Last month, I received my first acceptance letter, along with a check for $20.
I know, I know, you are wondering why on earth, I didn’t write about it right away?? Or even in last week’s blog post?? The answer to that is complex, and I’m not going to bore you by retyping my three-page diary entry about it. But I will give you the highlights. First of all, the acceptance was for a 200-word devotional, to be published in the Judson’s Press quarterly devotional booklet, The Secret Place. And I’d been waiting to hear back from them for a year. Yes, a year.
Allow me to subject you to all the immediate emotions that ran through me upon opening that letter with a check falling out of it:
Oh my gosh, I got accepted. I just got my FIRST EVER paycheck for my writing! Okay, stay calm. You know it is just a 200-word devotional. It doesn’t really count. Oh no! When I tell people I got published, they are going to expect so much more! I can’t tell them it’s only a 200-word devotional. MY FIRST CHECK! I am such a failure. This is the only thing I’ve managed to get published. I can’t believe I FINALLY heard back! I need to submit ALL the devotionals! **glancing at my husband, going through other mail** I should tell him. He’ll be so excited for me. But he’ll be more excited than it warrants. After all, it’s only $20. MY FIRST CHECK!! Also, it’s only a devotional. **shyly passes the letter over to him**
Anyway. It continued on like that internally for…well, it is still going on. I am excited, and proud, and at the same time somehow ashamed that it isn’t more. That I am not more. That after over a year, all I have to show is a 200-word devotional and…if I updated the count on my home page correctly…28 rejections. EVEN MY REJECTION COUNT IS LOW! But then there is this other part of me that thrills along with Emily in Emily Climbs:
“Her heart beat violently as she tore it open and glanced over the typewritten sheet…She grew dizzy–the letters danced before her eyes–for there, on the front page, in a fine border of curlicues, was her poem…it was the first sweet bubble on the cup of success and we must not think her silly if it intoxicated her…it was her poem–hers–accepted by and printed in a real magazine. And paid for!…Oh, bliss–oh, rapture! The world was hers–the Alpine Path was as good as climbed–what signified a few more scrambles to the summit?”
Despite all my attempts to talk myself down, explain to myself that it wasn’t really much of a success, my immediate impulse was to go try again. To write and send in a dozen more stories with the hope of acceptance. The hope that maybe someday it would be a story, instead of a devotional, and then a novel, instead of a short story. I’ve since received like four more rejections, so that brought me down out of the tiny cloud I allowed myself to ascend for a bit.
But here is the truth that even I sometimes find it hard to believe. A step forward, no matter how small, is still a step forward. A step closer to the top of the Alpine Path. Hebrews 11:1, one of my favorite verses, says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hope–often as elusive as publication–is faith in what we cannot see. It is required of all writers as they trek up that mountain, because without it, we do not try because we do not believe. And if we do not believe, then what use is trying?
It is because of hope that we move forward in life. Because of hope that we pursue our goals, our careers, our dreams. Writing is just a little more personal than all the rest of the goals we pursue because it involves rejection after rejection of things that you poured your heart and soul into. But that makes victory–even small victories–that much sweeter. That much more worthwhile. That much more hoped-for.
I’m going to frame that check, and I’m going to take that little devotional, on which I will share at most half a page with someone else, and put it on a shelf, where, someday, magazines with my short stories will accompany it. And possibly even a published book of my own.
“The Fringed Gentian,” Author Unknown Lift up, thy dewy fringed eyes, Oh, little Alpine flower, The tear that trembling on them lies Has sympathetic power To move my own, for I, too, dream With thee of distant heights Whose lofty peaks are all agleam With rosy dazzling lights. Who dreams of wider spheres revealed Up higher near the sky Within the valley’s narrow field Cannot contented lie. Who longs for mountain breezes rare Is restless down below Like me for stronger purer air Thou pinest, too, I know. Where aspirations, hopes, desires Combining fondly dwell, Where burn the never-dying flowers Of Genius’ wondrous spell. Such towering summits would I reach Who climb and grope in vain, Oh, little flower, the secret teach The weary way make plain. When whisper blossom in thy sleep How I may upward climb The Alpine path, so hard, so steep That leads to heights sublime. How I may reach that far-off goal Of true and honored fame And write upon its shining scroll A woman’s humble name.