After a long hiatus, I submitted a couple of short stories to literary magazines today.
I’ve been working on the new website, mulling over what stories I wanted to include. The website will have a “Photo Bio” featuring a sentence about my life that reflects a dominant themes in my work and a representative photo. Click on the photo and you can read (or listen) to work that engages the theme.
For example, under the “I grew up to be a lawyer and show clothes on the runway,” you will be able to click on a glamor shot and read The Dress, which appeared in Skirt! Magazine, or listen to “Show the Clothes.” where two models get into fisticuffs.
Given my recent proclivities, much of the fiction will be in audio form, but I also want to include PDFs folks can read. I knew I’d use “Held at Gunpoint,” the story that received a Special Mention from Pushcart Prize, Best of the Small Presses. But what else?
In search of an answer, I wandered through old stories lurking inside folders entitled “Odd Devices” (where the structure doesn’t follow a standard “and then this happened” telling); “Distance Stories” (where the narrator is not as close a point of view as I normally use), and one folder I can’t tell you the name of without blushing.
Inside the “Women” folder, I found two old stories I liked so well I don’t want to “self-publish” them by placing them on the website. Instead, I slipped them into envelopes (yes, no email submissions) and sent other copies to Submittable and other online submission processes.
One story is a post-Katrina story set in Jackson, Mississippi. I’m hoping the topical nature of it, given the upcoming 10th anniversary of the storm, might help with its acceptance. The other is a story about a young woman who had to leave her children and live on the street. Because I wrote this BEFORE I began facilitating a writing group of men and women who live on the street, I shamelessly began my submission letter: “For seven years, I’ve facilitated a writing group of men and women who know homelessness.” I measured the story against that experience to see if it rang true (it obviously did), but I had no fear of exploiting the experience since I wrote it prior thereto.
We shall see if anyone wants them, but here’s the primary thing: they are good stories. Right now, when I’m going through so much rejection trying to get an agent for the novel, it was really nice to run across these stories and realize with the cold eye of not having seen the work in a long, long time—you CAN write.
As I always say, you never know why you’re going from A to B but, most of the time, it’s not the reason you think. I thought I was getting my new website ready for launch, but what I really was doing was laying a balm on my soul.
For those of y’all following my novel(s) saga, I thought you might like an update. Also, I need your support—just getting it out here helps me feel I’m not all alone on this journey!
TRAIN TRIP: LUCINDA MAE’S QUEST FOR LOVE, HONOR AND THE CHICKENS, is being read and considered by four agents. Many queries are still outstanding, and I have about 25 more to submit.
MODEL FOR DECEPTION has been reviewed by my paid editor and, mercifully, she sent a mild revision list. She really liked the story, loved the character, and thought it had great “salability” as a women’s mystery. She now has my draft query letter, and I hope to receive her comments shortly. When I do, I’ll begin sending out that query as well.
I chose to revise IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI next, and I’m now done with the final (God, that is such an iffy word) read. I will send this novel on to the editor as well. Who knows what she will think of it:
a young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man must examine his own place in the world.
The manuscript up next will either be THE BONE TRENCH or JAZZY. THE BONE TRENCH should be a quick revision (famous last words) because I have revised it SO much already. On the other hand, I’m eager to get on to the Hurricane Katrina novel, JAZZY. While JAZZY is “finished,” that’s a mere technicality. I don’t even consider it a first draft—which smart authors say doesn’t exist until at least one outside reader has read it. Returning to the world of this young girl who lost her daddy and awaits the birth of a sibling as Hurricane Katrina approaches would be pure joy, a treat after the many months of revision.
In the meantime, the short story collection CAIN’T DO NOTHING WITH LOVE won an award in an independent publishers’ contest, the 2014 CIPA EVYY Awards in Audio Book! I’m so pleased for the success of this experiment I pretty much made up myself—Hey, why don’t I record a collection of stories, pair the stories with charities, and make the collection available almost exclusively for free online. The podiobooks.com listening site has had over 7000 (!) downloads with some wonderful comments. When you add listeners on YouTube, iTunes and the website, you get over 8000 downloads. I think that’s great for (1) short stories (2) that are literary and (3) very Southern. From this, I’ve learned (among many other things) what I want in a website; that many folks for whom English is not the first language can understand my Southern accent; people like my reading voice. It really has been an informative process.
About the website thing, I’m about to consolidate my web presence. Not to get too philosophical, but I feel the time has come to integrate the various bits of me that now exist on the web. From making crosses to this umbrella blog to the story collection site to my old ellen morris prewitt website—they need to be pieces of an integrated whole. My webmaster tells me I can transfer all of y’all to the new site, and no one will be lost. I certainly hope that’s true.
Thanks again for following my journey. I much appreciate it.
For those of you concerned about me after my Great Public Failure (I didn’t get an agent, to put this in perspective), here’s my current game plan:
* send the Train Trip query to the paid-editor for tweaking: STATUS: DONE
* send Model for Detective (When her model partner disappears, a Memphis fashion model uses her “clothes whisperer” skills to investigate the case, only to discover clues to the murder of her long-lost favorite cousin) to the paid-editor for a reader’s review: STATUS: AWAITING PRICE QUOTE
* continue revising In the Name of Mississippi (A young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man questions his own place in the world.) STATUS: IN PROCESS
* use breaks in revising In the Name of Mississippi to send out Train Trip queries in batches of 20: STATUS: JUST AS SOON AS I GET THE QUERY BACK (or sooner if I can’t wait on her)
* send the Train Trip query to my old agent (yes, I once had an agent when this novel was so grossly unfinished as to be embarrassing) to see if he wants to get back on board with a new, polished manuscript STATUS: IN THE MAIL TOMORROW
* decide whether a hybrid publisher (manuscript review/project acceptance/paid publication) might be the answer for me (moves me off square one; gets the work out there; puts me in control of the order of publication, offers me agent introductions if appropriate to the work; offers publication to manuscripts trad pubs would probably never touch, such as The Bone Trench (A controversial private prison project brings Mother Mary and her son Jesus back to modern-day Memphis where Mother Mary is determined—this time—to protect her son from harm.) STATUS: INQUIRY DRAFTED; MULLING SENDING
On my other blog, I posted a mocku-resume (“Holder of the French Legion of Honor”—after all, who can say what actually happens in France?”). One of my created talents was plate spinning. You know, that thing they do in the circus involving a long pole and frantically scurrying women in white bodysuits.
All I can say is, the subconscious is an amazing thing.
Many years ago, I read excerpts from Write Your Heart Out on the local NPR affiliate. In response, the book’s author, my friend and mentor Rebecca McClanahan, said, “Thank you for sharing my words.” Ever since, I’ve had a very specific goal with my writing: getting my words shared.
Followers of this blog know that, right now, I’m in Phase 2 of an audio experiment. My short story collection, Cain’t Do Nothing with Love, was released on podibooks.com on December 28, 2013 (last year, can you believe it’s no longer 20103?). When the collection was released, podiobooks.com—which has over 4000 followers—tweeted it out.
They also included notification of the new release on their podiobooks blog .
In the next seven days, almost 1300 downloads were recorded.
Honestly, I have no idea how this compares with other new releases. I don’t know if all the recorded downloads are folks actually listening. What I do know is that the chance of my words being heard has increased exponentially. Given my long-term goal, I consider that a success. Thank you, podiobooks.com
If you’ve listened to the stories, would you please to go to iTunes and rate/comment on the podcast? It would be very helpful.