Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Year in Stories

Looking back at these stories gives me a sense of self or better selves, of how I saw my world and how I wrote little worlds into being. My life as a writer is torn is so many directions. When I look at these stories, I'm challenged to find a single voice. Maybe I don't have one. Here are a few of the highlights:

In January 2010 I was still going to bookstores, hoping to see Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People. Occasionally I'd spot the book, open it to my story and stand there like Mr. Bean nodding and pointing to my name. Recently I found the book in Singapore. Here it is with its cover showing:

It is an amazing feeling to walk into a bookstore in Singapore and find a book with your story in it. Unfortunately, almost all the books in the store were wrapped in plastic so they could be returned, so I couldn't do my Mr. Bean act. I did take one book up to the bestseller rack. I also found the book this week at Kroger just five minutes from my parents' house in Nolensville, Tennessee. Small world.

In February Piker Press published "Our Stepford Wife," a humorous-I-hope tale about an unusual love triangle. Something else unusual for an online magazine: I got a paper contract in the post with a personal note from the publisher. Another "p" word that comes to mind: professional.

In March, my story "The Orangery" appeared at Every Day Fiction. It's the story of a daughter coming to terms with the perennial voice of her mother. Thank you to all the people who showed up and commented at Every Day Fiction. And thank you to the editors of EDF for giving the world a story every day.

Flash I wrote. I did. I'm not very good at it, and I should stop trying. I like these nuggets, though, at Lowestoft Chronicle, Gambol Magazine, and an especially weird bedtime story at In Between Altered States.

This summer I caused a few days of drama when I unthinkingly posted "Red Toy Soldier" on Fictionaut after it won The Smoking Poet's Third Annual Short Story Contest. Live and learn. And one thing I learned: I'm not as smart as I look.

Full of Crow published "The Wishing," a story about a little brother who can't escape being little. It's not autobiographical in the strictest sense. I never published one of my brother's stories. My brother was much larger than I am, though. It was a difficult relationship. That was never a secret.

At the end of the summer, something STRANGE happened. "Christmas 'Neath the Bridge of Sighs" (cowritten with M.J. Nicholls) won the Strange Circle Short Story contest. Read the story about the story here.

My story "Hunger" found its way into the Writers Abroad Anthology in November. It's about a troubled fellow from Hackney who goes to Germany in search of a girl because she once told him that everything works in Germany . . . so he thinks his life will too. The story has nothing to do with my own. Eating is too important to me to be so hungry.

A few of my creative non-fiction babies were picked up and petted this year. Connotation Press liked "Coming Home"; "Night Train to Brasov" appeared in the Motif vol. 2 Come What May: an Anthology of Writings about Chance, and "Listening to My Body" (originally entitled "When a Body Knows Best," but Chicken Soup changed it) will be in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You, in stores December 28, 2010.

My year was also filled with the usual rejection rejection rejection. I would have peppered this post with rejection letters if any of them had been inspired or funny or absurd or nasty; but sadly they were almost all the garden variety "no thanks" letters. Most of the stories above were rejected a couple of times before they were accepted; some were rejected "a few" more times.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You
On December 28, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You will be in stores. If you like inspirational stories, I hope you'll pick up a copy; if this is not your type of reading, I still hope you'll pick the book up, turn to page 300, and nod and point like Mr. Bean.

I must be off,
Christopher