Gratitude, Submitting, Grace Paley & What I've Been Up To

This past week I sent out a short story to 13 journals and two short story contests. It feels like a gigantic accomplishment in itself. For various reasons, it has been a “quiet” couple of years for me as a writer. At one point, I felt I’d never write a short story again. I felt that removed from my creative life. So regardless of what happens with this new story, I feel a renewed sense of hope and enormous gratitude for having this new story in my hands, a story I’ve worked hard on and like a lot.

And I read a really smart (and timely, for me) article about submitting one’s work by Joseph Scapellato at the Gulf Coast blog. I loved all of it, particularly this:

“Whatever you do, don’t wait until you feel 100% certain that your strongest, biggest, or sharpest work is 100% ready. Instead, wait until you are 75% certain that your strongest, biggest, or sharpest work is as ready as it can be at this point in your life as a writer, right now, today.”

That just makes so much sense. The rest of the article is here.

Grace PaleyI read an amazing interview at the Paris Review with Grace Paley here: Grace Paley awesomeness.

She said this and it is exactly how I feel, too: “The sound of the story comes first.”

And she said this about what she was doing before she was a published writer, valuing that time and seeing how it led her to writing her stories:

“I was working part time. I was hanging out a lot. I was kind of lazy. I had my kids when I was about twenty-six, twenty-seven. I took them to the park in the afternoons. Thank God I was lazy enough to spend all that time in Washington Square Park. I say lazy but of course it was kind of exhausting running after two babies. Still, looking back I see the pleasure of it. That’s when I began to know women very well—as co-workers, really. I had a part-time job as a typist up at Columbia. In fact, when I began to write stories, I typed some up there, and some in the PTA office of P.S. 41 on Eleventh Street. If I hadn’t spent that time in the playground, I wouldn’t have written a lot of those stories. That’s pretty much how I lived. And then we had our normal family life—struggles and hard times. That takes up a lot of time, hard times. Uses up whole days.”

I read this perfect quote from Flaubert: “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.”

I read all the tweets from people who attended AWP and felt nearly equal parts despair and relief. I recognized the fact that my hurting hip would not survive one hour at the book fair let alone four days walking around the conference and snowy Boston. I’ll be in better shape for Seattle.

I judged a flash fiction contest for Flash Fiction Chronicles. I wrote a book review for Necessary Fiction. I wrote a tiny craft article for the beautiful Lascaux Review. I was interviewed. I read beautiful fiction that inspired me and an amazingly well-written essay on growing up in the Cold War years by Susan Detweiler in the current Missouri Review.

It is already March, but I have a sense of excitement and hope around 2013. I can’t even really say why, but it feels so good and I am grateful.

11 thoughts on “Gratitude, Submitting, Grace Paley & What I've Been Up To

  1. This was a wonderful posting, and came at a good time for me. Thanks for sharing some of your life’s lessons, Kathy, and for the terrific Grace Paley interview. I have saved old Paris Reviews for the interviews that are just intense. Good luck with the submits, I’m sure you’ll have no problem!

  2. “That takes up a lot of time, hard times. Uses up whole days” Yes, indeed. I’m happy you’ve found this place, Kathy. All of those other days led to this. See you in Seattle. 🙂

  3. Kathy, you are a kindred spirit and I’m glad you found me in the Twittosphere. This post encourages me in the crannies most in need of warmth and light, so thank you for writing it. Also, I just finished the Detweiler essay before bed last night (was that not one of the most stunning, gorgeous, heartrending works you’ve read in months?). Her essay haunted me all day with “equal parts despair and relief” in that I, too, am the mother of a son with Aspergers.

      • Wrong essay, don’t I feel silly. The one you reference by Detweiler I read on the plane to Boston for AWP, and it was marvelous. Obviously the one by Terry Ann Thaxton in TMR Spring ’13 issue consumed me.

  4. Best of luck with your submission, Kathy! That’s a wise decision to keep submitting. If you recognize that you have to do it in order to stay connected to your creative life, then you must do it no matter what! The alternative–creative suicide–is a very slow and painful death. That’s a lesson I’ve learned too.

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