Sarita didn’t really know where she was going. Before leaving for Ft. Pierce, an hour north of where she lived in Palm Beach County, she had not found the Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery on any map. She knew for a fact, though, that the place existed. Novelist Alice Walker had tracked down Zora Neale Hurston’s abandoned grave there and marked it with a stone memorial.
I just received a rejection notice for one of my short stories. The prestigious literary review had held on to the story for so long that I began to hope they were accepting it. Alas, no.
So I reread the story. It was an OMG moment. What had I been thinking when I sent in the story? There was so much wrong with it! Not the least of which was that the story didn’t really begin until page three.
Just so you know, before I sent the story in, I edited it repeatedly. Others also read and commented on the story. How could we all miss something so basic? Do I have to lock something away for a year to avoid fooling myself into thinking it is polished?
I am no stranger to getting rejections for my written work. Anyone who writes fiction knows the drill. That doesn’t make the sting of rejection any easier, but this post is not about the emotional cost of rejections. It is about my disappointment in myself that, as improved a writer as I think I am, I can still make stupid mistakes.
I have now altered my story’s beginning, along with making other editorial changes. I hope this revised version will cause an editor to smile and say, “This is for me.” I can’t shake the feeling, though, that I am missing something that will be obvious to me a year from now.
How do you know when your work is polished enough to send it out? Or does it only get that designation when someone decides to publish it?
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."