In the long, painful process of submitting queries to agents and short stories to magazine editors, it would be nice if the feeling of success were ever clear-cut. Black or white, unambiguous. I tell you: it ain’t so, my people.
Last year I had a very nice string of acceptances from a variety of magazines: five short stories and one essay. Among those was an acceptance from Karamu, the venerable literary magazine out of Eastern Illinois University. When I told a former writing prof, G.W. Clift, about the acceptance, he made a deeply disgruntled sound and said, “I’ve been trying to get them to publish one of my stories for almost forty years.” Of course, I was pleased, but uncertainty quickly reared its ugly head.
In addition to being venerable, Karamu is also quite old-school. It’s a traditional print magazine that still processes all of its submissions correspondence through the post. They have a website, but it hasn’t been updated in years.
As opposed to the rapid-fire communication via e-mail, correspondence via post is much more leisurely, and in that leisure-time, doubts can arise. I submitted the story in question–Water Landing–in September of 2007. In March 2008, I received notice of Karamu‘s interest in publishing it, to appear in the Spring 2009 issue.
In the intervening year between acceptance and the arrival of my contributor’s copies, I conceived a monstrous terror that the story just wasn’t “any darn good,” to borrow one of Clift’s phrases. Every time I thought about the impending publication, I got a knot of dread in my stomach. I tried to steel myself for inevitable humilation.
Yesterday, my contributor’s copies arrived. If I had a spouse who was willing to read my work, I would have foisted off the job of opening the magazine and seeing my own personal horror splattered across the page.
Instead, I put it off for several hours, still fretting. When I finally dared to open up the issue, I was relieved to find that the story was better than I feared. Better than I remembered, even. In short, my anxiety was nothing more than a terrible, year-long nightmare, from which I have now awoken.