My story in print!

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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.

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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.

And Now for a Word

Yesterday, I went down to Word on the Street, which is a big outdoor book festival downtown. There was a distinct chill in the air, making sure we were aware it was the first day of fall. I was grateful for the moments when the sun came out from behind the cloud, warming me through my jacket.

I wandered between the stalls, browsing for the most part. I stopped to speak with all the different Can-Lit magazines I could find. Walked away with a few samples. I was very tempted by the subscription deals they were offering, but I just couldn’t afford to take them up on it just now.

The most memorable moment, though, was late in the afternoon, when we caught sight of a falcon in a tree in front of one of the university buildings. I’ve only ever seen them on ‘display’, working with trainers or zookeepers. I couldn’t quite compute seeing a wild one in the middle of the city.

It was huge, body the size of a goose or a swan, with thick, feathered legs and a powerful body. It was busy eating, beak snapping down to grab a mouthful and pulling up, holding its meal in place with one foot, the creature’s entrails stretching taut for a moment before they snapped and the falcon swallowed his mouthful.

And on the ground below it, the urban literati stared up, phones and cameras clicking away.

“It swooped down and grabbed a squirrel.”

I turned to find another onlooker behind me. I gave a wry smile. “Watch out for your kids.”

“And your pets. I’m sure there are chihuahuas around here about the size of a squirrel.”

“Oh, you’re right. Yikes.”

I walked away, then, and moved on through the festival. The circle of gawkers determined to turn this powerful creature into a spectacle made me uncomfortable.

(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.