In case you haven't spoken with my lately, I've managed to trick someone into printing my fiction. For me, simply getting my work in print was an enormous milestone. I haven't had any of my work printed since my time at the Gargoyle, and doing so now has given me an enormous boost of confidence.
Though I am extremely happy (and grateful!) to have my work accepted, there are some potential consequences that I considered while writing it, but that did not seem pressing until now.
But first things first: You can read my story Jumper here, and e-zine issues will soon be available.
If you're a personal friend or family member familiar with my time living in Washing D.C.: Remember that this is entirely a work of fiction.
Read it? Ok.
In the story, I drew heavily from my experience of living alone in D.C.. The period in question came after a breakup and after leaving a stable, well paying job. I was alone, I was watching a lot of Netflix, I was pretty miserable. I was not, however, suicidal.
To be quite honest, my inclusion of these personal details in the initial drafts of the story were, I realize now, a crutch. I needed something to get started; something to ground me in the character so I get on with the business of writing. I took my life around me, distorted, magnifed, and grosteque-ified it all and went from there.
My first few drafts of the story were much, much longer. In fact, some of the earliest versions that I put out for submission included several scenes which I eventually cut. For instance:
My movie-watching train was off the tracks by the blackout, but the next was picking up steam. It started slowly. To avoid Netflix I started reading a lot. Things I never thought I’d read. Maybe because of the hours spent pondering potential bridges to jump off into watery oblivion that I’ve been focused on desserts. That’s not a typo, and I’m not sure how the two are connected, but they certainly share some kind of correlation. I had over 180 cookbooks where not four weeks before there had only been faded print-outs from recipe websites. I don’t do any cooking with these books, I just read them. For hours I planned lavish desserts served plate after delectable plate in a feast of outrageous caloric indulgence. Four course cakes. Puddlings that would require the aid of SkyHook helicopters. A military-strength Baked Alaska. I’d get really worked up about it and stand naked (I was naked most of the time) in my kitchen and imagine the scene. I’ve emerged from my kitchen, heaving an immense kugel in the shape of stuck pig to my shoulder. The rest of my apartment has been replaced by some kind of concert hall filled with French nobility. Brilliant mustaches and medals gleaming on vibrant Napoleonic uniforms abound. Women, wigs high and breasts heaving like luscious sour dough rolls (glazed with orange cream and haddock sauce, 5th course) abound.
“But monsieur!” I say to one laughing commandant with a particularly ingenious mustache. “How can you be full when the Birthday Cake Turducken has yet to be served?!” They all laugh and I’m staring at the front door of my apartment, about to go outside and buy all the necessary ingredients and make all the Frenchy friends I need to make my dream night a reality but I stop. I remember that all my clothes have been dirty for some time, and that’s hot outside, and that I’ve never cooked before in my life.
Cutting this section out was extremely difficult. In fact, cutting anything from the draft was difficult.
In hindsight, this had nothing to do with my artistic vision and everything to do with my lack of confidence. I could not bring myself to trust my story, and was afraid to tinker with what felt like a delicately constructed machine. What's more, how could I afford to take things out when what I omit may be the one thing that actually catches an editor's eye?
In the end, I did cut the above section, and others. But I didn't cut out the seed of the story: the pieces of my life in D.C.. This was a mistake.
First off, it was a mistake because people probably think I am crazy.
Secondly, it was a mistake because those parts are the weakest portions of the story. A writer writing about writing is one of those cliches that I am really tired of, and the fact that I had written that cliche into my own work didn't register with me until after it had been accepted. What's more, the dejected 20-something voice leaves a lot to be desired.
In the end I am happy with what I wrote, and am extremely grateful for the Forge for putting it in print. More than anything, I hope I'll have the confidence to cut deeper while working on future peices, and let the story -- rather than my insecurities -- do the talking.
All that said, I hope you enjoy my piece. It was great fun to work on.
Also, the Bunnyman Bridge is a real thing. I did, however, model the actual bunnyman more on the Goatman story.