Will I, Won’t I?

     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

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About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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14 Responses to Will I, Won’t I?

  1. Anbolyn says:

    I wish you all the best! I’ve never read your fiction, but I think your blog posts are amazing and I’m sure you’ll be successful in your goal to get published!

  2. susannye says:

    Florence – I am honored. I’ve been on cloud nine since last night. I did my first reading – my first short story was published in an anthology of New Hampshire writers. With your kind words, I may never come down. All the best luck to you…Susan

  3. Darlon Lerboiz says:

    It’s about time…!

  4. limr says:

    (Funnily enough, I’ve just recently put up a little blackboard in my office to write myself little notes on. The current message is, “Less contemplation! More action!” 🙂 )

    Good for you! I entered a short story into a contest about a year ago and it was a somewhat disappointing experience, most likely because I didn’t do the research that you did. This seemed highlighted when I asked for a critique and received a vague, everyone-gets-a-trophy pat on the back (“This was a really interesting story!” was the gist of it.) AND, part of the ‘technical aspects of the writing’ section was wrong. The reviewer wrote that there were two places where I “fell into the passive voice.” (Let’s not even get into the fact that the passive voice is not incorrect and can be used to create an effect or avoid mangling up a sentence…like I just did there 😉 ). The two examples of this apparently were when I wrote “was just thinking” and “was coming”. Yes, you’re correct: these are examples of the ACTIVE past progressive tense, not of passive voice.

    I’m going to be more careful next time. Plus, I think I’ll focus on essay contests or submissions, as I think fiction is not my strength.

    It sure will be exciting for you to drop those envelopes into the mailbox, eh? 🙂

    • Oh dear – talk about a disappointing critique! I know they’re not teachers, but you do expect better from a reviewer. If you’re going to criticize other people’s work, at least make sure you’re above criticism yourself! Sigh.
      I think essay contests could be really interesting – good luck!
      As for my exciting dropping-envelopes-into-the-mailbox moment, I’ve stalled for the silliest of reasons: it seems that French post offices no longer deliver international reply coupons! To the questions “When will you be getting more?” and “Do you know where I can find some in the meantime?”all the guy at the desk could do was shake his head, looking lost, and reply “I’m sorry, I don’t know.” I nearly slapped him.

  5. This is so exciting!! What happened???

    ‘If you’re going to criticize other people’s work, at least make sure you’re above criticism yourself!’

    I don’t think *anyone* can be above criticism! – let’s just say they need to know what they’re talking about when they offer an opinion. ( I can see why people use these smiley picture things now – but I don’t know how.)

    • I’ve been submitting my story at irregular intervals for two years now and so far have been rejected by four magazines and am still awaiting an answer from the fifth. I’ve decided to keep trying but not to set too much store by any possible answers. If and when someone decides they want my story, I will be over the moon; in the meantime, I’m concentrating on finishing the novel (which is progressing nicely!).

      • Have you tried sending a different story??

        What was the feedback – was it useful?

        Good news about the novel.

        • No feedback whatsoever, unfortunately. The nicest rejection email I got was signed for once and the person who wrote it seemed human, which made a nice change, but all they said was that the story didn’t suit their requirements at that time. I don’t have any other short stories on hand – it’s the only one I’ve ever felt compelled to write. But it’s not experimental or innovative, so I suppose it’s of less interest to people looking for what they call “exciting new voices”.

          • Although they must get an awful lot of entrants, the whole point for most people is to get professional feedback, so that sort of response seems pretty lazy to me.

            I don’t know if you read that French author’s blog – I seem to recall her agent couldn’t get her a deal with her first book; but when they dropped it and moved on to promoting another one there was a scrimmage to be the one to publish it.

            So it could well be that particular story, if you’ve only got the one.

          • Yes I did go over and read that blog post, which was very interesting (and confirmed that I have no desire to be published in France!). Perhaps you are right about the story – that’s why I’m not taking it personally 😉

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