It’s been over a month since my story, “Weeds,” was published by the incredibly lovely folks at Atticus Review, but here’s a little bit about the behind-the-scenes of the story, better late than never.
First draft written: April 2014
Number of drafts written: 10-15
Number of rejections: 10
From submission to publication: 6 days
This is another story in a series I’ve been working on for a while now, all of them set in a community garden with the titles of the stories reflecting that theme. The first was “Soil,” then “Light,” now “Weeds.” Still working on “Seeds.”
I’d been chewing on what to write for the weeds story for a while. Then I took the master naturalist class at the Musctatuck National Wildlife Refuge. During one class, there was a woman who was very, very enthusiastic about invasive species and specifically, invasive plants. The overall message of the class seemed to be, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Invasive species would make a good horror show, I thought afterward. The Attack of the Giant Hogweed, or something like that.
I guess maybe I’d also been thinking a lot about the ways in which as children, and especially as girls, we’re taught to tolerate a lot of behavior that we shouldn’t have to tolerate. Men tickling you. Grabbing your knee. Talking about your body. Staring at your boobs. Wanting to wrestle. It’s creepy when you take a step back. A little scary.
A little help from my friends
Writing might look on the outside like something you do on your own, but most of the time it’s not. At least not the editing part if you’re lucky to have people willing to thoughtfully and honestly read your stufff. As always, my husband read one of the earliest drafts of this story. Ellen Airgood made me think about Lucy, the main character. Then my friend, Matthew Kabik, took a look and helped me cut away some details that were detracting from the main movement of the story as well as a kind of introductory frame that wasn’t working. I also sent this story to Carve Literary Services, where editor Matthew Limpede really helped re-shape the opening paragraph and the ending.
Editing is hard, the hardest part of writing for me. Sometimes I think there are tricks out there that other people know–people who have been to MFA programs or taken more classes than I have. Alas, I’m probably wrong. No one’s holding out on me. There aren’t any tricks. There’s just going over the story again and again and again. Setting it aside for a while. Reading it again. And then asking some folks you trust for help.
There was a kid named Craig when I was about Lucy’s age. He did, in fact, pick me up and tell me that he was taller than me. It was kind of a big moment. He called me the day before my birthday when I was in sixth grade to ask me if I wanted to “go out” with him. I said yes. The next day I changed my mind. I didn’t know exactly what it meant to “go out” with a boy, but it all seemed a little scary. Sometimes it still is.