Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to become a writer. She had this dream of writing "important" stories, the kind people study in universities. She wouldn't have told even her dearest friend her deepest desire, to be the voice of her generation. It would be too pompous to say it, but she did so want to write stories that meant something, that said something, that spoke deeply to something deep in the reader.
Years passed. She did write although it took her years to finally submit her work. She did get published in literary journals. If you had asked her about being the "voice of her generation" she would have laughed. That was a child's dream, not a woman's. Still, she wanted to write good stories, stories that spoke deeply, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in screams. And she wanted a story of hers in a book, something you could buy at a local bookstore, something you could hold between your palms, turn the pages.
I was recovering from bypass surgery. Medicine would say I had recovered. My scars were healed; my sternum knitted. My cardiologist approved my full-time return to work and told me I wouldn't be seeing her anymore. I didn't have a lingering heart condition. I could followed by my doctor. I was "cured." Whether I was fully healed or not was a different matter entirely. The knitting of my soul would take many more months. A year later, it's still healing.
A friend sent me the link to a call for short stories for a Zombie romance anthology. I had four days to write a story. I don't write short stories in four days but I did this one. Luckily for me the emphasis was on romance, not steam. I was in a sweet, contemplative place, hopeful about love and the future in a way I hadn't been in a long time. So I wrote a sweet story, the woman who has nearly given up on love, a zombie who is trying to find his place in the world, his way, out of touch, stumbling, fumbling.
Two months later, sure my story had not been accepted, I got notification that it was going to be included in the anthology. A favorite author of mine, Francesca Lia Block, had submitted a story too. I had arrived, sort of. I was bemused and thrilled, even more so when the e-book, Hungry For Your Love, was sold to St. Martin's Press, book to be published in September of 2010. I was a published author, with royalties.
Is it an important story? Hard to know. It was the story I wanted to write, my story. I think that was critical, is critical to anything I write. Maybe a story will get published or maybe it won't, but the story has to be mine, has to be what I want to write. Does it speak deeply to something in the reader? To some it speaks and I can't tell you how much that means to me. This postmodern world is too fragmented for one voice, but I am happy to be one of many.
"Through Death To Love" is not the story I imagined as my first published tale. If you had looked at this Penelope's tapestry, you would never have seen Hungry For Your Love woven into the fabric. I had to unravel my story and re-weave it into this new one, again and again, not to put off suitors, but to make it fit, get it right, at least for now.
I'm trying to learn that life sometimes knows better than me. "Through Death To Love" has been such an important lesson about the sweetness of life, enjoying the happy surprises, and accepting that my way isn't the only way, sometimes isn't even the right way. Maria Tatar writes that fairy tales hold lessons within them. I suspect they hold lessons without as well, in the writing of them, in how they find their readers. This is the wonder of fairy tales.