That Short Autobiographical Writing Post

Because I love talking about myself (don’t we all?) my first post in response to the request that I write a bit about my writing became astonishingly long. So here is the short version:

(Yes, this is the short version. Don’t laugh.)

I started writing since, according to my mom, before I could read. I’d literally dictate books to her. The earliest were my own “I, Spy” book, another…er…entry in the “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?” series called “Blue Bear”, and a version of “The Gingerbread Man”.

I really decided I wanted to actually be a serious writer when I read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best and most important things I ever did. I was amazed at how long the book was. It was the first book I EVER could not read in a single sitting; up until that point I didn’t even realize people wrote books that long.

And the story! I was captivated. The twist ending of the book absolutely stunned me. I’d read Hardy Boys mysteries before but a book had never caught me totally off guard like that. I was hooked.

I got books 2 through 4 for Christmas that year. Somehow I missed the release of book 5 (don’t ask me how), but I went to a launch party for book 6. Book 7 was sent to my house directly, and arrived the day of publication.

My first attempt at a “long” book was a Harry Potter ripoff. I remember nothing about it except that cats took the place of owls.

So fantasy I liked, as well as mysteries. Sci-fi I’d never considered, with the notable exception of “A Wrinkle in Time”, and its sequels, since I thought it was a fantasy when I picked it up. To this day “A Wrinkle in Time” is one of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever read. Only two stories so far have lived up to its greatness  (“Awake in the Night” and the original “Ender’s Game” novella).

The first experience I got with the publishing industry was when at the age of 13 a story and poem I wrote won a teen writing contest. The prize was five free books, which I didn’t see for somewhere between three and five years (to their credit, they did arrive). In retrospect both the story and poem are quite bad.

I wrote a fair amount during my teen years. Most bad or unfinished, but some I’m proud of. One story, “In the Land of the Blind…”, was rejected by nine publishers, a fact I’m proud of, since that means I believed in it enough to submit it to nine publishers. In fact, the story of “In the Land” has a happy ending. I eventually submitted the story to Jason Rennie, who to my delight apparently saw in it what I saw in it and accepted the story. So one day you’ll see it in an upcoming issue of the Journal (specific number still unknown).

No matter what happens after this I will always consider my first big break to be with the Sci Phi Journal. I had submitted to Jason Rennie, the editor, my short stories “A Quadrillion Occupied Planets” and “Take Up Your Cross”. I didn’t expect anything because when you submit something you never expect it to get published. This has nothing to do with humility and everything to do with percentages. If you compare rejections to acceptances, percentage-wise, the number of acceptances is vanishingly small. The publishing industry is extraordinarily harsh. Michael Flynn – Michael Flynn!- A MULTIPLE Hugo-nominated author who has been in the industry, publishing continuously, for years – just had a story rejected. When I say harsh, I mean REALLY harsh.

So when BOTH of my short stories were accepted – and one of them on its first submission! – you really need to understand what that felt like. It was less “hitting the lottery” and more “finding a unicorn”.

One of the most gratifying moments of my writing life was, not receiving the acceptance e-mail, but rather the e-mail before that from Jason telling me that he loved (!!!) “Take Up Your Cross” and was just checking the theology of it over with a friend before he got back to me. Interestingly enough, his friend panned the story, but luckily for me Jason still decided to pay me for it.

Whenever I wonder if it’s concerning that to date only one editor has liked me enough to publish me I look at my paypal account and remember that “Take Up Your Cross” got me 250 dollars. So no, I don’t find it concerning.

My writing history is short after this. “The Philosophy of Serenity” was published in issue 5 of the journal, but was actually first published for free on this blog, in an altered form, about a year earlier under the title “Serenity: A Philosophical Review”. I liked how it came out, but it got few comments. Jason mentioned in the Sci Phi group discussions that he needed some more articles, so I cleaned it up and sent it in, and here I am.

This is too long already; my writing process will come in a later post.

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2 Responses to That Short Autobiographical Writing Post

  1. Ilíon says:

    First, let me point out that I am *not* a writer.

    Myself, I was a junior Tolkien as a child — inventing peoples and histories — decades before I had ever heard of Tolkien.

  2. Thanks for posting this.

    I too ‘cut my teeth’ on fantasy and didn’t touch science fiction for a while after. I’m close in age to you, so I’m thinking it might be particular to our generation.

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