The Road to Publication

"Oh Well (2)" courtesy of Lydia Komatsu

“Oh Well (2)” courtesy of Lydia Komatsu

When I first started writing again, I’ll admit that I had a pretty narrow view of nonfiction. Just the facts, right? So when I enrolled in UAA’s MFA program, I thought I had everything figured out. It’s amazing what the addition of the word “creative” in front of “nonfiction” can do in terms of detonating paradigms. Within a few weeks, I was exposed to a world of possibility within the world of creative nonfiction. Not just essays either. Prose poems. Lyric essays. Open forms. I distinctly recall writing something for my online semester, then posting a silly comment about it being “flash nonfiction,” which I supposed was an imaginary genre. Our instructor, Sherry Simpson, let me down easy and recommended I check out Brevity. 

It turned out I hadn’t invented anything new. In fact, Brevity had been doing it for some time, publishing essays of 750 words or less. And boy, did those babies hum. Inspired, I had this foolish idea that someday, I could see some of my own work in Brevity. I even had something in mind – a short piece written from a class prompt that seemed to have promise, to hint at something more. 

There were a couple of breakthroughs – one when I decided to fragment the essay. Another big moment was when I embraced the attention to detail needed for such a short piece. I wrote the piece, and edited it about 30 times, which. Then I sent it off to about twenty journals and waited.

I wrote the piece after reading as many Brevity essays as possible, so to say that I wrote specifically for the journal is no exaggeration. Most places rejected it, but I did get one nice note from the editor of Grist, who said they liked it but it didn’t for thematically. Nice, but a rejection no less.

Brevity got in touch, but it wasn’t quite the home run I wanted. They wanted to see a minor rewrite – the conclusion, it was lacking. So I rewrote. Again. And waited some more.

When I received my acceptance email, I was ecstatic. After nearly six months of cutting and editing and agonizing over articles and nouns and format, there it was: Accepted.

At my second summer residency, Ron Carlson said something profound about writing. The reward, he said, was the same whether we get published or rejected; whether we win an award or fail to make the semi-finals. We get to keep writing. That stuck with me, and still does every time something good or not-so-good happens to me as a writer.

So, what’s next now that I’ve published something in an incredible journal?

I get to keep writing.

***

The piece, called “When We Played,” is available to read for free online here. I’d love to hear what you think about the essay in its comment section.

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