Wednesday, August 03, 2016

IWSG: My First Piece of Writing

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecuritiesIf you're a writer, join in!



This month's question:

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

In 1995, I was working in public relations for the Tennessee Arts Commission. One of my jobs was to promote an anthology of short stories by Tennessee writers. As I read a bunch of rambling nonsense about sweet tea and front porches, I decided I could write a better short story than some of these people. I was 24 and one of these:

Since I was 24, I had perspective on adolescence and not much else. My story was called The Gymnasium Memorial and it was a fictional version of an event that happened in high school. Several people died in car accidents my senior year, so they had everyone go to the gym where we did a memorial to those students.




I entered a contest I found on Writer's Digest because life in 1995 meant no Internet.



A couple of weeks later, I received a letter. (Because life in 1995 also meant no email.) It was basically this:



But I saw it as this:



I'd won the prize for "saddest story," which meant absolutely nothing, as I saw when I got my three free contributors' copies and paper certificate. It was a "book" of short stories that looked like it had been bound at Kinkos.



And there were only a dozen or so stories in it. I'm sure everyone in the book won an award for something...and we were probably the only ones who sent our stories in.




But it gave me the confidence I needed to write a book and send it to a publisher. I actually thought I'd get a call from an editor wanting to buy it. Instead I got this:



Only instead of a phone call, it was a rejection letter. And I'd get enough of those to paper my entire house by the time I got published. But it's all part of the journey, right?



What are you insecure about this month?

43 comments:

  1. Bound at Kinkos. That's really sad and pathetic. Do you still have copies?

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    1. Probably somewhere...I'd be scared to read it now. It was probably horrible!

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  2. Pre-internet publishing, I remember that! There are still publishers who want everything hard copy. It feels so old fashioned now :) It did take more effort to submit a story - I still debate with myself whether that was a good or a bad thing!

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    1. Someone asked the other day if any publishers still want manuscripts mailed...I said no, but it sounds like that isn't the case? My pass pages come in paper form, usually by UPS. Sometimes copyedits come that way, too. I think it just depends on whether the copyeditor prefers to work on paper vs. computer. I've found sometimes revisions are easier if you print it out and look at it on paper.

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  3. Ah, yes, I remember the days of self-addressed stamped envelopes, of picking up the mail and crossing fingers and holding breath in case it was an acceptance in that envelope....

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    1. I remember submitting to Harlequin in Canada--you had to buy an "international reply coupon" for the SASE because it was too hard to get Canadian postage in the U.S.

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  4. I can't remember what the very first thing I wrote was!

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  5. One good thing about that first 'published' piece, it got you to writing more. :)

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

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  6. HA! Oh, to be 24. I remember knowing everything. It was fabulous. Love your short story tale!

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    1. Exactly! We were know-it-alls at that age. Perspective shows us just how little we knew.

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  7. What a great story! What did we do before email and the internet? Love the Kinko's binding :-) Cheers - Ellen

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  8. I am so glad you were persistent with your writing. I love reading your work. I guess the phrase "You have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince" can translate to finding your editor! I love this throwback story.

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  9. Hey, it's that confidence booster that gets us out the door, eh? For me, that was my first two requests from agents in 2006, plus landing a REAL LIFE agent the same year. (I was SO not ready.) BUT, that step told me I had what it took. So, no matter how pitiful our first efforts, at least they made us get serious, eh?

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  10. Love your story. I can relate and still have many of those rejection letters to remind me never to give up. And look at you now. Winner.

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  11. Oh dang, if I printed off all my rejections, I think I could paper my house several times over. But that's the journey! And it's an interesting one to look back on for sure :)

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  12. Writing is tough. I wrote for a living while working. It was called law enforcement reports. Those reports often ended up in a court of law with me defending my reports on the witness stand. I've had enough with writing.

    I do applaud those that write well. It's and art. It also appears that it's a tough line of work.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  13. Every little bit helps! I still have a $5 bill from a story published in an online magazine. I keep it in my box of rejections to remind me that anything is possible;-)
    Gasp! Would you believe I used the same image this time as you did in your last post? I think I need more coffee.

