When thinking of what to share in the first post of this series, I immediately thought of my story, “Into the woods.”
I had come across a submission call for contemporary re-tellings of fairy tales, but with a specific theme – Lost Children. It is rare for me to write something for a call, but in this case I did. The more I thought about “lost children” in the modern day, and in the conceptual world of fairy tales, the more this story unfolded.
These characters revealed their story to me, and it’s difficult to explain this process when I can barely understand it myself. It was a hard story to write, because I had to let the story happen without trying to gloss over difficult subject matter or manipulate the outcome. But I feel that the story ends on a hopeful note – there are many dead ends and dark paths before them, but there also paths which will open towards being found.
Needless to say, I submitted this story to the call, and months later, I received a rejection letter. However, it was one of the strangest rejection letters I had ever received. The editor went to great lengths to express how much she loved my story, how powerful it was, how she wished to see it in print, how it deserves to be in print, etc, etc, and that she wanted this particular collection to be light and beautiful so she wouldn’t be able to include my story.
I do not take rejections personally, but this time I did. I would have preferred a standard, formatted response over the response I did receive, knowing that the editor was trying to explain herself, that she felt compelled to, by expressing over and over again that I wrote a really great story that should be published, but she couldn’t find a place for it.
Over the past year, I’ve put a really strong effort towards publishing my work. I’ve read hundreds of different poetry and story journals and magazines, and although I have come across some interesting writers, the whole of what is being published in contemporary literature is very safe, repeating what we already know works in terms of language and genre.
For a writer like me, who is interested in really exploring language and storytelling, I forget that my work goes where some people aren’t used to going, because I am trying to go places that haven’t been fully explored.
I thought of creating this weekly series so that I could share my work directly with an audience, without having to depend upon the subjectivity of the submission process. I don’t want my lost children to be sent into a world where their dreams are dusty pages in a book snapped shut. I feel like I don’t have time to wait anymore. I just don’t have time to lose anymore.
I think that the heart of what it is to be a writer is to dare to dream and explore and discover new worlds, new terrains of language and communication and storytelling. But what is different is often looked upon negatively. People generally like what they are used to. However, all writers carry a responsibility, and the potential to develop their own, unique voice and specific way of communicating their inner-visions, their ways of looking at the world.
And in spite of the rejections, I’ve also received a great reception to some of my work, much of which has been published or will be in places that are seeking similar things in art and in life. I’m also aware that sometimes a writer’s audience lies in the future.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I can only follow what I feel are signs, and hope that my own breadcrumb trail leads me down the right path, to the one that finds me found, lost.