Thursday, February 28, 2013
A writer friend of mine, Zach Ellis, is in the middle of experiencing his first acceptance of a piece of his writing. Not only does he get the thrill that brings, but today he gets to read his piece in a big event at the Centre for Contemporary Arts.
He lives here in Portland. When he entered the writing contest, he joked that if he were chosen, maybe he'd make the trip out - and when he was chosen, his friends and his writing community got together to send him there. He's been all over Glasgow, soaking in the culture and scenery, going to museums, and is just four hours away from the big event when he'll read his piece - which you can read an excerpt from here.
[Update: you can listen to the podcast of Zach Ellis' reading, and the rest of the LGBT In Our Own Words event here.]
Following his adventures has gotten me thinking about first publications and how many different ways those experiences can be special. Mine was just four years ago, a short story in the book Portland Noir - and the experience was huge. Alright, I didn't get to go overseas, but I got to sign copies at a packed reading at Powell's City of Books. Got to dress up noir-style in a vintage dress [and crazy lovely vintage hairstyle whipped up by Stephen] and read at a super cool lit event at the Blue Monk. Got to watch the book sit on the Powell's bestseller list for weeks and weeks and weeks. It was the perfect experience for a first publication.
Granted, there was that other time back in 1997. My first picture book, Wright Vs. Wrong. But I didn't used to count that one because the book was put together by what I thought back then must be the smallest publisher ever - and my experience that time around was mostly me wandering through bookstores all across the country and never seeing a copy.
And there was the time back in 1992 or thereabouts when I sold an idea to Gibson Greeting Cards. When I got the acceptance letter I tried to count that as my first publication, but a greeting card is kind of a stretch when you're trying to call yourself a writer, especially when it contains only like ten words. And you never see a copy and seriously have a hunch that they never printed it and the president of Gibson might have accepted your idea just to be nice since he knows your husband.
And there was the time back in, oh, 1984ish when my poem was accepted for publication in the very prestigious American Poetry Anthology - accepted only on the condition that I shell out forty bucks for a copy.
Which I did.
No, I don't count that one either. I do count the picture book, now, though. Getting other, bigger publications has somehow given me a better chance to appreciate that, small as it was, yes, Wright Vs. Wrong counted - and was a sweet, lovely experience for me. Also knowing more about small presses and micro-presses, knowing about things like chapbooks and online journals and reading events and all the myriad ways a writer can have his or her work recognized and enjoyed - I appreciate those early experiences all the more.
That's my story about my first publication[s]. What's yours? Pop over to the comments section and give it to me.