Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Slightly Larger Victory Dance

It's time for yet another small victory dance!

Last year I got a little poem about zombies accepted into my college student literary and art magazine. While that was fun, it was a bit bittersweet since I'm no poet and I wrote the poem in high school. I decided, as a result, that I needed to get something accepted into the magazine again, but only a prose piece that represented my current quality of writing.

I had just written a fantastic short story called “The Fourth Wall” that I wanted to share with everybody, but unfortunately it was a few thousand words too long. I decided to try my hand at some flash fiction (very short fiction).

The trick to flash fiction is that you have a very limited area in which to tell a story. If a novel is a cake, and a short story is a slice of that cake, flash fiction is one small bite of the cake.

My idea was to write a series of moments.
Of course, if I can only give the readers a taste of the cake, that taste has to be rich and delicious and lousy with flavor (I’m using “lousy” in the traditional meaning here, which is “full of”. My prose stylistics teacher would be proud). Inspired by some very small ideas for stories that I’d been saving in my memory banks, I decided that the weight my flash fiction needed was an emotional tie that everyone understands; the loss of innocence.
I wrote six flash fiction stories about the moments that change us forever, titled each of them after songs by Death Cab For Cutie, and called the collection “Crooked Smiles”. I submitted only five of these six stories, not because one was too incomplete or personal (on the contrary, I felt they were all incomplete and made sure to submit the most personal ones), but because I felt one of them didn’t fit with the rest.

After submitting these five stories, I read them over and realized that they did not represent either my quality or style of writing and instantly regretted submitting each and every one. I tried to be artsy and poetic, when I’d rather be informal and direct.

With the deadline rapidly approaching, I went back to “The Fourth Wall” and quickly conceived of a story that I could write from the main character’s perspective recounting the events that led him to where he is and then contemplating his next move. It would be both a sequel and a summary of the story I originally wanted everyone to see. I wrote it out in one sitting, (titled it “Padded Cell”) looked over it once the next day for edits, and submitted it.

A few months later I heard back, the magazine had accepted two of my submissions! One of which, “Steadier Footing”, was from the collection and the other was “Padded Cell”. The irony was that I thought “Steadier Footing” was the least likely of all the stories to be accepted as it held the least personal significance.

I hope to release "Crooked Smiles" soon,

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