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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

My Very First Short Story!


People are surprised when I tell them I didn’t start out publishing short stories before “graduating” to novels. I wrote stories all through grade school and into college, but I never tried to publish anything. It was fun; it was good practice. And truth be told, the prospect of submitting a short story to a literary journal or magazine scared the pants off me.

Crazy, right? How could writing and submitting a novel be LESS scary than submitting a short story? I have no answer for that. I just know that I dove into my practice novel in early 2002, and gave no thought to short stories for a long time afterward. Then during the M.A. my fiction prof, Mike McCormack, would often compare short story writing to keyhole surgery. (Writing a novel, on the other hand, was like getting dusty and exhausted down deep in a stone quarry.) Mike encouraged me as I wrote Mary Modern, and that went swimmingly of course, but in the background a dark little thought took shape. Sure, you’re a storyteller, but you don’t have a surgeon’s hand. Maybe you aren’t meant to write short stories.

The ideas kept coming though, and in early 2007 (a few months before Mary Modern came out) I decided to write a few. I showed the drafts to my agent. “Write another novel,” she said.

That does it, I thought. I really can’t write short fiction.

For five years I held onto that limiting belief. Then Danel Olson, editor of the Exotic Gothic anthology series, emailed to say he’d enjoyed my novels and wondered if I’d like to contribute a story to volume 5, which is coming out in 2013.

I was so tired of thinking I couldn’t write short stories. I was ready to let go of all that! So I said I’d be delighted even though it scared me. I finished a story I’d started at Yaddo in 2010, and sent it to Danel—and what do you know, he accepted it!

I couldn’t have asked for a better first-publication story. I was invited to submit (when does that ever happen?!), I’m getting paid a nice sum, and I get to see my work in a beautifully produced anthology. (I borrowed the header above from PS Publishing. Insanely gorgeous cover art! I can’t wait to see what they come up with for EG5. By the way, you can pick up a copy of Exotic Gothic 4 here.)

Plus, Danel is so much kinder, funnier, and more accessible than I thought any magazine or anthology editor could be. Our email exchanges have been an absolute joy. I’m so grateful to him for helping me get over my hangup (even if I didn’t actually tell him about all that ’til after he’d accepted the story. Hey, I’m a professional.)

As for the story itself, it’s called “The Coroner’s Bride” and it’s set in Philadelphia in the 1870s. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story with a strong heroine, and I’m quite proud of it.

I’ll write more about Exotic Gothic 5 as we approach the publication date, but for now I just wanted to tell you about how I finally got rid of a limiting belief, and how amazing it feels!

(Oh, and I have a second piece of awesome news to share, but I’ll save it for next time.)

4 Comments to My Very First Short Story!

  1. sarah.pare's Gravatar sarah.pare
    October 17, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    So proud of you (and so glad for you that you found a way through the stuff that held you back). Can’t wait to read it!

  2. ait.mzm's Gravatar ait.mzm
    October 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Like I’ve said before, I am so happy for you. Especially now, knowing that it was such a breakthrough moment for you.
    Thank you for sharing that with us. Yay!

  3. crazyliberalkate's Gravatar crazyliberalkate
    October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Mealey! I can’t wait to read it!!!

  4. annebweil's Gravatar annebweil
    January 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    obviously I was WAY out of it – I missed this news altogether! I’m so excited for you. Its so nice to have a breakthrough like that. I can’t wait to read it!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.