Archive for October, 2013

Submit-O-Rama Week 3

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Short Story

I know, it’s almost the end of Week 4, but I got some much-needed feedback on my Week 3 submissions and needed a few extra days to revise before completing the submissions. For more on Submit-O-Rama, click here.

Here they are:

Gordon Finch’s Miracle

Gordon Finch follows the same routine so that when the miracle he’s been waiting on comes looking for him, it’ll know where to find him. But it’s Aggie’s 40th birthday and she’s sick of hanging around waiting for something to happen to her. Favorite line:

Gordon saw his cup was empty. He had nothing else to do but answer the question. How could he answer the question. He blurted the answer and she stared at him.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“What do you know?” he said.

“Say it again. You’ll hear how dumb it sounds. Go on. Say it.”

Submitted to Xenith because editor Patrick Nathan said he wanted fiction that moved. I hope this one does it for him. Poor Gordon will never be the same.

It may be worth noting the original draft of Gordon and Aggie’s story was written in 1996 for an undergraduate writing workshop. The criticism it received included “cliché characters” and “not the right time for a factory shift to end.” Turns out I just needed to have some life to realize what wanting a miracle was really all about.

Yesterday, in Boston

Ellen Hayes ran the Boston marathon yesterday. Today she’s stiff, tired, a little dazed, and can still smell the smoke and hear the chaos. Favorite line:

Eight strides from a 4:10 finishing time, her pink jersey visible behind the lady in orange. She was one of the charity runners, she was one of the less-elite. She was just trying to finish.

Submitted to Ardor Magazine. I have never run Boston, or even a full marathon; but I ran the day after the bombing and in the shower afterwards, I thought up Ellen Hayes, the charity runner in her hotel room the day after. How to make sense of such a thing? Writing helps.

I borrowed heavily from this blog, which gave the writer’s first-hand account of the course. So, thanks, Meg Runner Girl. She shows up in the story a little and I have a second story that peels off of this one which may feature her more.

Come Home

Cara Banks is playing Candyland with her son by candlelight after a blackout. They’re in her late husband’s best friend’s house. Sometimes we can see by candlelight things that are not so obvious in the light of day. Favorite line:

Cara closed her eyes and remembered Eric. Sargent Eric Robert Banks. A tear slipped down her cheek and she grabbed the counter top to keep from falling to her knees.

“I’m going to have another one,” she whispered.

She imagined he said, “Have it.”

She corked the bottle and opened the fridge again; put the bottle back on the shelf.

Not like Eli. Eli would tell her one was enough, two was more than enough, and three was drunk. Eli Moderation in Everything.

Submitted to The Missouri Review, which is the oldest of the lit mags I picked this October and also the most prestigious. “Come Home” did not start out October as my starter, I have several others that I think TMR would have liked, but it was time for “Come Home” and it shaped up nicely after some help from a military wife, my friend Jodie Cain Smith of The Queendom.

The name device was inspired by a conversation with Jodie about how significant a name really is. I used it throughout. I also feel like the story watches Cara get a little drunker and a little bit more dramatic and that, too, pleased me.

So there you have it. Week 3 in the books.

I will have to scramble tomorrow to get three more in by the Oct 31 deadline. I have some work to do! But I did already receive a rejection from Lascaux (thank you for being so timely and pfffttthhh) so I may sneak in a re-submit for “Have You Seen” if I get desperate.

How’s your Submit-O-Rama going? Share in the comments!

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So I’ve done it. With a little help from my friend Jodie Smith over at The Queendom, I’ve gotten three more stories ready for submission and sent them off into the literary universe.

Here are the selections and the magazines to which they were sent:

Run or Bleed

When the evidence of failure shows up again, Amy does the thing she’s best at: she runs. Favorite passage:

She could see the light in the bathroom glowing as she passed home and knew Michael was in the shower. She was behind schedule so she thought about cutting the route short and heading inside. Instead, she picked up the pace for the last mile.

Submitted to Damselfly Press, a literary organization promoting women issues and women writers.

Have You Seen

A billboard asking for help finding a missing woman brings to mind questions about how the woman went missing in the first place. Three character profiles in the imagination of a fourth woman make up “Have You Seen.” Favorite passage:

That moment, that hard labor, that fear when the baby hadn’t cried right away, the three weeks of bed rest leading up to it, being such a pain-in-the-ass pregnancy that she’d sworn she wouldn’t do it again. The weight from the second one wasn’t even gone yet when she’d gotten pregnant with the third. All that and another damned boy.

Submitted to The Lascaux Review because some of their published works I read had the same tone as “Have You Seen.”

Schickabusch Waits

Originally scheduled for week three but the best fit for a magazine that asked for alternative views, Schickabusch is about an Elf on the Shelf who is trying to earn his freedom. Favorite passage:

This year will be different. This year the kid is four. She’ll find him, she’ll grab him. The spell will be broken. He won’t be able to return to the North Pole. He’ll stowaway with the shredded wrapping paper in the garage, ride the garbage to the curb. He’ll be free.

Submitted to Gone Lawn, a web journal that says they’re about “progressive” literature. I thought the pop culture tie-in of Schickabusch was appropriate.

So that’s it. One more week, three more stories. The ones for this week are under editing right now.

How’s your Submit-O-Rama challenge coming?

There is some amount of instinct to revision. You don’t need to know why something doesn’t sound right, you just need to be able to read it and think, “It’s not right.”

That instinct, though, can be acquired. You can cultivate it. To do so you must read. Read read read. The secret to being a good writer is being a good reader.

