Writing news: world still not fully conquered, try back later

A few months ago I learned that one of my stories was a finalist for Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year. You can read about that crazy day here.

Last week, I found out that I didn’t win, and you know what? I was totally fine. Back in March, I sat down to read the other finalists’ stories, and I was blown away. They were really, really good. You should absolutely read Annalee Newitz’s winning story “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” for a tale of hope, perseverance, and transcending barriers, but the entire slate of nominees is here and you can’t go wrong with any of them (including mine, On the Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog).

Other than the Sturgeon nomination, this year started out a little slowly for me, literarily speaking. Not that I was writing slowly, or submitting slowly, or that the rejections were coming in particularly slowly. It was the successes that took awhile to appear. That was upsetting, because I had been so thrilled so see a story nominated for a major award. For a while, I thought the nomination signaled that I was gaining some momentum toward seeing more of my work in print. I had clearly mastered the writing world, and nothing but success was coming my way.

Experienced writers out there… are you done laughing yet? Take as much time as you need. Done? Okay. So, that is not exactly how the world works. Nonetheless, I stayed busy. in the first few months of the year, I worked on a book, while also allowing myself to be distracted by producing a few short stories.

On the positive side, at the midpoint of the year, several things fell into place. The ink is drying rather slowly on them, so I can only share a few details. A relatively older story, Ware (which was nominated for an Aeon Award) will appear in an upcoming edition of Albedo One. An unpublished story that may have helped me get into the Clarion West workshop will feature in a podcast, which is a perfect forum for it. I’m working with the editor of a magazine I absolutely love on revisions to a story that I hope will ultimately appear there. And there’s another Big Thing that I’m very excited about happening later this year, which I should be able to swoon publicly about before long.

I have to keep in mind that these achievements would have floored me only two years ago. One of the side effects of experience is that is has a way of re-framing goals, so that I always sit somewhere between where I was and an amazing place just at the edge of the horizon.

This is the point where I feel this strange urge to turn to new(er) writers and give a little pep talk based on my experiences. I want them to remember that this is a long game. It takes time to build the kinds of skills needed to make words reliably do your bidding, and more time yet to build a place in a literary field with so much talent and so many compelling stories. Keep at it.

But this pep talk is directed at me, because on some days, I’m still the one who needs to hear it.