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It’s a Tough World, Kid

October 10, 2014

When I first began my prison sentence, I was a completely lost soul. While I was in the county jail, I prayed and repented and studied scripture and I begged God to let me out. I promised I’d behave if he did, but shortly after the judge banged the gavel, I forgot all about promises and being good. My depression, my anger, my hatred intensified and much of it was directed inward. And as I’d often done before going to prison, I focused on destroying myself. For the the last seven years, I’ve done all I can to destroy myself, even when I decided I didn’t want to destroy myself anymore. I lashed out at people that I thought deserved it and many who didn’t. I fought other inmates, I fought the staff, and I fought myself. I still do sometimes. Honestly, I’m nowhere near “healed,” but I’ve come to a realization and am beginning to heal. One stitch at a time.

I served three years in the SHU (solitary) for battery with serious bodily injury and two other less serious batteries,Skull-feather all committed within my first six months in prison. During this time, I wrote my first story, and about two days later, I wrote another story called “The Cursed Manuscript.” I also began regularly corresponding with my grandmother, who had been a magazine editor before she retired. I told her that I wanted to be a famous writer like Stephen King. I was still trying to decide what genre I’d write. I remember staying up all night in my dimly lit cell, as I wrote for three days straight, and I was amazed to find that this second story on paper was far different than the story I’d originally dreamed up in my mind. The title went form “The Little Blue Ball” to the “The Cursed Manuscript.” I remember I’d gotten the idea when I saw a little blue handball in the field outside my cell window and couldn’t decide how it’d gotten there. I imagined a little blue ball bouncing and rolling into peoples lives from seemingly nowhere and causing disasters: car wrecks, dead pets, broken bones. None of this original concept ended up in the final story. I doubt I’ll ever write “The Little Blue Ball.”

My first story was a vampire story called “The Diary of Cassiopeia.” I found a magazine that published vampire stories and wrote my grandma full of excitement. “This could be the one that makes me, and it’s only my first story!” She wrote back, thrilled by my enthusiasm but warned me, “The writing/art business is notoriously difficult to break into. You may be a great artist, but sometimes great artists never manage to break into the business.” She submitted the story for me, and it was turned down. I was bummed at the time, but I can laugh about it now. Now I’ve been turned down many times.

My second story, “The Cursed Manuscript” was also declined, but the editor I submitted it to was kind enough to give me some great feedback. I followed his advice and sent the story to an on-line magazine. The story was accepted and set to appear within a couple of weeks. It was also in the running to appear in their yearly anthology. Unfortunately, during that next week, the magazine ran out of funding and the editor left. E-mails, calls, letters all went unanswered, and my story did not appear either on-line or in an anthology.

Since that acceptance letter, I’ve received well over 100 rejection slips and not one acceptance. Oh, how I yearn for that sweet joy to be once more in my hands. That little piece of paper that confirms my title of author, that tells me I wrote something that other people want to read. That allows me to say, “I’m a writer,” instead of “I want to be or am trying to be a writer.”

Grandma was right. The business is difficult to break into. The only advice that I have for anyone who endeavors to be a writer is study and learn your craft. Keep writing and sending out those manuscripts and keep tossing those rejections into the trash until you get that acceptance. This is what I intend to do. The business may be difficult to break into, but it is not impossible.

I would be happy for any of you reading this to share some of your writing experiences here. How’d you develop the idea for your first poem/story? Did you think it as the one? Was it really any good? (Note: My first needs a lot of work before i would ever submit it again.) How many declines do you estimate you’ve received? How many acceptances? How’d it feel to be accepted? Have you done any self-publishing? Do you have any advice for your fellow writers?

 

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From → Art, BLOG

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