In this age of email and text message, it’s lovely to receive something in the post that isn’t a bill.
It’s more lovely when that thing is a parcel.
It’s even lovelier still when the parcel contains a beautiful book which has one of YOUR short stories published in it.
I first started writing ‘Glory Season’ three years ago. The idea came to (as good ideas usually do) when I was walking around Sydney’s Centennial Park and listening to ABC radio.
The AM program ran a story about the Morning Glory cloud – a rare but naturally occurring phenomenon every September in outback Queensland.
With the right weather conditions, clouds form like tubular waves over the tiny town of Burketown. To ride the cloud is a hang glider’s dream. And every year, gliders descend on the town for their chance at soaring the Glory.
I knew it could be a terrific back drop for a short story, so I developed a narrative with overtones of the mythical Icarus and Daedulus story. In my version, Icarus is a grief-stricken young woman, seeking a type of solace in the clouds.
I submitted the story as an assignment for my Masters degree, and when the grade came back, it was a good one. Right, I thought. Time to have a crack at publication.
To say that I was unsuccessful was an understatement. Mostly there was just deafening silence. Finally, the editor of on-line journal replied to me and described one of my main characters as ‘cartoonish.’ Ouch! He went on to criticise the way in which I switched points of view and overall, commented that the piece lacked subtlety. However, he finished on an encouraging note. This is a big story and an important one, and I think it can be told better. I’d be excited to read that better version, if you feel like it’s something you want to persevere with.
After half an hour of moping, I kicked my pride to the curb and started re-writing. I did exactly what was suggested. Reduced the colloquialisms, restricted the POV to one character, and removed what I perceived to be the too-obvious Icarus references.
Done, I thought. Send, I pressed. This time, when the editor replied, he said he liked the changes but still thought it needed work. He wouldn’t be accepting it for publication, and now felt too attached to the inner-workings of this to consider a third re-write.
At that point, I gave up hope of ever seeing my little story ever being read by anyone but myself and my family.
For more than a year, it gathered digital dust in the documents folder of my computer. I kept writing, but about other things, and was thrilled to have a short story win a Highly Commended place in the 2014 Margaret River Press Short Story Prize – an honour that came with publication in the anthology of shortlistees The Trouble With Flying.
This was my first taste of publication in a proper book, a beautifully produced and printed, woody-smelling-with-new-paper, book.
Can you tell that I enjoyed it?
I don’t write solely for the reward of publication (gosh, I’d be a tortured soul) but I have to say that it’s very nice when it happens.
So, when I received an email about this year’s Margaret River Press Short Story Competition, I was pretty keen to submit a strong entry.
In the midst of writing a novel, I wasn’t exactly flush with short story ideas.
Into the documents folder I delved, going deep into the archives to see what I could scrounge.
I hit upon ‘Glory Season’ (then called ‘Soaring the Glory) and re-read it. It was OK. But with the benefit of many months away from it, I knew where it could be improved. And that’s what I did. I re-drafted the story for what felt like the 20th time (actually, it probably was the 20th time. My husband’s comment was ‘Haven’t I read this before?’) and sent it off, across the desert to WA, with no expectations.
Now, it’s come back to me – published in Lost Boy and Other Stories, and sitting side-by-side with some writers I truly admire.
For so long, I thought of ‘Glory Season’ as a little lost waif, brimming with potential if only the right attention could be paid.
I still think of what that editor wrote – Some stories are done and they aren’t great and you have to move on. I’m afraid to say this isn’t a great story, but it’s also not done..’
Finally, I can say that ‘Glory Season’ is done, and it’s found a home, and now I can move on.
*If you’d like to find out more about Lost Boy or buy a copy, visit Margaret River Press. They are lovely people!