The First Thing I Published

The first thing I published was a short story in a mid-size magazine a dozen years or so ago. The bimonthly ran a fiction contest, and the winning entry would be published in the January issue, prize enough for an aspiring author.

I worked and worked on my submission, mailed it off with great hopes, and never heard a word. Ever the optimist, I figured the editor wanted to surprise me so I waited patiently for the first issue of the year.

At last it arrived! I turned to page fifteen and stared, dumbstruck, at the winning story with its beautiful illustrations. I should have been proud. But it wasn’t mine.

Cruelly rebuffed, I gave into a massive dose of chocolate, but not even that helped. How could I have lost the contest? My story was brilliant. Pure art. Literary genius.

In a depressed funk, I swore off writing (it wouldn’t be the last time), wondering why I’d subjected myself to such public humiliation (also, not the last time). The fact that probably no more than two editorial underlings had read my story didn’t matter. Okay, one, maybe.

The next day I headed to the library to check out a book or two on crafting stories, having ditched my resolve never to write again. My swearing off rarely lasts more than six hours. I thought maybe—just maybe—I could pick up a thing or two. Or a dozen things. Two dozen. Turns out I’d made every amateurish mistake in the book. So I read another book. And another. Then I took that little story and re-wrote it. Re-submitted it. Never heard a word from the editor.

I traipsed out to the mailbox one day in April, pulled out a couple of bills, a piece or two of junk mail, and the next issue of the magazine. It had lemons on the cover. I stood there at the curb and wondered if, by some miracle, my story might be in it. Gingerly, I turned to the table of contents. Ran my finger down the first column of listings. Nothing. The second column. Nada. Oh, wait. I backed up. Yes! There. “Important Things” by Caron Guillo. My heart pounded. My vision blurred. I blinked. YES!!!

I wanted to do a happy dance right there in the street, but, instead, reined myself in and headed for the front door. For the record, I did not do a happy dance inside my house. I simply squealed and jumped up and down like a caffeinated kindergartener on a pogo stick. Four seconds of that, and my ankle gave way, dropping me to the floor faster than you can say, “reality stinks.” I crawled to the couch boasting a ridiculous smile considering the circumstances. The limp only lasted a couple of days; the euphoria longer.

Maybe I’ll dig out that story sometime and publish it here. Or maybe I’ve learned a thing or two since then and wouldn’t dare put it online.

Yep. The last one. 🙂

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Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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