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  1. #1
    Linda Morten

    Should I try to publish this?

    This is a long read - 1500 words. I\'d like to do more with some parts and am thinking of the next revision. I would very much appreciate feedback, as well as suggestions on what type of market would be suitable.

    What Came Before

    Her life began at four. Not the day she turned four, but somewhere around that time. The reason why her life began at four was because that was when she became aware of herself as a person. She had discovered analytical thinking, although she didn\'t call it that. What four-year old would? But it pleased her to think, so she engaged in it most of the day, wondering about herself, her feelings, the people who shared her life, and what came before.
    She had memories prior to this age, bursts of disjointed snapshots, like a series of short complicated dances, a flutter of tiny feet that went suddenly still, waiting for the music to begin again. She vaguely knew that time continued to pass during the silence of the music, and constantly sought the lapse, hoping to figure it all out. She remembers having feelings in these memories, but she doesn’t remember having thoughts, like she had now.
    She remembers being in the garden with her sister, cutting the grass with a pair of scissors. She held the grass while her sister cut. Only her sister cut her finger instead and made it bleed, and she ran into the house and cried. Her Uncle Freddie was there; a nice man. He had come over to visit that day and was sitting on the couch with her mother. He chuckled when she told them what had happened. And it hurt her feelings that he did this. Thinking about this memory, she knew it wasn’t a mean laugh, because her Uncle Freddie was a nice man. But she doesn’t remember much about her mother, only a vague disapproving shadow sitting on the couch.
    She remembers eating dirt behind the house, and the memory of that dirt was so wonderful. It tasted better than anything she had ever eaten. But she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat the dirt, and one day her mother found her and beat her and she didn’t eat the dirt any more.
    She remembers asking her mother for a drink of water. Her mother was doing the dishes at the time. But she had become cross, and impatient, and had handed her a glass of water with an angry, “Here!” Only the water had soap in it and she didn’t want to drink it. Her mother yelled at her and made her drink it anyway, and she got sick and threw up.
    She remembers taking a bath in the porch sink where they did the laundry, and that the soap burned her skin, and she wanted to cry and tell her mother, but she didn’t because she knew her mother would be cross again, and she didn’t want her mother to be cross.
    She remembers her mother playing Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White on the record player in the front room, her mother’s favourite song, and dancing around the coffee table with her mother. She remembers the exquisite happiness of this moment, and how sad she was when her mother didn’t want to dance anymore.
    She remembers when the Man and the Woman came to live with them. Later, she was to learn that the Man’s name was Jesus, like the baby Jesus, and she thought it was strange that they called him that because the baby Jesus was so pure and holy and she somehow knew that this man was a bad man. But she was to call him Jess, which some people did, and she was to call the woman gramma, because she was her mother’s mother. They lived in a room made for them in the garage. She has a memory, before she knew he was a bad man, back when they were still the Man and the Woman, before she learned their names, the Woman had gone into the house, and she had wandered into the garage and into the room, and the Man was sleeping. And she looked at the Man. And he woke up. But that’s all she has of that memory.
    She had a memory that didn’t have any pictures with it, only feelings. The memory was illusive, vague, but strong, overpowering. It was a memory of happiness, of love, of feeling safe, and of how suddenly all those wonderful feelings went away. At four, she spent a lot of time by herself. And she would cry. But sometimes the tears were sweet and comforting. And being by herself, instead of playing with the other children, gave her all the time she needed to think about this memory, to try to figure it out. She decided that it must be the memory of when she was a baby, of the time when her mother held her and paid attention to her, the way other mothers do with their babies, and that when she wasn’t a baby anymore, her mother stopped holding her or paying attention to her. Later, when she was a young girl at Catholic school, she would believe that she held within her the memory of the Garden of Eden and that her terrible loneliness was God’s punishment to his children for having defied him.
    Much later in life, when she was a grandmother, and on the path to healing, she would learn, from her mother, the truth of where that memory came from.
    As a newborn, she was told, she had been sent to live with her father’s people, a Pueblo tribe in Northern New Mexico. But when she was a toddler, her mother had a change of heart and wanted her back.
    “I had to send your father to bring you back,” her mother had told her, so casually, as if it was of no consequence, as it she were discussing last year’s rose bushes. They were having coffee at her mother’s house in the high desert, out on the back patio. They were huddled together in their night robes, two ladies, one very old, the other on the way, trying to keep warm in the early morning desert sun.
    “They wouldn’t give you back,” her mother had explained. “They wanted to keep you, so I that’s why I had to send your father to go get you. And oh, you cried! You just would not stop crying. Oh, you made me so angry, sitting in the corner all the time crying for your nana. Your nana, your nana! That’s all I ever heard was your nana!”

    This thing that she just said, this truth she just revealed, does she know? Does she in any way comprehend how it reached into my very essence and brutally grabbed forgotten memories, images of a little snot nosed girl, huddled in the corner, weeping for her Nana, alone, devastated. How can you sit there, so casual, as if you didn’t just tell me that it was you who had destroyed my soul? How could you have been so stupid? How could you have been so cruel? Oh, that poor little girl, that poor innocent devastated tiny little girl.
    I said nothing of these thoughts. I kept them to myself. What was the point? Why beat up an old woman who, in her own perverted way, did the best she could?
    “Well, it’s cold out here,” my mother said in time. “I think I’ll go back to bed and read my book. You coming in?”
    “No Mom. I think I’ll stay out here a bit longer and enjoy the sun.”
    I sipped my coffee, gazing out at the cold blue desert. I heard the piercing call of a hawk overhead and looked up. It was my spirit guide, calling to me. Suddenly, a picture came to mind -- the cantadora, the keeper of the stories. I remember her telling a story of a motherless child. This child was so lonely that it had wrapped itself around a stone. People kept making fun of the child, which made him cling all the more to the stone.
    “What, are you going to marry that stone?” they taunted. “Are you going to make it your wife?”
    The stone was very cold, and it drained all the warmth from the child. The cantadora told me that if the child didn’t find the courage to let go of the stone, then it would never find its true mother, which is the mother that resides in the heart of the child.
    Sitting there, gazing up at my spirit guide, I went back to that horrible place that my mother had shown me. There was a terrible weeping there, and I didn’t want to get any closer. But the hawk had sent me on this journey for a reason, so I kept looking. I found the child, a little girl, wrapped around a huge cold stone. Gently, I pulled the child’s arms from the stone, holding them firm.
    “No, no, no,” she wailed. “Give me back my stone!”
    “There, there, there,” I told her. “I am here. I am here. I will always be here.”
    “No, not Nana. But close enough.”
    I embraced the little girl, held her to me, and promised in my heart that I would never ever ever leave her again.

  2. #2
    d. Leroy

    Re: Should I try to publish this?

    hmmmm... I thought the writing was pretty good, but I think that I might be too dumb to truly understand what you wrote. I'm a pretty simple guy (and I'm reading this while on a bus from Houston), I mean seriously, I've tried reading Blood Meridian twice and still, I don't actually get it.

    Good luck - I'll bet others will be more intuitive and provide you better feedback than I can.


  3. #3
    Matt Bloom

    Re: Should I try to publish this?

    Hi, Linda!

    First off, you asked for feedback, so I will humbly be the first to offer some. I like the idea of your story. The strained relationship between mother and daughter, and the reason why it is strained, is very interesting. I do think, however, that the story would be a bit more intriguing if the revelation - of the mother leaving the daughter with the tribe and then taking her back - came in the context of a conversation, or if the girl found out in a less direct way. As a reader, I'd like to be able to kind of piece it together myself rather than having it spelled out all at once. That would help bring me into the girl's perspective, too.

    As for the type of market, if you are seeking exposure foremost and pay as an afterthought, I would suggest submitting your final draft to literary magazines. You can research lit mags on your own, but here's a list of publications to which I have submitted work:

    Apt (apt.aforementionedproductions.com) - the only one in this list to actually publish my work, actually!
    Threepenny Review
    American Literary Review
    Georgetown Review
    The Florida Review
    Lake Effect
    Drunken Boat (drunkenboat.com)
    Indiana Review
    American Short Fiction
    Crave (they pay!)

    Lastly, please return the favor and read my stuff! I am self-publishing a serial comedy called Striking Out, at strikingout-story.blogspot.com. I don't stand to make much through the Google ads I'm running, I'm just looking to see what size audience I can garner.

    Thanks and good luck!

    -Matt Bloom

  4. #4
    Smiling Curmudgeon

    Re: Should I try to publish this?


    I'm not a voracious reader of literary material. Feel free to ignore any or all of my comments.

    I do think you can write. For this reader, there is a kind of lyrical or hypnotic flow to the tale. That can be good or bad, depending on your intent. Reason I say that is the rhythm is appealing. But I didn't understand exactly what you wanted me to take from the tale.

    Some things to consider---

    "Four" is used three times in the first line. Yeah, that's a nit. But you don't want your reader to bog down with too many of them. Just like you don't want your clothes dryer's filter to choke on too many lints.

    You switch back and forth between past and present tense. Sometimes in the same sentence. Yeah, thazz another nit but it's an important one.

    Some of the paragraphs are too long for me. I was pulled along by the rhythm but sometimes wanted to swim to shore for a break before diving back in. Others may strongly disagree.

    Part of me wants to whine about the lack of dialogue to add some "life" to your story. The technique you've used can distance your reader from the tale. We learn a lot about characters when they speak. OTOH, there is the rhythm.

    Others will have better opinions whether you should try to publish your story.

    I will offer this opinion--you should keep writing. The story didn't make my heart rate or brain go into overdrive. It did keep my interest enough to read it.

    Hope this helps a little.


  5. #5
    Smiling Curmudgeon

    Re: Should I try to publish this?

    Me again.

    I should have read your profile before I posted. You mention your interest in spirituality, etc.

    Some of that does come through in your tale. That's a good thing.

    You might make the story stronger if we have the benefit of more dialogue, as I mentioned in my first post. Your reader may identify more closely with the narrator.

    If a four-year-old doesn't have the vocabulary you want to use, consider making her six.

    I dunno. Just a thought.


  6. #6
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Should I try to publish this?

    Hmm...You have the framework of an interesting story, but it doesn't quite seem to fit together yet. Let me see if I can address some specifics.

    Part of my problem is with the narrative voice. The opening graph is a very adult voice, but this is primarily the story of a child and a child's awareness. I never get a sense of the child here--other than an adult telling me what a child would feel.

    I also think there is an issue with the organizational structure. I have no sense of actual time and place at the very beginning, but then you end with this brief interlude between the adult daughter and mother on the patio. If this whole story is a flashback, we need to see mother and daughter as adults in the beginning. We need to know where your narrator is now when she's pondering her past.

    Why the shift in tenses? Tenses need to move in a sequential order so that the reader can follow the time sequence in the narrative. There is a lot of movement here that jumps from present tense to past perfect to simple past to subjunctive, etc. Be very, very careful about the use of your tenses so that the story flows smoothly.

    Memories can be vague, or they can be specific, but there must be a clear delineation between the two. You have vague memories of grandparents, feelings, people's moods, etc. But then you have some specific memories of times with her mother in the kitchen. That's fine. The problem occurs when you start to blur the vague with the specific. For example, she remembers being told about Pueblo tribe in northern New Mexico, but she doesn't know the name of the Pueblo? How does she know about spirit guides? Is her mother a member of the Pueblo, or just her father? There are some gaps here that need to be filled in.

    Be careful of your word choices. It's elusive, not illusive. The same is true for your metaphors. Snapshots and dances are a mixed metaphor that don't quite work.

    Finally, a quick question? Are you familiar with the Pueblos of New Mexico and their various traditions/cultures? I lived in New Mexico for many years, and my husband is from Santa Fe. To the best of my recollection, members of Pueblos did not refer to themselves as members of a tribe, just members of the Pueblo.

    Sorry if I sound really picky here. This story has a lot of potential, but it needs to be fleshed out and fully developed. Right now, it's a series of lovely descriptions and imagery with a small snippet of dialogue. If you take the time to work this into something that has more movement (narrative tension/conflict), then, yes, it could be marketable. Just don't be too impatient with it.

    Just my thoughts...


  7. #7
    Linda Morten

    Re: Should I try to publish this?

    This is all excellent advice!! Boy, am I glad I found this place. I hope that I will be able to make my own contributions to the work of others. I'd feel guilty otherwise.

    Dearest D - I am hoping to write spiritually enlightening stories and articles. I can see how it wouldn't make sense if you don't read it from that perspective. On the next rewrite, I want to develop the story of the stone child. This is based on a myth. Perhaps it will make more sense that way.

    Matt, I like the idea of revealing the details of her early childhood with dialog. I think that will work really well. And thank you for the list of publishers. That's great.

    I took a look at your blog. I'll post comments over there.

    Cur, this is a story of healing for people who were abandoned or neglected as children. That's the story of the stone child. I guess it wasn't very obvious, was it? I'll work on that. And I will also use your other input - all good stuff.

    Jeanne, I see what you mean about the child's voice. I tried to speak from a child's perspective before the transition to the adult woman. I see know that it does go back and forth from child to reflective adult. "Elusive" - that's embarrassing. "Snapshots" -- I'll think of a word that I can use here that has something to do with a short piece of music.

    My grandmother is Pueblo - Tewa actually, which is a group of five of the pueblos. I've been doing some research - trying to find out about her people. I'll change "tribe" to "pueblo".

    Be as picky as you like. It's good to be picky. I like picky.

    Thanks much, Linda

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