I am happy to share with you the publication of my short story, “Revival”, in Timber, Vol. 5. This piece is yet another of the upcoming—nearly there—Southern story collection I began working on in earnest during the final phase of my MFA in 2013.
I so appreciate finding this story looking pretty on page 1, because its road to publication was sort of remarkable as submission experiences go. And a word of caution before you click through the link above or below (yes, twice, because I know you’re going to read it), “Revival” is the most experimental piece I have ever written, seeming to provoke quite strong reactions, both positive and uncomfortable.
From the beginning, “Revival” muscled its way into a voice I have not used before or elsewhere. As a mytho-memoiric study, the piece was planned. I knew what I was going to write. I knew the imagery I wanted to bend and expand—magical realism felt right for such strong and gothically dark statements. I also wanted to try, at least dryly, subtly, to include the bits I found so funny about this composite of memories and fictions.
That’s generally my process—I like to dream, to think, to know, to outline, to follow my plan. But once in a while a story utterly surprises me. This story was a huge surprise and became more surprising as I wrote it. Not only was it emerging as a piece of magical realism, but as a piece of syntactical experimentation.
After it was done, I had no interest in revising the story’s kinky relationship with syntax and voice. I knew that I needed to find a home for “Revival” where it would be appreciated, where it might be read with an open mind. I figured, lots of places publish highly experimental pieces. Granted, there is a bit of a temporal style signature to what passes as experimental literature, and maybe this story isn’t trendy so much as it is an individual. Still, I figure, editors are writers, too, and someone will read it all the way through and realize it really does work in its crazy multiple persona-ed voice.
But when I sent it out the first couple of times, not only was it rejected, but so spectacularly rejected that it caused the only actual submission uproar I’ve ever experienced. The first journal (to return it) sent it back the very next day with a note: “This story is nothing we could use. You should read our journal before submitting.” What? I know it wasn’t the Southern feel, they had printed other such stories. I know it wasn’t the magical realism, same there—I read journals carefully before submitting. Always. So it was the syntax. Yikes. I’m pretty chill about rejections, but I’d never gotten a personalized kiss off before.
The next place? Worse. First, I again received an almost immediate rejection and it, too, was personalized: “We appreciate the esoteric nature of pronouns, but really think this story’s pronouns are too esoteric for us. We imagine you examining this story again and submitting it elsewhere.” I’m guessing they’d only read the first page and mistakenly figured I didn’t know the pronouns were radically fancy. I decided to wait on submitting this story until I could find the perfect place, somewhere the editors, you know, read stories all the way through.
Then, nearly two months later, I got a separate rejection from the same place. I am not making this up. The second rejection was from a different editor whose note was just as personal, but way better: “The language is eloquent and compelling. The story is complex. I’m sorry we’re deciding against it.” Whoever wrote those words to me—I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Those words renewed my quest to find “Revival” a home. After that, I was like Eldad with a stray puppy.
Researching much, much harder, not only reading back issues of journals, but poring over editors’ interviews and mission statements, I found Timber. Folks, when they say innovative literature, they mean it. I am thrilled with this edition and with my story in its new home. The experience has been lovely and stress free.
Thank you to Loie Merritt and the Timber editors and staff. Welcome home, “Revival”. And you guys? CLICK HERE to read it. Syntax purists, you’ve been warned.