I’d Call it a Success: Life After the Creative Writing Institute

I opened the email and read:

Dear Ms. Broderick,

Thank you for submitting “Guardian” to Mirror Dance. This is one of the first “twist” endings I have ever read that actually surprised and pleased me, and I would love to accept this story for the Summer 2012 issue!

No, dear readers, this is not fantasy or fiction. You have seen my posts previously (oh? You haven’t? See here and here) regarding my adventures with the Creative Writing Institute at Florida Institute of Technology. I was graciously afforded the opportunity to attend Dr. Phillip Deaver’s “Writing Short Stories” class. The intensive week-long class was exactly the kick start my floundering writing needed. I have always had the passion to write, but I constantly sabotaged myself with hesitations. The Creative Writing Institute sponsored by the School of Arts and Communication provided the foundation and support needed to help regain focus as a writer.

We were asked to write a short story to be shared the final day of class, which forced me to focus the vague half-ideas into a concrete story on paper. I was second to last to read out loud. My classmates had presented works with elaborate character sketches, poetic descriptions, carefully depicted scenery. Scanning my story over, I wanted to pick it apart—everything seemed flat, as if the story was glued to the page when I wanted it to be alive. We had been given guidelines: center the story in a real place because the real-life basis will help construct a richer tapestry, and have two interesting characters. I had broken both rules, quite by accident.  I told Dr. Deaver to stop me when he liked, and with shaky hands and a shaky voice, I read my story in its entirety.

Silence. Utter, complete, and profound silence that seemed to stretch on for three lifetimes. Either they liked my story and were still digesting it, or else they were trying to figure out how to delicately state my story was awful and that I should never write anything again, ever. Finally, the silence broke. They liked it! Dr. Deaver pointed out ways to make the story stronger, and my classmates provided additional helpful commentary.

One of the professors from the School of Arts and Communication happened to be taking the class at the Creative Writing Institute as well. He emailed me links to several fantasy magazines that were accepting submissions. The title of my story is Guardian. The theme for the first magazine, Mirror Dance, happened to be guardians and protectors. It was a sign. Without further delay, and without giving myself time to talk myself out of it, I submitted my short story for publication. I was not expecting to hear back for one month. I heard back in four days. My short story is set to be published in Mirror Dance.

Previously, the only people that professed love of my work were my mom, my two best friends (a dynamic illustrator/author duo), and my Creative Writing professor, Marcia Denius. While I deeply value their opinions, they are undeniably biased in my favor. Having an actual editor of an actual publication respond favorably filled me with a sense of completeness I haven’t experienced before. There is a sense of validation, that all of the hours spent antagonizing over a story, of sleeping only three hours a night because the only time you have to write for fun is well-past midnight, of struggling to develop characters and portray conflict has been worth it.

So where to from here? I plan to spend the summer working on a fairytale anthology with my best friend, the illustrator Haley McReynolds, and completing my second book. What is my advice to you? Write, write, write—and attend the Creative Writing Institute next year! Everybody has a story to tell—what are you waiting for? A week ago today, my short story was only a formless idea in my head. Today it’s accepted for publication. Don’t you want to see what you’re capable of? As Dr. Deaver says, don’t you want to see how high your shuttle can go?



[Picture courtesy of Haley McReynolds].

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