*Sigh* Rejected Again

I just received this little email:

Andra,

Thank you for offering your story to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere.

That makes Rejection Number Two for my story “Ashella’s Heart.”

At this point, I don’t know if I have the energy to find another magazine to submit it to. Sure, I have access to significant lists of magazines that accept stories like mine, but the problem comes with the necessity of reading a copy or two of each one to find out if it’s really a good fit, or not. That takes a lot of time. Sure, I could submit it to every science fiction/fantasy magazine out there without reading any of it, but that seems too . . . impersonal, I guess. Not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m not motivated enough to find it.

So, yeah, I’m feeling a little maudlin about the whole thing.

Part of it is due to spending the last three days looking for agents for my sci-fi novel. I found over a dozen that look promising, and that’s a good thing. Better to have too many choices than not enough. All I need to do is structure and personalize my query letter and synopsis according to each one’s submission requirements – starting with the agents that I like best and work my way down from there.

The good news is, I at least I didn’t have to wait until my birthday to find out the magazine thought my story sucked (kidding a bit there. My story didn’t necessarily suck. Most likely they’re looking for something different).

I just wish I could better predict what magazine/publisher/agent will fit with what I write. It’s so damned unpredictable in that the only way to discover it is to send it out there to be rejected. I’d like to think I have a thick enough skin, but on days like today – apparently – it’s not thick enough.

Research = Yuck (Sometimes)

For some, research is the definition of tedium. I am one of them, which is why I like to write science fiction and fantasy. While rules of physics, biology and human nature must be followed – to a point – at least I don’t have to know what the weather was like on January 3rd 1872 in Portland Oregon, and whether or not the moon was full that day. I also don’t have to know where the local grocery store is, because when I’m building my world, I can put that grocery store wherever I darn well please, thank you very much.

My junior year of high school, everyone had to take an asset test to see where their academic strengths and weaknesses were, so the students and guidance counselors could determine more easily where they should take their next educational steps, if any. My worst score (if I remember right) was history at 83. No surprise there. I didn’t care for history in school. I couldn’t appreciate it as much as I do now, because being so young, I didn’t see how history greatly affects our present and future.

My best score at 99 was research. Looking up where to find things, regardless of subject was easy for me. So you can imagine how much I like the Internet . . .

Even my chosen profession of land surveying requires a slew of research, whether it be finding property owners, easements, or plats. Every new job we get requires all that research. I’m good at it (and relearning almost every day how important thorough research is).

You’d think that because I’m good at research, and at least as far as my job is concerned, I’d enjoy it. And I do. Sometimes finding the one document I need is like finding buried treasure. Finding a property corner in the middle of a forest set over a hundred years ago is even more so. When it comes to writing, however, I prefer to not have to research at all. That’s because I’d rather spend that time writing.

Another not-surprise is that I’m a pantser writer. I’ve tried the outlining, character detailing, etc., and I simply don’t have the patience for it. I appreciate the writers who take that route, because they don’t have to worry about going back and fixing stupid mistakes such as describing the character one way in one scene, and change them completely in another. I think the time they spend researching, building and characterizing saves them a lot of editing in the end.

I think they also excel at finding the right agent and publisher for their works. They know the importance of thorough research (especially those who write historical fiction), so searching for someone to accept their work has to come easier than an impatient pantser like myself.

But it must be done, so I have to put on my research hat and look for agents. I found a few so far that look promising. I won’t know until I research a little bit more (such as whether or not they have social media such as a blog or Twitter), and in the end eliminate them as a possibility, or swallow my fear and pride and submit my proposal.

Conversations with Mini-Me

For the longest time I didn’t like me. I am silly and weird, and too often too smart for my own good. Growing up people teased me, sometimes mercilessly. I soon believed that being silly and weird were wrong, and in order to be loved and accepted, I needed to be different. I needed to be “normal.”

Whatever that is.

Only after I reached my 20s did I realize how much energy it took to be something I wasn’t. It left me mentally and spiritually exhausted. Not only that, but people didn’t accept me as much as I hoped they would.

Where did I go wrong? How can I be loved and accepted, and be the person God meant me to be?

So I went on a little journey, and I began to talk to the little girl inside me. The one untouched by pain, the one who believed in herself and everything around her. A little girl filled with an immeasurable hope and certainty that nothing could ever go wrong.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that’s the person God wanted me to be – in all her glorious silliness and weirdness. In all her hopefulness and innocence. Unscarred by time.

Now in the last half of my 40s, I’ve not only decided to embrace my weirdness and silliness, but the joy that comes from not acting like an adult all the time. It’s okay to be childlike. To run around giggling. To make funny faces at people.

After all, if children know anything, they know how to embrace joy, and to express it with no regard over how it may look to others around them. They look at the world around them, not with boredom or cynicism, but with wonder and awe.

