I came home from work last Tuesday and opened my mailbox to find a letter from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction sitting on top of a neat pile of bills and junk mail.
Le sigh, I thought. Another rejection.
I sang a little song about getting rejection letters to make myself feel better and started plotting where I would send my short story next as I unlocked the door. I plopped the bills down on the kitchen table, petted the cats, put away the groceries I bought on the way home, and only then sat down to open the mail.
The letter from F&SF felt heavier than my previous rejection letters. Maybe they liked the story enough to include an encouraging note about how the story wasn't for them, but I should try again later, I thought.
I slit open the envelope, unfolded the letter, and promptly dropped it. It was not a rejection letter. It was a contract and a check. To the dismay of both cats, I screamed like a twelve-year-old and did a dance. After I managed to calm myself down enough to regain the ability to read, I found a copy of the following previously published article by Susan Elizabeth Lyons enclosed:
The article addresses the issue of whether or not a gender bias exists in the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry, and includes interviews with well-know women writers, including one of my all-time favorite authors, Ursula LeGuin.
The gist of all this is that my short story "Bad Matter" will be appearing in F&SF sometime in the next three years, according to the contract, but more likely in nine to 12 months, according to Writer's Market's profile of F&SF.
Considering one of my friends just landed a two-book contract with a major publishing house (yay, Stephanie!), and another is an award-winning short story author, I'm very, very aware of how far I still have to go as a writer. And also, I'm feeling very, very paranoid at the moment. What if they bought my story, but never publish it? What if they only bought it out of pity? What if society collapses and there are no more science fiction magazines at all? I felt the same way last year when I had accepted my current job, which I absolutely love, but hadn't started there yet. What if the whole interview process was a dream? What if they looked back at my resume and decided they didn't want me after all? What if they decided to eliminate my position altogether before I started?
So, the long and short of it is that I'm trying not to get overly excited about this, in case Something Horrible happens between now and the publication date. At the same time, having my first short story published in a national magazine isn't small potatoes for me. I have to crow about it a little bit. But now I've done my happy dance (also frightening to the cats), and hopped up and down, and called my mother, so it's back to my laptop. Because the worst thing I can do is get complacent and stop pushing myself to write as best I can, even if it isn't up to par with Ursula LeGuin, or Kelly Link, or my incredibly talented friends.
(Thanks, by the way, to Stephanie for convincing me to do NaNoWriMo last November. I don't think I would have finished writing the story if I hadn't gone through that experience. And thanks to Jeremy, who could have killed me after I made him read my 11th draft, but didn't, and also to our mutual friend Nathan, for writerly feedback. I probably wouldn't have sent anything to F&SF if he hadn't offered some much-needed advice and feedback.)