I just got my latest yes, a poem, ‘Antigua at Night’, forthcoming May 2021 in Volume 10 of BIM: Arts for the 21st Century. It was a nice lift, especially since I opened the email certain that my submissions had been rejected (I’ve been on a roll with the rejections). I was surprised that of 6 submitted poems and one submitted short story (a short story that’s been workshopped and edited), this poem was the one to be picked. I think of myself as a story/fiction writer and don’t feel as confident of my poetry though I have had a comparable number of poems published as fiction. So, yes-I, a poem was picked.
This brings me to my first big yes.
I came across this question/statement in a LitHub article in which several writers shared their first big yes.
“When I think of the first Big Yes, I think of the moment that marks the first big shift, either external or internal, in the trajectory of a writer’s career or their understanding of themselves as a writer. I’ve carried the question with me through my own development as a writer, because, in an industry that oftentimes feels obsessed with national awards and accolades, most-anticipated and bestseller lists, it’s easy for me to convince myself that when I get there—wherever “there” may be—I will have finally made it. That “there” will be the achievement that defines or legitimizes my career as a writer.” (Benjamin Schaefer)
And I thought I’d play too here in my playground.
So, my first big yes was in 2000. I had a poem published in Ma Comère: Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars Volume 3, and it was my first internationally accepted anything. It was a very short poem, Philly Ramblings 8, part of a series of poems I wrote during a summer (I think it was summer) spent in Philadelphia, 1997, which was a changing season for me – as I left my first post-university job for my second that year, and was still feeling restless about the path I was on (journalism) relative to the path I wanted to be on (creative writing). In 2000, I feel like I was at another crossroads, having again switched jobs, out of journalism in to public education. I had never stopped writing creatively. Quite the opposite. I had in the years in-between worked on what would become my first and second books, The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and, once I went freelance, in time, my various professional paths would converge. But, in 2000, I was still very uncertain that I would ever get my breakthrough as a published writer. I remember being very excited to have a poem, a very short poem, accepted. I remember the contract came in the mail (snail mail). I could cry at how encouraged I felt (notwithstanding it not being a great contract). I was in print!
Full circle moment. And lots of nerves.
How about you, writer or not, what was your first big yes?