Recently, I got a rejection on a flash story I had written, but it was personalized. In fact, the editors explained that the reason they rejected it was that they thought the story missed a comic opportunity to explore the absurdity of the situation as presented in the story—that one of the main characters had much more life in her than just 500 words could show.
I really appreciate that they offered this bit of critique, because I wouldn’t have considered that maybe her life does need to be a short story. In my mind, I was mainly thinking that the story was about her mother, and how she had to deal with a magical pregnancy. But I could see that maybe the story is about the daughter—or maybe it should be.
I haven’t written a revision of the story yet. I don’t know many fiction writers, and so I find I’m not sure what would be a good way to expand. When I teach creative writing (like I am right now), it’s so easy to see the directions and possibilities that my student’s stories offer. Easy? It’s generally obvious.
But of course we’re all blind when it comes to our own writing. I find that, thinking about the daughter, I’m not sure what she should do. Does she have dialogue? What is her life like, when she’s abandoned her mother practically right after her birth, and she becomes a reality TV star? What happens to her mother, who has to join a support group for mothers whose children have abandoned them?
There’s one person on campus whom I can ask what he thinks—he’s a fiction writer, and once, when I brought him a creative nonfiction story I had written, he gave it the most amazing reading and response I’ve ever received—like he lived with the story, and saw so many places for revision and connection that frankly I was embarrassed by the riches of his generosity and spirit and writerly insight.
I don’t know that anyone has looked at my writing the way he did. I had the thought, that he must be an unbelievably fantastic teacher. If he gives all student work the same attention that he gave my story, students must just be in awe of him. Like I am. (I would give a shout out to him here, but I don’t want him to be inundated with requests by hungry writers looking for critique gold.)
I am thinking of asking him for some suggestions on my flash piece… though I can’t help feeling a little greedy doing it… like I am taking something precious from him. Which he freely offered, I know. But still. Perhaps, I can repay him in coffee and muffins…