I surprise myself every time an editor accepts one of my short stories. When I create my YA adventure stories, I feel as though I have both the inner and outer struggle for the protagonist. I have antagonists: one human; a cousin, sibling, friend, or self and one nature; an avalanche, a thick forest, a thundering river, or wild animals. I craft the adventures meticulously, usually setting them in a national park.
One of my five children or my husband will find me talking to myself—or worse, to the computer—and leave the room. Or they’ll discover me sitting on a dining room chair with one of my son’s canoe paddles, trying to understand how the mechanics of paddling works when negotiating rocks in a river, how to explain it to the reader. The kids—mine—help me re-enact stage directions with a stuffed [animal] snake or read what I have written to see if they understand the actions explained. The family can sometimes refresh my memory of what a trail was like when we were last on it during a camping trip to the particular national park I’m using as a setting in my story.
I have a trusted writer friend who diligently tells me the short story is awful. So I fix it, and then fix it again. I stare at it. And “fix” it again. Then I sigh and submit it, and pray. You know how long writers wait to hear back after submission.
I try to move on in life and with my memoir, which mostly I’ve been staring at and crying about. I know what happens there. It’s truth. I can’t change it. And you’d think that knowing what happens would make it easier to write. Nope!
Memoir needs to be told as story. And the framing of this memoir story paralyzes me. My writer friend doesn’t have time to read or help me with this longer work. She says she’s not knowledgeable about memoir. I’ve taken memoir writing courses and story writing courses, the last being Lisa Cron’s Story Genius method, which is incredible. I have some good scenes. I’ve deepened the memoir story greatly. But each scene needs to be linked to the next. There must be a cause and effect trajectory. It seems like knowing so much about the story process makes me afraid to move forward in memoir because I can’t create what is needed. I must craft what really happened—choosing the events needed to do so—and create a story.
And until I can crawl ahead with my memoir, I live for an acceptance letter for my short stories. Like many writers, I ache for readers to enjoy my stories. But when the letter or e-mail comes, I hold my breath before I open it.
I had two stories in the queue at Cricket Media this time. I’ve had two stories before and Cricket Magazine, a literary magazine for 9 to 14 year olds, had accepted both stories. However this time, they only wanted one, a YA adventure about cousins canoeing the Delaware. Instead of rejoicing—okay, maybe I rejoiced a little bit—I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t want the second one.
I received the standard rejection letter: “it is not quite right for our magazine.” Yet I feel my stories are of the same quality. The only difference with this particular story was that I name dropped Susan Boyle, trying to connect Susan’s difficulties in life to my protagonist’s. Maybe an international children’s magazine such as Cricket doesn’t allow for name-dropping. Has anyone had experience with comparing a character to a known person in an attempt to imply that character has the same attributes? Is there a better method to explain how characters are in a few words without well-known comparisons?
The last story I sent to Cricket, they didn’t want either. Same standard rejection letter. I understand they don’t have time to tell you why. But the guessing on the writer’s part as to why it was rejected when other stories weren’t is grueling. In that story, I had one character receive a glancing bite from a rattlesnake. No one dies. It is a dry bite, which is explained in the story. Because it’s YA, maybe I can’t have the characters literally attacked by the wild animal, only frightened by them. Does anyone have any comment about that? I never have anyone die in my YA adventure stories. I know the editors wouldn’t accept that.
Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering a comment. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated.