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.


  1. I crack up when I see those 2 little blonde girls that look nothing like us. :-)

    I was reading this young adult book last night, and I couldn't even enjoy it, because the whole time, I was thinking, "My sister writes SO much better."

    But how could you even see yourself as stagnant?! You have been working full time with two kids! Not just working, but building an amazing reputation at your school, and positively influencing countless kids. Teacher of the year... And running the Builders Club AND the countless other ways you help your students and school. Even non-work related, you have been anything BUT stagnant. Over the last few years, I've observed you learn kick boxing, how to shoot a gun, archery, running multiple 5Ks, etc... Not to mention your amazing oil paintings. AND all the wonderful home improvements you and Clinton have done. I am so impressed and in awe of you.

    When I think of everything you have done since you wrote this story, I know more than ever that it WAS a life changing moment. You have accomplished so much since that little story. You don't need a published book in your hands to prove that you have succeeded...just open your eyes let yourself see what is already there.


  2. Oh...oh my you've made me cry. Wow Shan. I don't even know what to say. You might find your comment framed and hanging up on my fridge the next time you're over. Thank you SO much.

    The little blond girls make me laugh too! They are awfully cute. I like to think that the one who looks like she has her sis in a strangle-hold represents me. ;)

  3. First of all, I think its neat that your students call you Mrs. P.

    When I read your excitement at getting the story published, I was on the edge of my seat and could totally imagine the scene. Makes me happy just to think about it. I had a similar experience at the 2012 OWFI Writers Conference. I pitched a book and received two requests for chapters. Definitely one of the best days of my life. So reaffirming. But life is a roller coaster. It felt like the day would change my life. I knew better, but I went with the good feelings for as long as I could.

    I hope you keep working on your manuscript. I can't wait for your blog post announcing your big book deal! I'd jump up and down. Seeing people succeed really makes me happy, especially when I know how much the dream means.

    Writing isn't everything, but it sure is awesome. One day, a couple of years ago, I said to myself, "writing is stupid. I should quit." That lasted a few seconds, because I don't know who I would be without it. Sometimes I think all my ridiculous hobbies are just stalling tactics--fear of facing years of hard work with little chance of success. (Wow, that's a pep talk right there. Next thing you know I'll be a motivational speaker living in a van down by the river!)

    I have been in a serious funk for several weeks, because my WIP came back from the editor and I have been doing edits and revisions incessantly on something I thought was close to being ready. But I think it will be worth it.

    Anyway, its really late and I am rambling like a pixie dust unicorn that just got maced after the bars closed.

    Get that book done.

  4. This comment seriously could have been its own blog post Scott. What a clever, motivational little piece. You might be preaching from your van down by the river, but I'm eating up every word! Between this and Shannon's comment above, I'm going to have a lot of strange stuff framed on my fridge.

    What a triumph to have chapters requested at your conference! I would have been elated too. I know what you mean about jumping up and down over other writers' successes. I follow aspiring writers on twitter for that very reason. We're all on this same roller coaster ride together, and it is nothing short of inspirational to see one of us pull through. Gives the rest of us hope.

    Keep at it with your WIP! I know the editing can be grueling labor, but at least you have a workable piece. And it WILL be worth it in the end.

    Hope you're not too hung over today on pixie dust and mace.

  5. I think it's quite an accomplishment and you just have to keep on truckin' as they say.

    1. Or just keep swimmin'--as Dory says. ;-D

      Thanks for stopping by Robbie!

  6. I agree with Robbie... and you're right. You can never win the lottery without buying the ticket, so just keep truckin'/swimmin' ;) One day, your dream would definitely come true.

  7. Thanks for those words of encouragement Ifeoma! And I would say that those words are true for you too, missy. ;)

  8. This is a huge accomplishment and more than some writers will ever see. You should be proud of yourself--five years ago, today, tomorrow, and so on. I have no doubt, though, like the others, that one day you'll publish again. Next time, maybe a novel, but even if a short story or another personal essay, it'll be a big deal again. Keep working and it'll happen for your again. You're a fantastic writer!

    1. Thank you Kristyn! For helping me to get a better perspective on the whole thing, AND for saying I'm a fantastic writer. Wow you guys are unbelievably awesome.


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