While my husband and I were out shopping this afternoon, I decided to take a quick peek at my school email. I’ve been checking it frequently, as I’ve been providing that address as my primary contact for most of the contests and literary journals I’ve submitted to the past few weeks.
I’ve gotten very used to seeing “INBOX: 0,” so I actually closed the web browser out of sheer habit before my brain registered the slight change on the page. I quickly reopened the site, as I was positive I’d seen “UNREAD: 1” in that instant before the phone went black. I stole a sip from my pumpkin spice latte while the mailbox loaded and I nearly choked on it when I saw the subject line of the new message waiting for me: “Seasons of Change.”
You see, this particular title is a flash fiction piece I wrote about a young woman’s last day with her father. While it is fictionalized, this is actually an account of my own experiences, as my father passed away when I was 22 from renal cancer. This was a very emotional piece to write and I’m quite certain I cried from the moment my fingers first touched the keys until the last period was in place. No one forced me to write the story; it just needed to be written. My soul ached to get the words out, years after his death, because it allowed me to remember those last moments with him as if I was watching them on film. The staccato of the keys brought back the smell of the hospital room, the cold fluorescence of the lights, and the deep blue ocean of his eyes. For that short spell at the keyboard, I had my father back. It was beautiful. It was painful. It was healing.
Due to the extreme emotional resonance of this piece, I debated sending it out to any contests or publications. My very heart was on that page; drops of my blood were the commas, tears were in the spaces. Could I handle getting a rejection, or dozens of rejections, on such a large piece of my soul? I didn’t think I could.
So I made a deal with myself. I’d send the flash to ONE contest. Just one. I picked a random one from the list I had planned to submit to and sent it off. I promised myself that if I got a rejection, which occurs 99.9% of the time as a writer, that I’d bury the piece in my personal files and not resubmit it. I wouldn’t put myself through the torture of having my very memories rejected for the sake of a possible publication.
I followed through on the deal I made with inner critic, who was convinced it would be rejected, and I sent it out. Forgot about it, even. I didn’t even remember the name of the contest and the date that I submitted it for consideration. I basically did whatever I could to repress the memory of sending it out all together.
Up until this afternoon, that is. I sat in the car with my husband, savoring the soothing purr of the motor and the taste of pumpkin in my mouth, and stared at the phone in my hand. The email needed to be opened. I asked myself, could I still have a good day if this were a rejection? I decided that I was strong enough to let it go and, even though I didn’t really believe myself, I opened the email.
“Hello Victoria Elizabeth Ann!
Your story was just accepted into LINGUISTIC EROSION and will appear on the front page on the following date: 10/26/12! Congratulations!
Be proud, show off your achievement and let people know that your fiction was awesome enough to be published on Linguistic Erosion!
E.S. Wynn, Editor in Chief,
It took me a few minutes to stop crying. I’m pretty sure my husband thought I was having some sort of emotional breakdown. Why did this bring me to tears?
Well, naturally I was thrilled to receive an acceptance letter. Secondly, it meant the world to me that this particular story would be published, as it only solidifies the presence of my father even more. Years from now, when my own memories begin to fade and take on that dreamlike quality, imagination and facts blending together, I know I can look back at this story and remember the truth of those last moments with my dad.
That’s not why I was crying, though. I’m not sure if you noticed it in the acceptance letter, but the Editor stated that my work would be published on the front page of the site on 10.26.2012. This October 26th will mark six years since my father lost his battle to cancer. And, on his anniversary, the story of our last day will debut to the world. Is this coincidence… or is my father sending me a little reminder from Heaven that he’s still with me, watching over my life? My faith gives me the answer.
Humbled and happy,
~ Victoria Elizabeth Ann