Thursday, June 6, 2013

That One Time I Got Published

Five years ago I was published for the first--and only--time in my life in the May 2008 issue of True Story Magazine (as shown on left). I'm not sure why I never talk about it.  Well, maybe I know why, but I'll get to that in a bit.

It started about five and a half years ago during 5th period with a journal prompt that I posted on the whiteboard for my students. The question was, "Do you believe in miracles?" After the students finished writing, and consequently sharing their perspective on the topic, I shared with them a mysterious incident that happened when I was four years old. The kids loved my story.  One student shouted, "You need to write that one down Mrs. P! You should get it published!"

That night, with the student's words still echoing in my head, I did write it down. A few days later, I sent it to True Story Magazine. It was a magazine that I was currently subscribed to, plus my mom and grandma used to read it when I was a little girl, so I was familiar with their layout. I knew each issue contained a "Miracle of Faith" section, and I felt hopeful that my story would be a good fit for that. I didn't know what the word count should be, so I simply checked out the word count of previous stories and based mine on that average. Since the setting of my story occurred the night before Mother's Day, I decided to play off of the holiday to increase my odds.

All of my instincts were dead-on. I was teaching a couple weeks later when I received a phone call from Clint. Ironically it was 5th period. He told me that I had received an envelope from True Story Magazine. I remember my heart started thumping in my chest, because I had read that "due to the volume of contributions we receive, we can not reply to each submission." So why would they be replying to mine?  Daring to hope, I told him to open the letter. He did, and read the good news to me out loud over the phone. I was stunned. They offered me $100 for all rights to my story, which they wanted to feature in their Mother's Day Edition. When I hung up the phone, my class wanted to know what was going on. I told them, and they went crazy, whooping and hollering. I told them they were the reason I was getting published. A whirlwind of hugs and congrats ensued, and I cried with happiness.  It wasn't about the $100--that meant nothing to me.  It was the fact that someone out there found value in something I had written, and the fact that it was my 5th period students, of all people, who had inspired me.

It's my dream to be a published writer. At the time that this happened, I thought, "This is IT. This is the moment where I break into print. This is the moment I am PUBLISHED."  I seriously could have dropped dead with joy right there on the floor of my classroom the minute I heard the news.  And when my story finally came out, I can't even describe the emotions I experienced.  Nothing compares to that feeling of flipping through a magazine and finding your story, with your name printed beneath it.  It's amazing.

(Actual photo of story, as seen in True Story Magazine)

So why don't I ever talk about it?  Because it's five years later, and nothing has happened. I have never moved forward beyond this little achievement. I've been stagnant.  Now something that I should be proud of has become a sore reminder of how little I have accomplished since then.  It's discouraging to reflect back and realize that getting a piece of work published in a magazine wasn't the life-changing moment that it felt like it was going to be back then.

But it's occurring to me that you can't win the lotto if you don't buy a ticket.  Yes, it's true that I haven't published anything else since 2008, but I also haven't tried.  I somehow expected for all of the pieces to magically fall into place without me having to put in the required effort.  So yeah, I need to accept that the published piece wasn't the magic wand I was hoping for, but that doesn't mean that it's wasn't an important step.  I need to buckle down on my manuscript, keep networking with other writers (twitter's been awesome for that), send more short stories into potential publishing venues, etc., and see if anything sticks.

Someday over the rainbow in a land of pixie dust and unicorns, I hope that I'll look back on this little published piece and realize it was that big, pivotal moment after all.  Maybe I just need the hindsight of more time, more bumps in the road, more failures, and eventually one big success, to realize it.