(image via Jason Drury on Flickr)
A few years ago, I wrote a story that featured two point of views sort of moshed into one piece of flash. I sent it to my professors, who suggested I rewrite it from a single point of view. My advisor said his instinct said it should be from the female's.
I rewrote that piece, sent it to another teacher who declared it a perfect little story and line-edited it, and then I sent it off to a round of online publications known for taking flash fiction, including PANK, which I loved. The story was rejected from each place quickly. I shelved the story for a few months, then went back to it. At that point in time, I thought: maybe it should be written from the man's point of view. So I shifted the point of view, but largely left most of it tonally the same. I sent it off again. Rejected again.
I stayed away from the story for another few months, then in prep for my upcoming chapbook, I revised the piece again. I was asked to take it out of my chapbook.
Six months later, I looked at it again, for a sci-fi anthology. This time I decided to do a deep revision. I got in, changed the tone, kept the point of view, but worked at it until I got a tone that stuck with me, a creepy, strange tone. I submitted it to the anthology. It was rejected.
At this point, years had gone by. What had started as this tiny little piece I'd penned in a quick afternoon was clearly not good enough for anything. Weary, I sent it out to a small selection of maybe four magazines. I figured I would try a final time, and if it was rejected, as I expected it to be, I would give up. I would shelve the piece. I would just accept that it was no good.
One by one, rejections rolled in. As the little bit magazines rejected the piece, I thought, Wow, even that little new journal won't take it. It must be no good.
Then it was only PANK, where I had sent it in a second time, mentioning in my cover letter that I had sent in a very different version of this story years ago, and hoping that was okay. It was a why-the-hell-not moment for me.
And then they accepted it.
I was elated.
And so the moral of the lesson is, don't give up. You never know.
On the genesis of this story, "Altar":
I was sitting in Starbucks trying to work on a piece that was giving me a lot of trouble. I looked up and saw a man that looked like an older, more twisted version of a man I had recently ended things with (it had not ended that well). The man stood on line for his coffee but he would not stop staring at me. It unnerved me. I thought to myself, jokingly, "What if that is X come back to visit me from the future?"
And so the story was born.
Many thanks to Roxane Gay and the staff at PANK for giving this little story I almost gave up on, a home. It is truly one of my favorite magazines.
And an audio link will be up soon!