Ella Fitzgerald sang it best, but hum along as I announce that my novel, THE RIVER'S MEMORY, will be published in the Fall of 2014 (in publishing time this is soon) by Twisted Road Publications. Dang, after all these years, it's so weird to write those words. And look, a book cover. That gives me the good kind of shivers.
Well, more, much more, later. For now, let's just celebrate.
I was in Portland because my girlfriend was running their marathon (Yes, she finished. She's fabulous.), and over the same weekend, just a light rail ride away, was the Wordstock Festival - readings, panels, workshops, and a big convention floor of booths from Tin House and McSweeney's to a group of women with their self-published books who taught me a lot about how to effectively describe your own work. But back to the unexpected meeting.
There on the convention floor I saw the sign "Big Fiction Magazine" just about the same time a woman came from around the table, arms wide, and saying "Sandra?". It was Heather Jacobs, the editor-in-chief and visionary creator of Big Fiction Magazine which sponsors the Knickerbocker Prize. I won second place this year which meant I got to work with Heather on editing my story. It was a joy. We had such a good time. And there, in Portland, we had such a good, although brief, time again. And I met Jon Jacobs (Big Fiction's "tech guru") and baby Jacobs. And I came home with all the gorgeous back issues of Big Fiction. There's some good reading in my future.
Yes, that is an Adrienne Rich quote, but it's also the title of an upcoming anthology from Sundress Publications. Not Somewhere Else But But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place will include my essay "Rolling in the Mud" which was first published in The Alaska Quarterly Review.
Sundress Publications "is a (mostly) woman-run, woman-friendly publication group founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals [Including Wicked Alice, Gone Dark Archives, and Intentional Walk which is devoted to the poetry of sports] and publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats."
I'm so glad to be part of their endeavors.
Each year it seems the word count limits for journal submissions drop. The reasons given range from our supposed diminished attention spans to the goal of including more writers in each issue. For me, the result is that I write shorter. Shorter than I used to. Sometimes shorter than the piece should be.
But now there's Big Fiction: Long Shorts with Style. They take pieces up to 30,000 words and nothing less than 7,500 for their hand-designed letterpress issues. And they offer the Knickerbocker Prize. And this year I came in second place. Which means the editor and I worked on revising my story ("Half-Boy") and you know what? She found places where she wanted more. We ended up making it longer not shorter. It was as if the story was allowed expansive breaths that rushed oxygen into the sentences.
In 2009, I finished a collection of interwoven short stories and thus started the years of submissions. Never, not once, despite a few close-but-no-cigar rejections, has a single word ended up published. I've given up many times - said that's that and mourned. But a call for submissions would catch my attention, so I'd format a piece and once again press "send." I mean, why not?
And now, four years later, in the past two months, two of the stories have won contests. In a Chamber of My Heart took first place in the 2013 Saints and Sinners Short Fiction Contest and Half-Boy came in second for Big Fiction's 2013 Knickerbocker Prize. What is going on? Why now? It's a curiosity. And a thrill. I'm remembering that eager author from 2009 with her fresh manuscript and her wild hope. Perhaps I'll dust her off.
My story "In a Chamber of My Heart" was chosen by Felice Picano as the winner of the Saints and Sinner Short Fiction Contest. Which means, among many things, that I get to read at the opening night fundraiser of Saints and Sinners, A LGBT Literary Festival, and that my story, along with the runner-ups 'Nathan Burgoine and Vince Sgambati and all the other finalists, will be published together in an anthology from Bold Stroke Books. (Available for pre-order now.) Oh, and I'll be going to New Orleans for the first time ever.
So far, this sixtieth year of my life is going quite well.
I feel like Sally Fields at the Oscars - "She picked me. She really picked me." Yep, in February I take my dog to her home away from home (where she is allowed to lick cereal bowls and sleep under the sheets) and then drive over to New Smyrna Beach for a three week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts with Carolyn Forché.
And no, I haven't, abracadabra, presto, alacazam, transformed into a poet. The residency will mix up poets and memoirists. This is going to be fun.
New Letters accepted one of my essays. So today, while I'm giving thanks for turkey and pie, I'll add an appreciation of all the people, from editors to interns, who create literary journals. In a small town in Florida, in an old wood house shaded by live oaks, I prop up on my writing bed and work on a piece until I think it might be ready. (I'm often wrong.) And then I launch it out into the world. Thanks to journals like New Letters, it sometimes doesn't sink.
