I am pleased to report that I have a short story, “A Little Madness in the Spring,” published in the Autumn, 2017 edition of Evening Street Review. I am particularly proud that a story of mine aligns with Evening Street Press’s mission statement:
Evening Street Press is centered on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1848 revision of the Declaration of Independence: “that all men — and women — are created equal,” with equal rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It focuses on the realities of experience, personal and historical, from the most gritty to the most dreamlike, including awareness of the personal and social forces that block or develop the possibilities of a new culture.1
“A Little Madness in the Spring” is one of several stories I’ve written set in Berlin, New Hampshire in the 1980s, where I lived for a year with my parents while I went through a divorce. My dad was a regular at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, and he got me a job as a counter girl.
Naturally, I encountered quirky locals I could use in my fiction. Case in point: the two main characters in “A Little Madness in the Spring,” Antoine and his Uncle John. Now, here’s where the perseverance comes in. I wrote the first version of that story in graduate school–and I received my master’s in 1985.
The story was not as well-received in workshop as I’d hoped, the professor deeming its local color clichéd and its quirky characters cartoonish. So I rewrote it. Several times, in fact. Then I began sending it out, and after getting a big enough pile of rejection slips, I rewrote it again.
This time, when the rejection e-mails came rolling in, I didn’t rewrite the story. I continued to send it out. “A Little Madness in the Spring” had reached its full potential, and I believed in it. Fifteen years later, when the editor of Evening Street Review agreed, I was thrilled and gratified. Even so, as the publication date approached, she asked for a change to the ending. My response? To persevere. I spent over an hour reworking the last sentence, and I think the story is better for it.
I’m sharing the history of “A Little Madness in the Spring” as an object lesson in the importance in not giving up on a story after a few rejections. At the same time, however, if someone were to ask me, Well, how will I know when my story is finished? I’m not sure I could give an adequate answer. I have been writing so long that the answer continues to change. As of right now, I know that a story is finished when I feel a certain spark of recognition in my chest that says, I like this; this is good.
Not very helpful, I know, particularly considering the fact that sparks of recognition have been known to be wrong. Here is a good resource I found with actionable suggestions for determining when a story is truly finished:
1″Home.” Evening Street Press. Accessed December 24, 2017. http://www.eveningstreetpress.com/.