story in before the original deadline, though. Partly because I’m just paranoid that way, and partly because that’s what I had planned and I don’t deal well with last-minute changes. I may, however, think about putting together a second entry just for the fun of it. Because right now starting something new seems preferable to banging my head against the brick wall that is the story I’m SUPPOSED to be working on.

Schrodinger’s Submission

I sent out my first query note today. I submitted a piece back in September that was targeted to a specific themed issue of a lit magazine. That issue hits newsstands this week and I still hadn’t heard anything back. I was just beginning to believe that Canada Post had lost the letter somewhere along the way, and that I’d been waiting for an answer for four months from people who hadn’t ever received my submission.

I was also convinced that it would take days or weeks to get an answer to my query. Editors are very busy people, and really the last thing on their list of priorities should be my insecure pestering. They were great, though. I got an answer back this afternoon, and my piece is still under consideration! That has given me a little boost, even if the ultimate answer is eventually a no.

For the moment, though, I still get to daydream that it might become my first sale…

Another one for the collection

Last week I posted about Doing the To Dos, and I was pleased with myself for getting my butt in gear and submitting the stories I’d been meaning to submit.

One of the two I submitted last week, the story I wrote for a call on a specific topic (a topic on which I felt I had a lot to say) was rejected by form letter in eight days.

Ouch.

Not even a flicker of consideration there. And there’s not a lot of positive I can take away from this other than it’s practice at being rejected.

I will admit that I sulked for a couple of days.

But last night I sat down and started writing again. Well, world-building technically, but it all needs to be done before I can get to the meat of the story. So I’m staggering back up onto my feet.

Time to haul out the Tubthumping again, I guess.

Doing the To Dos

This has been a getting-stuff-done kind of week.

I finished and submitted a story I wrote specifically for one magazine. They had a call out on a topic that said a lot to me. I started months ago, but it got a bit lost while I tried to beat my fiction piece into shape. The deadline was January 31st, so I made the push to get it done. I cut about 700 words going into the last draft, and it really did make the piece stronger. I submitted it earlier this week.

Today I’m sending out an older story to try and find it a new home. I got the last rejection letter for this one more than two months ago, now, but never actually sat down to revise it and find it somewhere else to go. I finally made the changes I had in mind, and I’m quite pleased with them. It’s all printed up now, and I will mail it on the way to my writing group later this evening.

Next up on the horizon is the 10th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. A friend of mine from my writers’ group sent through the link, and we’ve decided that everyone in the group is going to write an entry and we’ll look at them at our next meeting, which is right before the deadline (Feb 1st, in case you’re interested). I moped around for two days, convinced I’d never come up with an interesting idea, wallowing in defeatist thoughts. And then I sat down and wrote a whole draft of the story in one night. I spent some time in the Wikimedia Commons, and one of the images jumped out at me. The story came from there.

I’m also debating submitting something to this: http://michaelmatheson.wordpress.com/start-a-revolution/ I’m not really a revolutionary kind of girl, so I did the same defeatist do-see-do in my head for this one, but I’ve come up with at least half of an idea. I’m having trouble forcing myself to sit down and actually start it, but I’m hoping that completing the Postcard story might boost my confidence. The deadline on this one is March 31st, which is a reasonable amount of time. I’ll see how things go.

It’s a new dawn, a new day…

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I’m still me, even when the calendar ticks over. It doesn’t seem worth starting out a new year by setting myself up to fail. Instead, I decided to spend new year’s day actually doing the things that I want to continue doing through the year. Starting off as I mean to go on.

So instead of putting the TV on, I picked up a book. And I spent a chunk of the afternoon writing as well. Step one.

I completely failed to accomplish my own little NaNoWriMo. I had set myself the goal of finishing a draft of my current fictional short story (novella?) by the end of November. I ended up stuck in the same scene for nearly two months. I have rewritten it countless times and it’s still not right. I have, I think, finally isolated why. I’ve been trying to push forward and get to the end, create a draft that I can then fix. But in not addressing some of the problems early in the story, I have created a house with a shoddy foundation, and when I hit this particular scene the whole wall fell down.

Yesterday I sat down and began to address the problems at the beginning of the story. We’ll see how I go from here.

I also wrote a new draft of a piece of creative non-fiction I’ve been working on. It was designed for a particular lit magazine and the deadline is January 31st. I workshopped it with my writers’ group this evening, and I think it’s pretty close to being done. I’ll do some final tweaking and hopefully send it out in the next week or so.

So the new year is going well so far. Step by step.

Adding to the collection

I heard back tonight from one of the magazines to which I submitted a story back in September. The answer was no, so I’m adding to my collection of rejections.

The email that I got was a form letter:

Thank you for your submission to [magazine]. I have given your work careful consideration and am unable to offer you publication. Best wishes with your writing.

That said, what I’m choosing to take away from this is that it came from an editor, so I seem to have made it past the first-reader stage. That’s a first for me, so I’m calling it a win. I may even celebrate.

This weekend, I’ll dust off the story, see if there’s anything I can improve, and then find somewhere new to send it.

(6 + 4) * 2 – 1 / 18 + 1 = ?

There is a neat white 9″ x 12″ envelope sitting by my front door. I spent the afternoon getting one of my essays ready for submission and putting together a cover letter. It took longer than I expected to make sure I had name, address, and word count in all the right places and none of the wrong ones, and to set everything up with the correct font, spacing and margins. I swear the submissions guidelines for some of these magazines are designed as skill-testing questions.

This isn’t my first submission, but it’s the first one I’ve had to do in hard copy. Back in March I submitted a different essay to two magazines using Submittable. I have a matched pair of rejection letters for that one that I’m actually quite proud of.

The first one was the best possible rejection:

Thank you for submitting your Creative Non-fiction to [such-and-such] magazine. While we are unable to accept Character Sketch for publication, we would like to see more of your work.

Your work was almost there. We liked it, but felt it was not quite ready to be forwarded to an editor. We would like to encourage you, however, to send us more of your writing in the future. You can find out what themes might be under consideration by visiting our website.

We look forward to reading more of your work.

I’ve written two more drafts of the piece since then – they were absolutely right, it wasn’t ready yet – and I’m confident it’s getting closer. I’ll find a new home for it when I’m satisfied it’s good to go.

The other rejection was more generic:

Thank you for submitting your work to [such-and-other]. We have read and considered it, and have decided it isn’t right for the magazine.

Our editorial decisions have more to do with our own tastes and preferences than the quality of your submission, and we hope you find the right home for the work.

I knew the essay was borderline when I sent it. The piece is a lyric essay with a unique structure, and the magazine had occasionally published non-traditional essays, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was gratifying to hear they didn’t think it was bad, just not right. I can totally live with that.

So yes. I’m ready to add to my collection of rejections. I’ll take my envelope to be mailed in the morning. And now, to work on the next piece.