I recently had a short story come out in a magazine. It’s always a thrill to see something in print but this was made especially so because the magazine commissioned an illustration to accompany it. And it was beautiful.
It fascinates me to see how an artist interprets a story. This particular one captured the plot (junior high-aged boys living their hopes and fears after school), setting (rooftop) the season that plays a pivotal role (Autumn) and the subplot (parents fighting) to a particularly effective degree. I was actually astonished because it was obvious the artist put much thought and care into the painting.
The story is called ‘Sky Door’ and illustrates the poignancy of friendship in the early teen years as it converges with character and major life issues. The story was rejected, let’s see…23 times before it was accepted for publication. And the amount paid was surprisingly good, considering the market for short stories is not just small, but minute, and growing more so. If the publication proves anything, it’s that perseverance often has the last laugh; even over talent and genius.
Of course, I have lots of stories that haven’t made their way from the dark yet. Some will, I think. Others are best left in the basement. But at the end of the day, they were all personal discoveries for me. That’s one of the unwritten joys and riches of writing. Often you don’t know how a story is going to end or even come out (truly). You’re unspooling it at the keyboard much like the reader is taking in the print, line by line. I know that sounds mystical and very elbow-patch-on-my-tweed-jacket-and-puffing-philosophic-on-my- pipe, but I really mean it. I think one of the wonders of a really good story is that the reader is spontaneously surprised, touched, frightened, or cackling with laughter just as the writer was as he or she uncovered it and watched it flow from their own heart and mind and spilling out onto the page.
It’s a wondrous process and one I give thanks for. Writing can be lonely and maddening. But it also bestows the persevering writer with marvelous gifts. Including the gift of discovery of the words that come forth.