Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Give and Take

You've got to give a little, even if you are a freelance writer. So just about two years ago I contributed stories to three anthologies intended to be fundraisers for causes I care about.

The first book, to be published in Ireland, solicited stories on care giving. Since my late husband had been ill for some time, I contributed a story in 2008 about how he surprised me by having his portrait painted so I'd have something special to remember him by. The caregiver group accepted my story and indicated they anticipated immediate publication.

Months passed, and I never heard any updates. My e-mails bounced back and their website had disappeared. I worried that I had been scammed, and subsequently submitted my story to two anthologies in the States. They both offered to buy it, and I went with the one that would be published soonest, hoping my husband would live long enough to see the tale in print. Ironically, he died the day my contributors' copies arrived, but he'd made a list of friends he wanted me to send the books to. Of course I did.

This morning, over a year and a half later, I got notification that the book, 24/7:How Much We Care, will be published within the next two months, and will include my story, The Legacy. It's heartening to think that Irish eyes will be smiling at my husband's sweet gesture. The group will provide a contributor's copy in thanks. But I'd already been paid $200 and given ten copies of the book containing the work by the other publisher.

A pastor in Canada developed her anthology as a fundraiser for grandmothers who are raising HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. The book, Grandmothers' Necklace, sought "jewels," poems and stories on the grandmother theme. I sent Grandma Gertie's Pickled Peaches, complete with recipe, and soon received notice it was accepted. The editor asked contributors to purchase copies, since all proceeds were earmarked for the charity... so I bought three. One is ensconced with the several other anthologies including my stories, between the black A and Z bookends atop the entertainment center. The others dwell temporarily in the box where I store gifts for yet undesignated giftees. My charitable contribution amounted to $60, plus my time to write the story. Yet I'm pleased because I'm not certain I could have found another publisher for this particular tale. As a bonus my picture is on the cover, as one of the "jewels" in the necklace.

The third editor sought stories about what we have learned from our mothers. My mom was a walking encyclopedia of lessons to be learned, so I sent a tale, It's About Time. The editor, who also billed himself as a publisher, indicated he would give the proceeds to combat domestic violence, though he was vague indeed about exactly how that would work. He sent an acceptance letter, but said he needed to edit my contribution, since he wanted to include as many stories as he could crowd in. I offered to edit myself, but he declined. Instead he removed whole paragraphs, which interfered with the continuity of the story, eliminated any backstory, and left one line in the conclusion nearly incomprehensible. I'd discovered the latter only after signing the permission release.

After a series of e-mails asking his contributors to suggest publishing houses that might be interested in such a collection, he finally notified everybody that he would be posting updates on Twitter only. Though I doubted he'd ever find a publisher, just this week I learned that a friend who also contributed received the $100 stipend he'd offered. Since I hadn't, I looked up the Twitter account and learned that in January he had discarded a third of the stories originally selected. I inquired about my tale, and yes, it had been cut, and I'd not been told. Moreover, my friend inquired about a contributor's copy, and was told he planned to send them only to people who asked for them. It also sounds as if the contributors would be given a free copy only if they ordered more. The charity is still unnamed.

It's rare when I think that a rejection is a blessing is disguise. This time it is. I now can market my story in its original and comprehensible form.

Lesson learned: sometimes its better to give than to take...but sometimes it's not! Apparently I'm still gaining the wisdom to know the difference.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the rejection notice (although he never really 'noticed' you, did he?). Way back in the dawn of time, I submitted a poem for the High School lit mag. "Tigers are nice, most of the time," it read, "Though they oft strike without any clues...." Some well-intentioned editor "corrected" the poem to read "Tigers are mice, most of the time..." Since then, I've been double-plus much afeared of editors.

    Would enjoy reading "It's About time", the unabridged version, if you have it in readable form.

    (and since you are no doubt dying to know, the stanza ends: "And penguins and red ones and green one and blue/And cardboard kangaroos." I think I was runner up for the Pulitzer that year)