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  14. excellent post. I was shocked at all of my rejections, held a pity party, and then got to work editing. It's a cruel world.

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  15. We should start a rejection wall paper line. Just sayin' It's amazing how different a decade or two will change your outlook on writing and life.

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  16. It's good that you channeled those sad events (your fellow students passing away) into a story. Those events always make for powerful stories. I still have all my rejection letters from when I had been querying agents and publishers:) You should be proud and pat yourself on the back everytime you release a new book. You are now published and you can truly say you worked hard to get where you are. Enjoy it. You are inspiring.

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  17. So far I'm doing okay. Great post. You had me snickering. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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  18. Great post, Stephanie. Maybe if you hadn't have experienced those times, you wouldn't be where you are today with your writing success. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. My first writing was songs and poems in elementary school. I tried to write a novel in 5th or 6th grade, but couldn't get past chapter one. :)

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  20. Live and learn...with age comes wisdom...usually...

    As always, a good post, Stephanie!

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  21. There was a photo 'contest' I once entered that was similar. I'm certain every picture was a winner, but they did send me the book with all the images and it was a well put together book, but many of the photos had dates on them. _-_

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  22. Oh, Stephanie, this was awesome!!! I loved your story. It's so funny how when we finish our first novel or short story we think we are "da bomb" but quickly learn that we're not. I was the same way when I finished my first novel. I thought for sure EVERY publisher would want to publish it, because let's face it, it was AWESOME. Lol. Looking back, I realize I had SO much to learn!

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  23. I loved this story! I thought I knew everything with my first book. I was sure if an agent or editor requested it,I'd soon be published. Yikes. Thanks for the laugh! I loved the quote too.

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  24. I'd vague memories of pre-internet rejection letters. Sort of glad they didn't take up my story. It wasn't ready for the world.

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  25. Pre-internet was not that bad, huge respect to the libraries. But I would not want to be around after the internet disappeared. That would be the true horror story. The internet age rocks. Well you tried until you got published Stephanie and that matters.

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  26. I love this. Your outlook is refreshing and strengthens me. Thank you. Yes, so true, as serious writers we all know that rejections are a part of the journey.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia

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  27. Ah, how things in publishing have changed. But you put yourself out there. At 24, I was too scared to sit down and try to write. (I didn't bite the bullet and try to write anything until I was 26.)

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  28. Hey, if you didn't have to pay them to print it, it was a true trophy- Kinkos or not. I;m glad it inspired you!

    Love the writing meme. It's so very true.

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  29. I am glad that entering that contest gave you the confidence to know you could be a writer. I was not expecting the book of short stories to look like that- I wonder what they look like today. Also fascinating to think about life before the internet because nowadays we have SO much information at our fingertips.

    I remember lots more debates about facts used to happen when someone would think of something they wanted to know or a fact they thought was true. :) So that comic made me crack up.

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  30. Great blog post! You are very creative. It is interesting how we all start out idealistic and thinking that our work is just the best. When reality sets in - under the form of rejection letters most likely - we sing a different song. But, we don't give up! :-) Good luck with your newest book series.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About

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  31. I remember when I thought I knew everything. It's common to feel that way at 24.

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  32. Ha, Stephanie, so many of us thought we could do great when in our twenties. Writing is the hardest game in town, but to me, the most fun. We just keep at it for very little return. I remember writing stories on a typewriter and using white out. Seems like ancient history now. Yay for the computer/internet! Long may they reign!

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  33. Great post Stephanie. There are times when we really do need a sense of humour in this profession. Good to see your persistence has paid off. :)

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  34. This is a fantastic story about first writing experience. I think we all have something similar, but I'm pretty sure mine was one of those "You Can Be a Writer" aptitude tests at the back of a TV Guide. As I recall, I took the test and was told I possessed talent "for my age." Tee-hee. In the end, I was too young for the writing institute. By the way, I love that comic about life before the internet.

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  35. I remember library books on publishing. They were my resources pre-internet.

    I could so relate to this post.

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  36. Wait, life existed before the internet, ;) Sometimes the smallest things gives us the confidence to accomplish bigger tasks! Great post! :)

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