On the rare occasions when I discuss my writing with new acquaintances, one of the questions they inevitably end up asking me is “So have you published anything yet?” To which I have always been obliged to answer with an embarrassed shuffling of my feet and an apologetic “Well no…” Because nothing’s ready, because I don’t know who to contact, because I’m scared…
Of course, I’ve dreamed of getting published (what writer hasn’t?!). I’ve flirted with the idea of entering a writing competition or submitting a story to a magazine. But apart from the fear of actually sending my work out into the cold, harsh world, two considerations have always held me back:
1) I don’t write short stories. I don’t know how. Except for Maupassant and Conan Doyle, I’ve never even enjoyed reading short stories. And when you consider that what most competitions and magazines require is short fiction, it is a handicap.
2) I’m French but for some reason I’m sure Freud would have a field day with, I have always felt the need to write in English. However, most US or UK competitions require contestants to be citizens, or at least residents, of the country in question. Those that are open to a wider public somehow always tend to bypass France in favour of India, Australia, or Singapore. Though I did come across one the other day that accepted submissions coming from Germany! So what am I supposed to do? Move back to the US?
These are obstacles – but I have decided that they are not insurmountable. Nor are they even grave enough to continue hiding behind. The Lobster Quadrille Syndrome (also known as “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?”) I have been suffering from has therefore given way to a new determination to get out there and actually do something. Susan Nye, on Live to Write – Write to Live, is partly to thank for this: her bracing pep talk, entitled “Just Do It!”, did much to stiffen my resolve.
I have spent the past few days doing research on various literary magazines and going through my work in search of something suitable. And, at long last, I am taking the big plunge. I am not deluded enough to think that such prestigious publications as The New Yorker or The Paris Review would even consider my work, but there are plenty of other serious, good-quality magazines out there, and I’m hoping the three I’ve lit upon (two in the UK and one across the Atlantic) will be kind enough to send back some helpful critique.
This is a time of new beginnings: a new academic year is starting, I’m moving house, I’ll be reading my first paper in London in a few weeks, and so it seems fitting that my writing should take a new turning too: as of this moment, my piece is printed out, three large white envelopes, already addressed, lie on my desk, and to the question “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?” my answer is now a resounding “YES!”
© Florence Berlioz 2011