October 2nd, 2007

Naked on the Page

Lately I have thought a lot about the fact that the words I write are a veil I wrap around myself. Sure, yeah, I’m exposed with every syllable—but only if the reader looks hard enough. And let’s face it—most readers are focused on the words themselves, not what’s happening behind them.


I am so comfortable behind the veil, in fact, that I rarely write in first person. And when I do, the character almost never has a name. (A fact that someone had to point out to me—and even then, I wondered what exactly was so wrong about that.) I fought against focusing my MG fantasy on the character who most resembles me (what with being a girl and all). And in my new editing gig, I lollygagged when asked to write an introduction to myself as the new editor—waiting until the editorial council reminded me (twice) that such an introduction needed to be made.  


But change is growth, and growth is good. So I’m undertaking a rewrite of the fantasy with the girl as the MC. I will write a sample first chapter in both third and first persons, just to see which works better. And yes, the stupid introduction (with photo, yet) will run in the next issue of the paper.


When I do something, I really do it. So, in the spirit of shredding my pretty little veil, I undertook a personal essay solicited by a market I’ve been trying to crack for a long time.


Admittedly, this was not my idea. I had pitched them a straightforward feature, and felt pretty confident about it because my personal experience gave me a killer hook. Unfortunately (for my veil), the editors liked the personal hook more than the proposed feature.


This is how I ended up writing—yes, in first person—about one of the most unhappy episodes of my life. And, because I am me and apparently don’t understand the concept of leaving well enough alone, I made the essay even more personal by adding in stuff about a kind-of-but-not-really-related issue.


In the “Is it good news, or is it not?” category: I got an eager email today from the editor, practically thrusting the check in my fist. My little essay is going to run in an upcoming issue of a national magazine. And far from offering me any protection, all those words are going to strip me bare.


On the plus side: I have now earned $300 just for feeling angsty and upset. While I would not choose to earn money by feeling that way, I have to say—since I already felt it, and it’s behind me anyway—it is somewhat vindicating to turn an emotional hurricane into cold hard cash. (And just think of the reprint possibilities!)

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