Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
I’m going to go ahead and count my chickens. Mostly because they’re already in the process of hatching, but also because I’m pretty darned excited about these chickens. I’ve been trying to get my short stories published since I was in high school. Back then, my methods were crude, and submission guidelines were at best skimmed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up on some lifetime blacklists across literary journals in Canada. Let the past stay in the past, unless you want to revel in my pain and read a bit more about my old writing exploits.
My efforts had become more organized and respectful over the years, but they still bore no fruit. My greatest short story success was from The Advocate, which is a publication produced by the Law Society of British Columbia and distributed mostly to BC lawyers. It’s an industry journal, but they do run an annual short story competition for stories that in some way relate to the topic of law and lawyers. So my first official publication was when my short story “Spider Silk” won third-place in their competition and scored me a $100 gift certificate to Chapters. And as much as I will be eternally grateful to the judges at The Advocate for my first break, I hungered for that literary publication.
Then I decided that this was going to be the year. It sounds stupid and simple but it was neither of those things. I wanted this to be done. I needed this to be done. So I rolled up my sleeves, threw myself into research of publications, created spreadsheets to track my progress (I’m all about the charts), finished new stories and refreshed older drafts. 2018 would be the year that I would finally break through.
And it seems that it’s exactly what’s happening. After wave upon wave of rejections crashing over me, Passages North, the annual literary journal sponsored by Northern Michigan University, has kindly chosen to publish my short story “Ursa Major” in their online bonus content. It was the shortest story I had every written (about 1,700 words), so it’s a perfect fit for an online platform. And once it’s up on their website, I would be able to share it with all of you, which is basically the icing on the cake.
It felt like a glacier had all but slid off my chest. Once you’ve heard the word ‘no’ a hundred times, none of those stories about famous authors getting a tonne of rejections really provide any comfort anymore. You feel like you’re going to be that one writer who’s just not good enough. And then it happens that you made something you love and someone else loves it too, and suddenly you feel years of battered self-esteem come falling off.
I barely had enough time to bask in the glow of this success, when I got another email. Now one of my older stories “Nightfalls”, one I refused to stop believing in, has been picked up by the Nashwaak Review to be published towards the end of this year. So thank you to the good folks at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick for the opportunity to be published in Canada.
And just like that, after a decade and a half of misses I now have two hits.
Now here’s where we get to those proverbial chickens. I’m not an overly superstitious person, but I have my quirks. This one I probably got from my dad who would often tell clients: “See you next week, unless something happens.”
“What might happen?” They would inevitably ask, and then he would shrug and respond: “I dunno, I could die.”
So I do have this sense of too-good-to-be-true dread that this, too, will die. But my excitement outweighs the fear, which is why I’m sharing this with you now even though the actual publications are still a ways away. I will of course be posting more about it closer to the dates, unable to contain my giddiness.
I know it sounds a bit dumb but my happiness about this can’t be understated. Something that has formed a part of my internal identity for so many years has finally become a part of my external identity as well. You can read a little bit more in this entry about how long I’ve been writing, and it’s really humbling to have those efforts paid off.
So thank you for staying tuned in the meantime and hopefully these are just the first steps for more exciting things to come.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.