Bridges and Borders is the Jane's fourth anthology. (And I'll be included!) It's almost ready to go, but they could use a last bit of cash. Here's their Kickstarter site. Donate because Jane's Stories has done so many years of worthy, much needed work to promote women's writing . Donate because the sultry-voiced Glenda in the video below tells you to. (Really, doesn't her voice make you want to purr.) And donate because you'll end up getting to read all these stories.
It was like being a senior in High School waiting for news about colleges. I was at the mailbox, expecting the rejection like always these past four years, ready with my Plan B of putting together some sort of on-my-own writing retreat this summer, and I saw the envelope with Yaddo's return address. "That is a big envelope," I thought. I held it awhile. It was big and it had heft. I slit open the top and slid the papers out past the letterhead, date, my return address, and the salutation. The phrase "pleased to invite you" came into view.
All of you writers with Yaddo experience, especially any of you who use wheelchairs, send advice my way. And such big thanks to you alumni who provided references.
Let me, a little writing mouse who keeps pushing those levers hoping for a pellet, tell you that intermittent reinforcement is powerful, exciting, and perhaps even addictive. My most recent pellet has arrived in the form of an acceptance from Arts & Letters.
This was my first ever not-just-sent-through-the-slush-pile-and-wait-four-months-to-hear-back submission. What happened was that I participated in a group reading at a conference (Jane's Stories Retreat), an editor from Arts & Letters heard me, she asked me to send her something, I did, and voila, eight days later it was accepted. Freaky, huh? And I have to thank Jane's Stories Press Foundation for all their support.
Anyway, I'm a happy rodent.
The Fourth River has just published my short story "Marine Biology." Here's an excerpt.
Roxanne has lost track of the conversation. She hates having hot flashes in front of the students. She imagines the arctic seas, the pool at the hotel where they'll be staying, the beach, and braces for the post-flash anxiety. This time it is more sadness than anything. It separates her as if she were in a one-person submarine with a single portal that giant squid bump into and stare at her with their sideways eyes. She is never going to be a marine biologist. It's too late. For the first time Roxanne understands that choices have been made. There's no longer enough time for everything. Her knees weaken with the grief of it, and she reaches for the desk.
Here's how it happened. In July, 2009 I took a short story workshop with Lauren Groff that produced the beginnings of this story. By February, 2010 it was done enough to submit to Fourth River. In June, 2010 they accepted it. And just now, October, 2011, it was published. Yep, it takes awhile.
It's September, the start of another season of journal submissions. Here are some of my own statistics to bolster us. The piece accepted into The North American Review - rejected 28 times by other places. The Fourth River - previously rejected 22 times. The Alaska Quarterly Review - only 2 times. The essay in the anthology Something to Declare - 18 times. Blue Crow Magazine - 17 times. Right now I have a story floating around with twelve rejections and five of them have been a you-made-it-to-the-final-round or something similar. (These are the ones where I yell "just publish the friggin' thing" at the e-mail.)
So often other writers tell me "well, I sent my story out a couple of times, but it got rejected so I guess that's that." And mostly, it's women who say this. And they say it in a sad voice. Screw sadness, I say to you and to myself. Submit widely and often.
Did you know that the North American Review is the oldest literary journal in the United States? That it was founded in 1815 by Nathan Hale (the nephew namesake of the "but one life to give" guy)? And did you know that they want to publish one of my pieces!
It's the essay about kayaking in the Everglades and looking for lesbian love. Do you think Mr. Hale is resting easy?
Or is it that "my novel has representation." Or am I "handled" by an agent? (No, that makes me seem like a troublesome basketball star.) Anyway, I need to figure out the lingo so I can be all professionally casual. But right now, there's no casual. All those cliches about being excited - that's me. Each time I say "my agent," goosebumps and giggling follow.
So check out Joan Timberlake. She's my agent.
P.S. Obviously, this photo is so not of me. It's of Aaron Fotheringham.
Aliesa Zoecklein, poet, is now published in Cream City Review ! Do you have a writer friendship where you invest yourselves in each other's work, where it is totally okay to rush over to her house and thrust a revision in her face, where her successes are as important as your own, where when you look at the Cream City Review Table of Contents with her name listed you just want to pee yourself in excitement? Well, today is a Maxi-Depends day for me.
Almost a year ago at the Anhinga Writers' Studio Workshop, I took a series of short story classes taught by Lauren Groff. They were fabulous, and right there in the conference room I started a story. By October, I thought it was ready to send out. In November, I saw that it wasn't really and worked more. During February, I sent it to The Fourth River, and today they accepted it. In writing world time, this all went quite quickly.
The Fourth River wants "writings that are richly situated at the confluence of place, space and identity, or that reflect upon or make use of landscape and place in new ways ."
This is exactly what I try to do.