That’s what my mini-me reminds me to do when I’m feeling not so good about myself, and the pressure of too many expectations I simply can’t meet overwhelms me. It’s okay to be sillly. It’s okay to be weird. After all, if everyone was “normal,” how boring life would be.

Converse with and embrace your own inner child, in all his or her glorious silliness and weirdness. Those conversations may also help lead you to the person God meant you to be.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5 NIV)

Watch Out for Creepy North Dakotans

In a writing group on Facebook, we discussed diversity within fiction, and as usual, some comments took a tangent. One person wrote (in part): “I think part of the problem is that some authors live in isolated race bubbles. I don’t live there. My world is diverse . . . I spent a summer in North Dakota one year and found it kinda creepy. Where were all the non-Norwegians? I didn’t see any non-whites for weeks. Creepy.”

I responded thusly: “As a North Dakotan, I agree the racial makeup is largely German/Norwegian. And for someone who grew up around more diversity, I can see how it would seem strange at first. Creepy, though? It almost sounds as though it’s intentional, as though anyone else isn’t welcome, when it’s far from true. In fact, it’s changing, however slowly. We have a growing Mexican, Nigerian, Liberian and Indian population. My church alone is testament of that. We have members of all the above listed members, and even host an all-Spanish speaking church two nights a week. Truth is, few people can handle our winters, and that’s what keeps them away. Germans and Norwegians originally settled here, and stayed.”

After some thought, I realized my comment was a bit too “knee-jerk.” After the beating North Dakotans took during the DAPL protests both in the national media and especially social media, I am over-sensitive when people say unflattering things about them. I take it personally.

But his comment spoke to a typical reaction, not of North Dakotans, per se, but how different cultures can make us uncomfortable at times. Someone, like the commenter above, who grew up around a more ethnically diverse area, suddenly surrounded by only German/Norwegians, could very well be a bit “creeped out.”

When I first moved up to North Dakota, we attended Community Days in a small town. It’s basically a big block party where the entire town participates during the American Independence Day holiday. Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, I, too, was surrounded by and grew up with people of other ethnic backgrounds.

During that Community Days event, I looked around, laughed and told my husband, “This here is a Rainbow Coalition nightmare.”

Was I creeped out? No, because I knew even then that cultures vary often by state as well as region. In the end, we’re all — not only Americans — but human. Regardless of color or background, we all want many of the same things, to be treated with consideration, empathy and respect. We have to let go of our discomfort in new surroundings, and really look at and attempt to find common ground with those who appear so different.

That opens the door to new understandings and possibly new friendships. If not, and those people look at us with closed-mindedness or treat us with outright hostility, we then, as Jesus said, “shake the dust off our feet and move on.”

All I ever ask of myself and others is to give people a chance, regardless of their ethnicity, culture or location. Perhaps then we’ll discover that people – North Dakotans and otherwise – aren’t so creepy after all.

The Self-Torture Continues . . .

Attempt number two in seeing my short story published.

This time I will have to wait three whole months before I hear anything back.

Interestingly, that’ll be around my birthday. Will I end up with a surprise birthday present, or perhaps a reason to quit celebrating my birthday should I receive bad news?

I wish I could say more about this, but, really, what else is there?

Should I apologize for writing such a short entry, or congratulate myself for succeeding in not wasting your precious time?

Either way, I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Word of advice, though. Go outside! Play! Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices! Avoid politics at all costs!

Your brain will thank you for keeping it sane.

You Are Not My Friend . . .

Jealousy. I wish you’d stop visiting unannounced. You saunter in, without even a knock on the door. You make yourself comfortable by sitting next to me on my couch, far too close. I can smell your rancid breath as you whisper your nasty thoughts into my ears.

The worst part is, I can’t place all the blame on you. I don’t kick you out the moment you walk through the door. I don’t move away when you sit next to me. I don’t cover your mouth, or cover my ears when you speak.

I listen, as much as I tell myself that I shouldn’t.

And your timing is always impeccable.

You only show up when I read about other people’s successes while I continue to flounder. No. It’s worse than that. I only dream of success, and don’t work enough to make it happen. Those people who succeed faster than me? They probably worked harder, and smarter than me. Therefore, do I really have the cause to complain? To moan and wallow in my frustration?

Or it could be God said, “It’s time” to them, when he’s asking me to wait a little longer. Do the reasons really matter? They shouldn’t, because God’s timing has never failed me, not once.

So I have decided, at least for this moment, to give jealousy the boot out the door. It’s not welcome in my home. I must instead use that energy to actually work toward my goals. How’s that for a novel idea?

As long as I continue to do that, success will come. Sure I may fail a few times along the way, but that comes with living life. We all fail more than we succeed. The singular difference between a failure and a success is the successful person never gives up no matter how many times he or she has failed to reach their goal.

I’m not so special that I deserve to never fail. Some will wait even longer than me.

