Monday, May 11, 2015

Short Fiction "Still Life with Baby," Finds a Place after 21 Submissions.

I wrote the story in 2008 and immediately sent it out to “The New Quarterly” Back came a very nice rejection.

A nicely resonant title and story. The tensions are understated but you still feel that the stakes run high in this story. Written with assurance and restraint, it ends with a moment of decision and leaves the reader to play out the consequences. In this case, that’s a strength.

This rejection gave me confidence in the story. Maybe too much confidence, Over the next seven years I sent the story out exactly twenty times, and it was always rejected, sometimes with complimentary notes like the one above. My three writing groups liked it but, alas, no one else did, or not enough.

Meanwhile I kept sending it out. I did so because I thought it was a good story. In fact it was my favourite story. I hoped somewhere, some time, some one would “get it.”  And, at last, on my twenty-first attempt, someone did. 

Here is the note from Paul Carlucci, the judge for the NOWW fiction competition.

Loneliness has its layers. A military spouse in her basement apartment, snow building up against the windows, blocking out the day, and she looks forward to the sounds of the passing ploughs, their flashing lights, and the programs that start on TV in the afternoon, those little connections she gave up when she gave birth.

This bitter-sweet plight of motherhood she has in common with an Englishwoman upstairs, also a military wife, but a braggart, obnoxious, like her destructive twin boys, whose visits are more like invasions.

Still Life studies our increasingly nagging social selves, the compromises we make in the name of isolation, and the surprising exchanges of tenderness we find when we do.

The language is calm, but busy, and the setting is richly drawn, creating an ideal stage for the author to nudge her characters from universal to unique.

On May 7, many years after I wrote the story, “Still Life with Baby” took  first place in fiction in the NOWW contest.  I was overwhelmed.  Whelmed right over.  It will be published in the NOWW magazine.

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