The time has come, everyone. It is with pride, and joy, and a teeny tiny prickle of inadequacy (because 2017 was such a good year for short fiction) that I present my contender for this year’s award season:
- A Slumbering Storm (5.700 words, Strange Horizons)
In this story, a young woman checks herself into a charming but dilapidated hotel, hoping the miraculous sleep cure offered by the staff will help her overcome a severe depressive episode. It’s eligible for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, but it’s already won the “Floweriest Writing” category in my heart. (Putting these words together was the most fun I’ve ever had at my desk. No contest.)
Thank you all who read it, thank you all who reviewed it, and I’ll meet you back here in a year. Happy nominating!
& now, an afterword
I remember I got my acceptance for this story on April 7. To say I was excited would be an understatement–I was euphoric. For the next three months, until the story ran in July, I had a newfound spring in my step but never told anyone why. I’d had sales fall through before, and it felt right to just cherish the achievement on my own.
Acceptances feel fantastic. Acceptances fill the creative well, so to speak, just like positive reviews and a friend’s ALL CAPS encouragement when you’re about to submit a story for the first time. Except A Slumbering Storm didn’t make it when I first sent it out. It didn’t make it the first time (August 2016, form rejection), nor the second (September 2016, form rejection), nor the third (October 2016, personal rejection).
I used to believe if a story got three rejections, it was likely broken beyond repair. I should just trash it and write something else, but I loved this tacky hotel too much to let it go. Besides, did a personal rejection really count as a rejection? I was determined to think of it as bonus professional feedback. (This, I think, changed my whole stance on the submission process. It’s nobody’s job to hold out a hand when I fail to make the cut, yet some editors will go out of their way to offer constructive feedback. They’re superhuman. I bow to them.)
Alas, the truth is I still felt overwhelmed, so I went to a freelance editor for help. Kat Howard took my story apart with the utmost kindness (believe it or not, this is not a pun on the title of her novel, An Unkindness of Magicians), and three emails later we’d come up with a solution I would have taken rounds and rounds of revision to find on my own.
The fourth submission didn’t make it, either (February 2017, personal rejection). I made further changes, because I’d come too far to give up so soon–and the fifth submission turned into an acceptance. I’d made it! Go figure.
It sounds meaningless, maybe even condescending, but the lesson to be learned here is success is a lot like the lottery, in that it’s got a number and I should brute-force my way to it. Improve a comma here, a figure of speech there, and send the story back out. Rewrite the entire thing, if I must. I’m still learning, so there’s no harm in experimenting until I get it right.
It’ll work out, in the end.
& now, some stats
In 2017, I sent out 12 submissions (2 for A Slumbering Storm, 1 for a flash piece, 6 for a personal favorite I keep rewriting, and 3 for a horror story) to 11 markets. All but one were rejections, which brings my acceptance rate to a respectable 8.3%. Five of those rejections were personal, and I used much of that feedback to rewrite bits and pieces of each story. The goal for 2018 is to beat these numbers. En garde!