And that’s life.

Allowing jealousy to whisper in my ear won’t change anything, except make me miserable and waste even more time.

Yay! I’m Rejected!

One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:

Dear Andra,

Thank you for submitting “Ashella’s Heart” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine.

I’m a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it’s a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I’ve read so far have been science fiction. I don’t want to waste time submitting to a magazine that’ll reject it out of hand because I didn’t get the genre right.

EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, “Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?”

I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*.

Twenty-Two Days

That’s the average response time to short stories submitted to a magazine that publishes fantasy, science fiction and horror. I’ve read three issues so far, and think my short story that won 2nd place in last year’s Writers Digest competition would make a good fit.

We’ll see.

In approximately 22 days.

The worst part about the whole process of submitting articles and short stories is hitting that awful “submit” button (or dropping that proposal or query letter into the mailbox). Once I do, there’s no turning back. No more chances to edit out any mistakes, make any other changes to the plot, grammar, setting, characters . . . nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It’s like sending a child away to school, or discovering it’s time he left the house to create a life of his own. My story is now out of my hands, out of my control. It’s my heart and my mind on display, and I can’t help but think, “Now I get to find out if the editors of this magazine thinks the story is good, or if it’s crap.”

Not submitting it is always easy, because in my dreams, my stories always find a place. They receive nothing but accolades.

But it’s not real, and reality can suck sometimes. I’m like most writers in that I often prefer my fantasies. In my fantasy worlds, I am in control. Submitting stories and articles for others to judge is purposefully relinquishing that control, and my opinions and biases are shown to either be spot on, or completely spot off.

It’s a terrifying thing to step out of my made-up world and take a chance that in reality, everything I created is nothing like I believed and hoped it was.

That said, in case my story is rejected by this magazine, it doesn’t make my story crap. It simply means they didn’t find it a good fit for them. There are other magazines out there, and in fact, I have another in mind (I went back and forth for a few days trying to decide which to try first. It boiled down to response time. The one I submitted to is a bit quicker). Like many others, neither magazine takes simultaneous submissions, so I have to submit it one at a time.

Time will tell.

I’ll keep you apprised.

My Child Is Brain Damaged

Regardless of what people think about Bill Cosby now, many of his routines back in the day were comedic gold.

I watched his routine on parenting a while back. At one point he said (paraphrased), “Children are brain damaged. They do the stupidest things, and can never tell you why.” For example, his son gave himself a reverse Mohawk with clippers. When Bill asked him why, his son said, “I don’t know!”

Yesterday, I purchased two tubes of toothpaste for my husband, and placed them on the sink so he would find them.

Later my son took his shower. Afterwards, he said, “I accidentally put holes in the toothpaste, but we can fix it with tape.”

Apparently, he decided to destroy the boxes the toothpaste came in by stabbing at them with a pen. As such, he not only destroyed the boxes, but poked five holes into one of them.

“What made you think that was a good idea?” I asked him.

“I don’t know!”

Yep, my child is like every other child past, present and future. He’s brain damaged.

Save Your Prayers

During the DAPL protests, I kept apprised reading articles posted by our local news agencies on Facebook. I quit reading the comments after only a few weeks, because they were so infuriating.

The ones that bothered me the most said, “I will pray for you.”

Now why, as a Christian, would that bother me? Aren’t we supposed to pray for each other, and welcome prayers on our behalf? Truth is, that phrase raises my hackles more often than it doesn’t. I couldn’t pin down why for the longest time, to the point I wondered if I should question my faith or lack thereof. If my faith was strong, there should be no reason prayers for me and to me should bother me.

A few weeks ago during Wednesday night church groups, I overheard a teacher for the teenage group say, “There’s a difference between praying for someone and praying at someone.”

A-ha.

Too often, when people say, “I will pray for you,” they make themselves the subject, and me the object. They make it about them – to attempt to show how righteous they are, and how unrighteous I am. It’s based on the assumption that I need, and want their prayers.

I also had to ask, did Jesus ever say, “I will pray for you,” especially during or after an argument with someone? I don’t recall a single instance.

There is another side to this coin, however. If I ask for prayers, then that phrase “I will pray for you,” is more than welcome. Also, if I didn’t ask for it, but people decide to pray for me without telling me, well, I can’t exactly stop that, can I? Not that I’d want to. As long as the people praying feel compelled to pray, and are sincere in their prayers (with humility, not self-righteousness), I have no problem with it.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, 5-6:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven … And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

I can’t stop anyone from praying, publicly or otherwise, humbly or otherwise. In the end, it’s not up to me to decide whose prayers are sincere. That’s between them and God. I do think, however, that when we decide to pray for someone, we need to be honest in our motives. Both in prayer, and every other means of expressing our faith, we should also do as Jesus did, and not make spectacles of ourselves.