Right now, as we speak, the first (and so far, ONLY) story I’ve ever written is in bookstores. In an actual book. It’s a little hard to believe.
Since I’ve already received my ten author’s copies, I am giving one away here – and all you have to do, to enter the drawing, is leave a comment at the bottom of this post!
Here’s the story behind the story. (And here’s the cover of the book.)
Last June, as I was fiddling around with ideas to start up this blog, a friend asked me for the email information for a story contest – the winners would attend a prestigious Writer’s Workshop in New York.
This was on a Thursday. The submission deadline was that Sunday. I hadn’t thought about submitting anything myself because I had only started writing the previous Fall, and the only things I’d written so far were: three essays that I’d posted on Facebook, part of a fictional short story, a handful of poems (mostly about my boys), and a couple of posts to use on my future blog.
I knew I had a long way to go, so I was planning to “practice” writing for a year or so before trying to submit my work anywhere. And then only if I thought it was good enough.
But after I gave my friend the information, I thought (in an uncharacteristic burst of pluckiness) Well, why not write something yourself? And on Friday, I sketched out a story.
The next day, my husband took our boys fishing and I started writing. As a newbie writer, the biggest puzzler for me was: How on earth do you know what to put in and what to leave out? There are, after all, at least a quarter of a million words in the English language.
It’s no wonder so many writers are a little nutty. That’s too many options.
So I wrote and rambled, and rambled and wrote, and I didn’t even realize I’d worked clear through lunch until I started feeling a little woozy, at which point I ate some peanut butter on toast, and kept right on going.
Writing non-stop for hours was simply more fun than a human being should have. I would do it every day, if I could.
By that evening I had my 2000 words. I had not, obviously, had enough time to edit the story properly. I knew it was a little bloated, but I sent it off, with a rather long-winded cover letter, wherein I ran on for an entire page about – well, about how I had no writing experience.
I never heard back from the Writer’s Workshop. (I’ll take “Things That Surprise No One” for $500, Alex.)
But a publisher friend had told me I should try submitting to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and when I’d looked at their website, I saw that their next book was for “New Moms.”
And it so happened that the story I’d just written was about how, during 17 years of marriage and through several miscarriages, I’d fretted over whether I could ever even be a good mother, since I had no idea what a good mother looked like – my own mom had been mentally ill and abusive. I wrote about my internal struggles after my first son was born, and how I finally realized (after an agonizing year) that yes, I was a good mom.
Chicken Soup’s deadline was a few weeks out, so I had time to edit and polish the story – and whittle it down. Way down.
The word limit for the Workshop had been 2000. Chicken Soup’s was 1200. I had to cut my story almost in half. (My fellow writers will probably shiver in appreciation at that.) But it was excellent practice; and, of course, it made the story tighter and better.
Months later, Chicken Soup notified me that they were very kindly buying my story for their book. And on a rainy day in February, the postman delivered a box full of my “author’s copies” of Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms.
What a thrill to pull open the cardboard flaps and see those pretty, shiny books inside! Even if my name was nowhere on the cover. Even if my real name was actually nowhere in the book.
The publisher had asked me to use a pen name, because of sensitive content in the story. So my story appears under the name Lynn Juniper, and is titled “A Good Mother.”
And I’m giving away one of the copies! If you are a new mom, or if you know a new mom (which covers just about everyone, right?), you (or they) will enjoy this very cute book containing 101 stories from empathetic Mommies who were once in the newborn trenches.
All you have to do is leave a comment below, and I will put your name in a hat. Next Wednesday, my husband will draw out a name, and I will send your copy out by mail.
Here is a question to answer: Have you ever accomplished something you really didn’t think you’d be able to do?
And if you don’t like that question, you can simply write anything at all.
I like “Howdy’s” just fine.