“Gray Noise” to be published

1383990_1384447291791586_1874471306_nI’m pleased to announce that The Massachusetts Review is going to publish my short story, “Gray Noise.” They notified me of their interest this past Tuesday (May 26th) and sent me the contract to sign the following day. My story will appear in their Fall issue (available in September). From their website:

…The Massachusetts Review is one of the nation’s leading literary magazines, distinctive in joining the highest level of artistic concern with pressing public issues. As The New York Times observed, “It is amazing that so much significant writing on race and culture appears in one magazine.”  MR was named one of the top ten literary journals in 2008 by the Boston Globe.

It’s hard to put into words how happy I am about this. Before I became a writer, if someone had told me they’d gotten their story published by a literary journal, I would’ve been happy for them–but I wouldn’t have fully understood what that process of getting published entailed.

Writing is such a solitary activity. You sit at your desk and write. There are no audiences or coaches or teammates. Just you. You write down what comes to your mind, hoping you can keep the ideas coming and the prose flowing when you know that you don’t know how the process started and you definitely don’t know how to keep it going. You just tell yourself not to quit. Not to quit before you’re done.

After hours and days and weeks, something tells you your first draft is done. You take a break and celebrate in some small way.

Then, you’re back at it.

Revising. Polishing. Reading the story out loud to better sense how the words sound together, how the sentences work together.

And, throughout this process, there’s one constant: Doubt. You constantly doubt if what you’re writing is not only worth writing, but worth reading. You doubt if that word is the right one. You doubt if that sentence rings clearly, and if the story rings true. Most of all, you doubt if anyone who doesn’t have to say your story is good will ever say they like it. Will ever say they’ll publish it.

Then, you send your story out to literary journals. You’ve talked to journal editors, you’ve read the blogs. These journals receive literally thousands of submissions, and they only need a handful of stories. Some editors talk about how they read only the first three pages before they decide to accept or reject the story. Some say they read only the first page or first paragraph. I know of one who says he reads until he gets to a word or sentence that he doesn’t like. Then, he stops reading and the story is rejected.

How long does all this take? It varies. Sending out your story and waiting for a reply may take weeks, months, and even years. You send your story to a journal and wait for six months, just to be told that they aren’t interested in your story. You even learn to categorize your rejections. “This journal sent me a standard rejection they send to everyone. But this journal said nice things about my story. They still rejected it, but at least they saw something worthwhile in it.”

Editors even talk about how they reject excellent stories that just don’t fit in with the issue they’re putting together at the time.

And then, if all the planets align just right (and you know how much control you have over the movement of the planets), you look down at your computer one day, see a reply from a literary journal, expect to see the word “sorry” again, but, instead, see “congratulations.”

Okay, am I being dramatic? I hope not. I don’t mean to make this seem like the most difficult thing a person has to do in this life. And it’s most certainly a first world problem.

I’m only trying to get across a little of what it’s like to write your story, send it out into the world, and wait. My hope is that if I can convey, even partially, what the process is like, then I’ll also be communicating, even if only partially, how completely wonderful it is to finally get that acceptance note from an editor.

It’s hard to put into words.


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