It’s a bitter-sweet feeling to have to close certain chapters, even if the book as a whole remains open. There’s a story of mine which like so many stories of mine has taken a circuitous route to publication. This story was initially submitted to and rejected for an international story prize. It was subsequently short listed for another. I did some intensive therapy (read: extensive workshopping) on it, which took a long while, and some back and forth with a writing partner I’d met at said workshop. Then years after the original birth of the story but still believing in it, I decided to include it as an original piece in a collection of my published and unpublished short stories. And as fate or murphy or whomever would have it, just as I’d signed with a publisher for that collection, a process which took upwards of a year – finding a publisher, negotiations, yada yada yada – I get an offer of publication of this same story from a journal I’d long tried and failed to get into. Because God has a sense of humour like that. I was torn. I was like that dog with the bone in his mouth and the reflection of the bone in the water, wanting both. I kept the lines of communication open with the journal, hopeful that if we could just time it right, it would be doable; but fearful really that having waited so long to be tapped by then, I would never again produce anything deemed worthy of publication – assuming I worked up the nerve to resubmit and risk a return to rejection after this bit of acceptance. That worthiness issue rearing its damn puss-y head again. Eventually the fact that the rights of the story were no longer up for grabs settled it and I had to let go of that opportunity, and accept that yeah maybe I may never again be tapped. But meantime, the story went on to be published in my collection, and, assuming people buy said publication, people would get to read it. This was a good thing. So why was I feeling wistful about the one that got away?
In the end, though, there was nothing to be done as far as the journal went but what I do when rejected. Pick myself up and try again. Pep talk it. Glass is half full, I was accepted for publication by a journal I had to skin my knees and scraarpp up my hands to get into. The story was accepted. Don’t turn a double acceptance into a rejection because you can’t have the bone in your mouth and the bone in the water at the same time. Don’t be that stupid dog. Want all get none. Celebrate what you have, a publication bearing not a single story but a collection of stories bearing your name…and, as for what you had to let go of, to reference Aaliyah “…if at first you
don’t succeed, dust your self off and try again.”
Yep, this bit of baring of the soul of the writer journeying is ‘sponsored’ by “try again”…and not just because it’s a good excuse to pay one of my favourite Aaliyah videos.
Post note: the starring story in this post is called Genevieve, short listed for the 2012 Small Axe prize, workshopped at the Callaloo Writers workshop at Brown Univerisity, and now at home in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings.