Friday Favorites 5/17/2013

writing penIt was bound to happen.  A Friday would come along when I’d sit at my keyboard, searching for a Friday Favorite and find the hopper empty.   After all, I’ve been doing this for a long time.   Looking at my WordPress dashboard, there have been 142 Friday Favorites.   There have been music (lots of music), books, animals and places.  There have been favorite numbers, ice cream flavors and colors.  But today, nothing seemed to be leaping from the almost sixty-nine years of memories that are my life.  Jack London has said, You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.  So, I picked up my club, donned my night vision goggles and wandered off into those cobwebbed back rooms of my brain.   It took a while but what I found was perhaps my favorite day as a writer.

Back in 1998, when I was working on a certificate in creative writing at Cal State Fullerton, I was using the in-class critique group to refine a story I intended to submit to short story contest in Story Magazine, the now defunct literary magazine that discovered such authors as Barry Lopez and Joyce Carol Oates.   My short story told of a harried Southern California surgeon who visited her mother in a nursing home in Hollywood every Sunday.  Her mother, in the early stages of dementia, always wanted to drive to Hollywood, where she’d mistake various passers by for movie stars she’d loved in her youth.   However, once I’d finished the story, I realized I’d misread thebyline submission deadline for Story Magazine.  I was two weeks late.  I instead submitted it to an annual short story contest in Byline MagazineByline was tailored to beginning writers, featuring writing tips, short stories and regular writing contests with small monetary prizes.  I really liked Cameos and waited … not quite breathlessly … for the next issue which promised to reveal the winner.  When it came … gloom … honorable mention.

About a week later, I was working in my office when I received a call from the editor of Byline, Marcia Preston*.   I really liked your story, she told me.   Even though our contest committee didn’t choose Cameos, I loved it and I’d like to publish it in Byline.  We’ll pay you $100.  A week later, I received a contract (which still hangs framed in my office) and two months later, there was Cameos, the featured story in Byline.  Two weeks later, Marcia called again.   I just had to call you, she said.  We had a number of letters about your story and most of them assumed you were a woman because you captured the relationship between the surgeon and her mother so well.   It probably didn’t hurt that I wrote under my given name, Francis.  It’s easy to miss the i.  Anyway, this week’s Friday Favorite is the day I was mistaken for a woman … writer.

You can read Cameos here, if you are so inclined.

* Although Byline Magazine is gone, Marcia Preston has written six novels and won the 2004 Mary Higgins Clark Award for Song of the Bones.

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One Comment on “Friday Favorites 5/17/2013”

  1. cherperz Says:

    That story is awesome..worth more than the $100 but I know writing is never about the amount of money. Personally, I would give my writing away if anyone wanted it…but, of course, they don’t.

    I can see why people thought a woman wrote it besides the obvious…the two characters are female. It is a very compelling story dealing with bouts of dementia. Sad…and frustrating.

    I love that Marcia recognized your talent and followed up with you. I will check out her novels.

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