Sunday the Glimmer Train August Short Story Award for New Writers was announced. I had high hopes for my short story The Fisherman. As I knew from my status, I didn’t win. As I learned Thursday, with my excellent web research skills, I did not make the top 25. Finally I learned, from the official Glimmer Train announcement, that I didn’t even make the honorable mention list. My first fiction submission and I got nothing. Crap. My prophetic dream was the opposite of what I had hoped. Everyone was right. You don’t get published the first time. What a bummer.
I was disappointed, until my husband asked a very important question:
“How did they decide the winner?” asked Mr. Afthead
“Well, these two sisters run the literary magazine, so they decided.” I responded.
“That seems awfully arbitrary.”
He was right. Two women didn’t like my story. Yes, it was two women who happen to have the power to publish, but it was just two people. His words jolted me into remembering why I wrote the story in the first place, and why I wanted to get it out there. I love that story, and the only way for me to share it with people is to write it down, be brave and send it into the world. With my first draft something amazing happened. The story developed a story of it’s own when others read it. Different people liked parts that other people hated. Some people thought it was creepy. Another blogger, On the Lamb Design, tied it to a real life experience, and the similarities are haunting. Overall the response was not just positive, but thought provoking.
My favorite reaction was my husband’s. I gave him a copy of a later draft of the story and asked him to read it. When he finished we had the following discussion:
“This is good,” he said. “Where did you get it.”
“I wrote it.”
“Reallly? I thought it was by a real writer. I like how The Fisherman made the dad a better dad.”
Okay, first of all my husband thought a “real writer” was the story’s author. Then, he found a story in my words that I never intended. I didn’t mean for The Fisherman to make the father a better dad, but when my husband found that meaning I saw it too. When I write and share, something magical happens. I agree completely with my writing guru, Stephen King, when he says that the reading/writing bond is telepathy. I write something, and you read it through your lens, and we share a common vision together. Sometimes our lenses are the same, but sometimes one or the other distorts the story and it changes. To understand how others find different meaning in my words makes me want to write and read more.
So I’m disappointed that two sisters didn’t like my story, but I’m still going to write, and I’m still going to share, and I’m still going to submit. This is magic stuff happening, and I’m not about to let it go.