Lucky Thirteen

“Persistence wasn’t an end game. It was the name of the road.” –Kameron Hurley

 

I started submitting my fiction seriously in 1999. The first markets I hit included Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy, Realms of Fantasy, The Silver Web, Weird Tales, Pulp Eternity, Asimov’s, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The last one was something of a holy grail (and remains so today). It was a publication I had always been aware of, spending many a lunch hour in the library with a worn copy spread before me. One of my teachers sold a story to them and I remember being utterly thrilled at the idea that I knew someone who got into their pages.

And I thought hey, I write, so…

#

I have records about my fiction submissions going back to the beginning. Doorknob! MZB wrote on one of them when I was trying to be too clever about concealing said doorknob. That single word taught me so much about writing.

jja-first

“…I’m going to pass on this one…”

To this day I still print out and file my rejections. I wondered to Beth just the other day WHY I keep doing such an insane thing, because seriously why? Why keep such records for fifteen years? It’s a lot of paper, it’s a lot of ink. A lot of folders. A lot of NO to be reminded of every time I look at them.

#

As near as I can tell, taking into account both F&SF and Lightspeed, editors John Joseph Adams and Gordon Van Gelder have probably read more of my fiction than any other two people on the planet. F&SF got my earliest science fiction efforts and I found GVG’s rejections strangely heartening. (I still do.)

When JJA worked as an editorial assistant at F&SF, I plagued him with approximately thirty stories, so sayeth my records. I have the very first one he sent me (that story finally sold in 2013, to a pro market that did not exist in 2001). I kept writing, I kept submitting, I kept getting rejections. And hopefully, I kept learning with each story. Often, the rejections were the usual tiered forms, but sometimes there was something extra, something that gave me hope. And so I kept on.

#

I said to Beth last year “I’m never going to sell an original story to that editor, never.”

The editor in question was John Joseph Adams. Thirty-something stories over thirteen years, it just wasn’t going to happen. We had worked together on Shimmer, we had conspired behind the scenes when it came to a gift for his wife, but we were just never going to connect when it came to what I was writing and what he was publishing. And even though I thought that, and believed it —

I believed it so much it made me sick and sad and for a few days all I wanted to do was roll around inside a greasy KFC bucket before moving onto Ben & Jerry’s pints because what was I doing, and maybe it shouldn’t have mattered, one market, one editor, but it did matter to that girl in the library with her tattered magazine —

I didn’t stop submitting. I should have, right?

Well, I reasoned like Spock, response times were quick — sometimes, it felt like you got rejected before you even submitted, so there really wasn’t anything to lose by continuing.

Thirty stories.

Thirteen years.

#

The fierce Kameron Hurley recently wrote about persistence (on both her blog, and as a guest on Chuck Wendig’s). How do you know when to give up? Why do we keep going? Why do we throw so much of ourselves out there and hope that someone else will see, will know, will understand?

In my email last night, there came a response from Lightspeed, from John Joseph Adams, and it didn’t say thank you but no, it said thank you and yes, yes, yes, and also yes. And yes.

Thirteen years.

That means I can stop, right?

No freaking way.

7 thoughts on “Lucky Thirteen

  1. Michael Griffin

    I love this! And it’s true, if you persist past the point where you’ve encountered so many rejections it seems that’s all you will ever get, eventually you’ll receive a wonderful surprise.

  2. Richard Thomas

    First of all, congratulations. That’s one hell of a breakthrough. And you are correct, the answer is NEVER. I finally broke into Cemetery Dance this year and it’s a dream come true. Way to go.

  3. Don M

    Don’t give up on Gordon van Gelder. He’s a good guy and a rabid SF fan who just has to put up with a lot of crap. He knows good stuff when he sees it; it really might be that your sub was good but not the right thing at the time.

    Back when I ran Would That It Were, I had the chance to review (for cover comments) a pre-pub MS for a book he edited. It was nice to see the “real person” side of the man.

    By the way, I meant to mention to you: WTIW was recognized by SFWA ex post facto as a professional market, so anything you had published there “counts.”

    Keep at it!