This past week has been so crazy busy that I almost forgot to mention one small but significant launch of my own — I’m officially published! Huzzah!
This week, the Undercurrents anthology launched on all bookselling platforms. Inside are 23 terrific short stories from authors ranging from New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, and Jody Lynn Nye to first-time authors — including a story of my own, one I didn’t even expect to write.
The thing is, when I first started out on this crazy-ass journey of becoming a writer for realsies, I never even considered venturing into the short story market. In fact, when one fellow author asked me if I wrote short stories, I chuckled and said, shrugging apologetically, “Not really.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t think they were worth reading or writing — some of my favorite tales of all time have been short stories. (Frank Stockton’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?” still haunts my dreams.) It was just that I was so wrapped up in trying to get a sale-able novel ready for queries that I didn’t think I’d have the time to write anything else.
So when the anthology call for Undercurrents was announced later that weekend, I thought, cool beans, but I didn’t have any ideas that suited the theme. I didn’t have the time. I was out of practice writing short form. And, as I’d said, I didn’t really write short stories.
Wouldn’t you know it, but a couple of weeks later, the first line of a new story popped into my head, as well as a working title — “In the Garden of the Coral King.” Over the next few weeks, I slowly chiseled out a small story out of the nebulous fog of discovery writing, sent it out to a critique group for review, and painfully edited the word count back down to below the limit.
“Coral King” wound up being the first new short story I’d written in more than 10 years. I submitted it to the editor and held my breath. A few months later, I got the email — yes, my short story made the cut and would be included in the sea-monster-themed anthology. I was going to become a published short story author.
Guess the joke’s on me. I do write short stories.
I’m still a slow writer, but I no longer say I don’t really write short stories. I’ve written a few more since “Coral King,” and each one’s taught me a little bit more about how to improve my writing in my novels. Sure, writing them took time and attention away from my novel-length manuscripts, but inevitably when I went back to the novel, I went back with renewed confidence and energy that translated into better writing on the page. More writing, even if it went into a short story, meant more practice, and more practice meant improved mastery. It sounds so mundane, but it really is the secret to better writing.
So the next time you ask me a question and I respond, “Not really,” quirk an eyebrow and ask, “Oh, yeah?”
All proceeds from “Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath” goes toward funding the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship, which helps new writers learn the business of writing at the Superstars Writing Seminars.
Previous anthologies, which also raise funding for the scholarship, include:
- One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology
- A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology
- Dragon Writers
Photos are used courtesy of Lauren Lang at Jacobin Photography.