First Sale: The Story That Almost Never Happened (or, The Bastard That is Self-Rejection)

So a week or two ago, I got the news that my story “Dreaming Keys” had been accepted for the anthology An Alphabet of Embers, due to be released next year. To say I am thrilled would be a huge, huge understatement. It’s my first professional sale, and my first sale, period.

Anyway, while I have you all here, I might as well take a moment to discuss self-rejection, because to tell you the truth, I wasn’t going to submit anything in the first place.

I’d gotten wind of AoE because of the Kickstarter last summer,  a month or two after I’d started submitting my work. At first I didn’t think of submitting, since it seemed like what I usually wrote wouldn’t fall under what the editors were looking for, and the sheer number of submissions they were getting intimidated me, to say the least. In short: I didn’t think I was up to the challenge, and thanks to seeing them get roughly 200 submissions only days–days–after the reading period opened, I also thought my chances were nil.

It wasn’t until others encouraged me to submit that I decided to take a story I’d trunked and rework it, and while I was rewriting it from scratch, I mentioned to Rose Lemberg, the editor, that the number of submissions they’d gotten made me nervous. This is what they told me:

Here is my message to you: send your work. Send it everywhere. Don’t self-reject. Please. Make it the best submission you can, and then send it out. It’s not a guarantee of acceptance, but it is a guarantee that your work will be considered, which you cannot get if you self-reject 🙂

That was a big deal, to get that encouragement, after having had another story rejected twice, one that I thought was really, really strong, and after being told in general that if I received compliments, the person giving them was just being polite and therefore didn’t really mean it. It made me shy; it made me always wonder if I was imposing or burdening others. Not to mention I was an adherent of ‘hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,’ with emphasis on preparing for the worst, so I tried not to get my hopes up too much, because I wanted to deal with as little disappointment as possible.

Shortly after I got Rose’s email, I took that rejected story and sent it in to Fantasy & Science Fiction–more specifically, the issue being guest edited by C.C. Finlay. Did I think it would get in? No. But I’d seen the submission call asking for diverse stories going around on Twitter and figured, “well, I have nothing to lose: here goes.”

I was half right: I didn’t get an acceptance, but I did get a kind personal rejection that had incredibly helpful pointers. Maybe I’m overvaluing it, but the advice gave me an extra jolt of encouragement to look at the story again with fresh eyes, now that the issues had been pointed out, and really try and make it even better. It’s changed quite a bit from how it used to be, so hopefully I can start submitting it again soon.

Fast forward to November, and now, I’ve got my first story published, one that I put away and didn’t think about for a long, long while. And to think I almost didn’t toss my hat in the ring to begin with! I am so, so, grateful to Rose and to others who encouraged me to submit.

Still, this is only the beginning. I’ve got other stories in the works, and hopefully, you’ll see more from me in the future.

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In which Junot Diaz is one of my heroes

A friend of mine sent me this quote when I mentioned how I wanted to write stories where WoC were the heroes instead:

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”

You guys should read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by the way. I don’t know how Diaz managed to blend nerd language and Dominican history seamlessly together, but the words leap off the page and leave you wanting more.

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Breathing Underwater

My story, “Breathing Underwater,” can be read at The Book of Imaginary Beasts!

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Hi, y’all.

I’m Mina, and this is my blog.

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