I wrote my first short story almost eight years ago, when I took my first creative writing course under Bob Earleywine at WashU. On the bright side, I met some fantastic aspiring writers and we learned how to give and receive critique. On the not-so-bright side, I learned that writing fiction is hard — no matter how much you’ve read — and I had a lot to learn. I kept at it with the short stories, writing and revising several others.
Short Fiction Stumbles
My submissions to speculative fiction magazines were another eye opener. In the 2008-2010 period, the market for short fiction was hurting. Especially the print publications. Realms of Fantasy closed and reopened and closed. Baen’s Universe and Black Gate stopped publishing fiction. My stories sometimes garnered a personalized editor response. This was promising, but also agonizing. It seemed like I was so close.
At some point I started writing longer fiction. With my third novel (the first queried), I even landed my fantastic literary agent. But I kept writing the short stuff, too. I no longer needed the short fiction credit for my query letter — my experience in Pitch Wars casts doubt on whether or not that matters anyway — but I still found the challenge irresistible. Also, the rise digital publishing had brought about some promising new markets.
My 7th short story marked my first foray into short science fiction. I named it “Going Viral” and I felt it was my best yet. The story’s about a pair of researchers who stumble upon the universal cure for cancer, the fame it brings them, and bittersweet cost of victory. I had a lot of fun writing this one — it drew on my experience as a genetics researcher, showcased a little hard science, and had a twist at the end. I workshopped it with some of my CPs (and through critters.org).
When I thought it was ready, I began submitting. To my great dismay, this story also drew rejections. It’s hard to describe the disappointment of writing something that you think is your best, and having it turned down. Via form rejection. Ouch.
The Anthology Call
But then I saw an open call for an anthology from Third Flatiron Publishing, with the theme “The Time It Happened.” They put out themed anthologies on a regular basis, and though the company is small, they’ve done some fantastic publications. For this one, they wanted “world-altering events.” Discovering the cure for cancer seemed like a perfect fit. I submitted and (as usual) held my breath.
That’s the thing about me writing short stories: even after 120+ rejections, I still get excited about each submission. I still daydream about getting in. Admittedly, this isn’t rational. It’s not what a scientist should do.
Fifty-five days later, an e-mail came that broke the trend, that defied expectations. The editor of Third Flatiron Publishing accepted “Going Viral” for the Spring 2015 anthology. Look for it on March 1 in digital form, with print to follow.
I would never have made it this far if it weren’t for the support of other writers: my WashU writing group, my fellow Critters, and the ever-helpful Codexians. I dedicate this one, my first fiction sale, to all of you.
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