But it’s not just about recognizing the words on the page. To be a good reader, you must also recognize while you’re reading what works and what doesn’t.

  • Did you finish the piece? Why did you keep reading?
  • Did you click away? Where did you lose interest and why?
  • Are you having trouble motivating yourself to pick up the book? Why?
  • Can you not put the book down? What makes it so compelling?

The more you read and recognize good writing, the more you’ll see your own writing begin to emulate those devices, styles, and organizational structures that most speak to you.

Last night in our #wschat Twitter chat, a number of our writers said they were their own worst critic and that they were jealous of other writers who did good work. They could see something was well done and felt envious that the other writer had created the thing.

A lit mag I submitted to last week posted in its “what we’re looking for” section that they wanted to be jealous of a writer’s sentences.

The envy is great. It means you recognize the good stuff. It means you read enough to know what’s good and what isn’t.

But we have to do something with that envy. We have to be able to recognize exactly how something was accomplished and then be willing to do it ourselves.

My favorite magazine is Runner’s World because I run (of course) and because it breaks down how people were able to accomplish things – get faster, lose, weight, run further, stay healthy – and then tells you how you can do that, too.

As writers we have access to dozens of books that give the same advice: Here’s how that was done, now go and do it. It’s the “go and do it” where we fall short.

I love a really good sentence.

One where you’re not entirely sure of the meaning and if you read it one way it means one thing, but when read another way it means something else entirely. I love those sentences. I needed to learn how to write one.

At the end of “Daylight,” I wanted to imply that the pair had crossed the line and actually had sex. I wanted the reader to think, “did they?”

I used this paragraph:

In my memory he’s desperate for me and I for him. In my memory we know no one will ever have to know what happens in that room. We know the next day I’m leaving and this is the only moment we’ll ever have. In my memory we can’t let it pass.

This paragraph is set up by several other predictions of what will happen to the characters when the night is over, who’s gone off to school, who dropped out, who ended up as a stripper, and who got married. Repeating the pattern tells us the writer is far beyond that night and so “in my memory” is a way to rub out the accuracy of the moment. The third sentence does not use “in my memory” because that sentence is true.

I thought this device worked and when my critique partner faced me and said, “Well? Did they?” I figured it must have.

Self-editing is about intention. Know what you want to say, know how to say it, and then be able to recognize whether your words are getting the job done. The revising part, moving the words around, adding here and removing there, getting them just right is the fun part of writing.

All writers should revise. No one creates excellence on the first try. No one. But being purposeful in revision and simply re-reading for general clarity are two different things.

You must come at revision willing to change.

That may be why it’s taken me so long to revise A Moment When the World is Silent. I didn’t want to change it. Now, though, I am convinced it could be really, really good. If I’m willing to do the work.

Remember that self-editing is never a substitute for a good strong editor. Your readers have so much to offer in the way of insight. Listen to them and be willing to change to address their questions and concerns. Your work will be better for it.

What was your toughest revision job?

Need some help? Register for my Self Editing Workshop at the SC Christian Writers Showcase on October 26th.

I did it. I sent three stories, “First Time,” “Packing,” and “Daylight.”

First Time
Winkie and Tommy have come to the hillside overlook to lose their virginity. But a derecho sweeps the mountain and derails their plans.

Favorite part:

Tommy took a deep breath. When he shoved himself inside of her she gasped.

Something broke. A loud crack, the splintering of something, a giving-in to the wind, then a branch ripped out of the giant tree behind them.

Submitted to Passages North, the literary magazine of Northern Michigan University.

 

Packing

Dominique and Roman are filling her suitcase with freshly laundered shirts, wrinkle-free pants, and unsaid things. She’s leaving for a year and they’re beyond the debate stage. Now the sadness sets in.

Favorite part:

“It’s just a year,” he said again.

She looked at him. He was looking at her hand: pulling it toward him, turning it over, palm up. He laid his cheek in her palm. She closed it around the curve of his face, tilted her head.

“They’re lucky to have you,” he murmured, kissing her hand.

“It’s Liberia. They’re not lucky at all.”

Submitted to Salt Hill Journal, the literary magazine of Syracuse University.

 

Daylight

The last night before they leave for school and Sophie has her ex-boyfriend’s brother in her room. Can she (should she?) get him in her bed or will she let daylight come and steal the chance away?

Favorite line:

A touch on my back and I didn’t have to turn, I knew it was him. He handed me another beer and stood a little too close for a little too long. There was a choice to be made regarding the tension we’d found earlier, upstairs. I could feel a throb deep within me and I decided to let it happen. I turned my head, lifted my face, my cheek grazed his. Neither of us pulled away.

Submitted to Lumina, the literary journal of Sarah Lawrence College.

So, week 1 is over. I feel brave. I feel a little nauseated. Oh well. Off into the literary universe my work must go!

Have you submitted anything yet? How did you feel the morning after?

I started 2013 with the goal of having enough polished work to really participate in Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama. The rules state three submissions per week, which is 15 pieces (five weeks X three submissions).

As you know, the 2013 Short Story Challenge went well and I have 13 stories but only 9 of them are edited.

So, I’ve decided to revise the calendar by skipping the first week (this one) to complete edits. I promise to begin submitting next week.

That gives me four weeks or 12 stories. Twelve is perfect because one of the stories has already been submitted and accepted to Spry. So I have to take it off the list.

So, check back here for next week’s submitted titles (with clips) and the lucky literary magazines that get to read my work!

Are you submitting in October? Have you Joined Submit-O-Rama? Share in the comments.