Please tell me it's pretty, please don't tell me it's ugly. Look, the ears are symetrical and the eyes are such a pale blue. The hair is so fine and blonde and the skin so soft and pink. The sentences are balanced, the words well chosen and the plot finely honed. Please tell me you like it.
For years I have been telling my students that sending out short stories for publication is like showing your baby to the world and asking for kindness. Your writing is so personal, and so close to your heart, that sending them out is like leaving your baby at the creche for the first day and hoping the other children will play with them.
Okay, maybe I'm going a little over the top, but it is nerve wracking!
In the last couple of weeks I have had a story I am particularly fond of rejected. Entitled 'Palimpsest' it was written as a flash fiction, but then honed to make sure all the layers could be read, one through the other. I sent it out in Februrary and it has only just come back, so - with so long to dwell on it - I had innured myself to the possibility of disappontment. It still stings, as all rejections do.
However, at almost the same time the lovely people at Bugged - the eavesdropping project I have waffled on about in previous posts - have accepted a different story, also written as flash fiction and entitled 'The Four' for publication in their anothology which comes out in mid-October. And that eases the sting and warms the heart. They liked my child enough to put his photo in the gallery!
Surrounding these two events I have been researching and reading and editing and rewriting and sending out stories to a variety of places. Over a dozen have gone out in the last week. I know most of them will come back to me to be sent out once again for adoption. But some of them - I hope! - will find good homes where they can grow and prosper. I will, of course, keep you posted.
In amongst all this story work, I have also been working on my novel. I have re-read it, and given it to my girlfriend to read and comment on too (Thanks, Kath!). If you think it's bad having someone read a story, ask them to read a novel. This is far more personal than asking for compliments for your baby. This is asking for your soul to be evaluated. Thankfully, it seems to pass muster (the book, that is, I can't comment on my soul), and now I am onto the work of rewriting and reworking into the second draft. After that, and maybe some more tinkering, it will be time to send that out into the world too. You'll know when that happens as I will be online every five minutes, sharing my worries.
Sometimes I ask why I put myself through this torment, but it's the age old thing. If I write a story and show it to no-one then it might as well not have been written. Only when a story is shared and read does it really exist. And so, it's not so much sending the child out into the world, having a manuscript accepted is the very act of birth itself, giving life to something new.
So, I shall go back to my gestation and let you know as and when the brood increases. I shall push and I shall do my best to remember my breathing. If you'll just hold my hand, mop my brow, and ignore the screams, I think we can get through this.