19 Feb When I Was Young
When I was starting out as a writer back in the nebulous 2006:
- NASA launched the first space mission to Pluto
- The Chinese River Dolphin or Baiji became extinct
- The Human Genome Project published the last chromosome sequence in Nature.
Oh, and also:
- I was broke.
We had immigrated to Canada with skills and some money we’d saved and we were ready to MAKE IT BIG. Big, however, was proving elusive. We had a baby to take care of but my husband was working two jobs waiting tables (in Mexico, he’d been well-off, a manager) and I was freelancing, trying to cull enough dollars to buy food that week. My parents, who lived in Mexico, sent money so we could pay the rent. Not that they had much money but they sent what they could.
I was ashamed. I was disturbed. I had been the brilliant girl who got a scholarship, studied abroad, graduated Magna Cum Laude, and now it turned out I was nothing. I cried and I fought with my husband. I took care of the baby and I felt lonely at home; hey, the baby wasn’t exactly the best conversationalist.
I had written stories a few years before and was trying again, but I had not tried to submit seriously and every day I looked at the screen I hated what I was writing.
“I’m going to quit writing,” I told Antonio. “I’m no good.”
“Well, you can quit if you want,” he said. “But I think you’re good.”
I had written a story called “Mirror Life” and was waffling about sending it out. After my husband spoke to me I was angry (at him, at me) and went and wrote another story about giving up. It was called “King of Sand and Stormy Seas.”
These are my last two stories, I thought. I’m giving up.
And probably because I was angry I sent them out.
And then they sold.
“Mirror Life” appeared in a now defunct online zine and “King of Sand and Stormy Seas” appeared in Shimmer. I got, I think, $10 and a couple of copies of Shimmer as payment. But it was recognition and more than that I felt something click inside my head. I had found my story, my voice.
“I’m going to be bigger than Neil Gaiman,” I told Antonio, picking a random famous author I’d been reading that week.
“I know you will be,” he said, and he meant it.
I am not bigger than Gaiman, though that sucker better watch his back! But I am in a good financial situation (I got a great dayjob! Seriously!), I’ve sold a bunch of stories and yesterday my editor at Solaris asked me if I’d send him some ideas of what I’d like to see on the cover of my debut novel. It’s not that shabby.
I am also a judge for the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Scholarship. I’ve never taken a writing workshop. I could not afford it. But here is a chance for you, if you are a POC writer, to take it. I think you should apply even if you think it is a long shot. This might be your great opportunity to find your voice and validation.
I also realize we will be picking only one person.
If you don’t win it I recommend:
- You keep writing until you find your story and your voice.
- Don’t aim to be bigger than Neil Gaiman. Maybe J.K. Rowling because I’m afraid I’ve got Gaiman covered. Sorry. Got here first.
- Have fun. Life’s short and there are not enough donuts.
Apply for the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Scholarship or let people know about it. Thanks.