First Story Published

For the last six months or so I’ve been working on publishing short stories. Prior to that, I’d been sending out query letters for my first MS and I thought it best to take a little time off. There were two reasons for that. First, I wanted some space from both the MS and the query letter and second, I wanted to pad my query a bit.

Space allows me more distance, more objectivity. It gives me the chance to come back later with fresh eyes so I can make the right edits. Basically, I think my query is just coming from the wrong direction and I want to correct that.

Insofar as padding goes, I wanted to get some other work published that I can reference in my queries. I had been fairly successful in getting a couple pieces accepted by one magazine, but that website went on hiatus before putting out either of my pieces. That was fine though because I got some experience with submitting shorts, which is a totally different ballgame than querying an agent.

Finally, though, I got my short story Pavlov Dawning published by Contrary Literary Magazine. Contrary is a 15-year-old magazine originally based out of the University of Chicago. It’s also a magazine that pays for what it publishes which means that it’s my first paid writing.

When they first put out links for the new issue, they asked all the writers to give their pieces and bios one final proof. My bio was pretty basic, so I read everyone else’s. Basically, they read, “Author of, winner of, editor of, teacher of, graduate of this or that MFA program.” I have to admit, it was a point of stress for me as the most prestigious thing in my potential bio was that I have a BA in English Literature. Eventually (and with support from friends) I just listed a couple facts and realized my goal shouldn’t be impressing anyone with my bio.

Without further ado, here is Pavlov Dawning (If you do click through and read my story, I recommend clicking around and reading other work on the site. There is some amazing work there.).

I know you’re not supposed to explain anything about work in general, but the last line came from a letter I wrote to a lover back when I was in university:

I bought you a Milkyway the first night we made love. All the time we spent together was made up of small memories that seemed larger than myself. Maybe you added to me; I was a larger fraction of the whole.
The night we lay awake at my mother’s house, your naked body soft in the moonlight, I saw a group of stars fit together and form a pattern, a picture. After seeing tiny separate points of light, things came together. There was an image.
I have all your tiny little notes and sayings and scribbles packed away in a box, everything with meaning. I have your laugh, your smile all held onto, so that one day I could remember the adventure and smile. I’ve accepted part of the picture is missing without you standing back to my back. I hope you remember the adventure and still smile.
The sun is the nearest star to the earth. It is 93 million miles away. I miss you.

Just a (very emo) piece of writer’s trivia from over 20 years ago. It’s interesting to me though because it’s very illustrative of how I work. I keep everything I write that I think has any value. I have folders and notebooks full of beginnings, middles, and endings. Every now and again when I’m working on something, I go back and find the right words that I’d written when I was actually feeling that way and mix and match things in those pieces. There are so many parts from so many things in my MS. Small glimpses into other times and other moments. In fact, the math of the story above might show up in the sequel to my MS, so keep a lookout for it.

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