Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Weekend Writer: The Story Behind My Latest Publication In "Literary Mama"


My short story The Mother Suite has been published in the latest issue of Literary MamaLiterary Mama is one of the first literary journals to focus specifically on the work of mother writers and is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. It publishes a blend of poetry, book reviews, profiles, fiction, and nonfiction. 

Now The Mother Suite has a history that may be of interest to writers who haven't done a lot of submitting yet.

  • According to my records, I first submitted The Mother Suite in 2005. I submitted it 9 times over the next 17 years.
  • I continued to tinker with it during that time and didn't just keep submitting the same thing over and over again. Come on. There's always a possibility that a piece of work is rejected for a reason. My submission records indicate that around 2020 the story evolved into a flash version. That is about the time I became interested in flash fiction.
  • Sadly, I have no hard copies of the original, presumably longer, version. Nor can I find anything pre-flash on my hard drive. As a minimalist, I believe that is good. As a writer...not so much.
  • The first publication I submitted the original story to in 2005 was...Literary Mama! I thought it was worthwhile submitting it again this past March for two reasons. 1. The story had changed over the years. 2. Publications change editors over time. A new person would be seeing this. 

Working With A Developmental Editor

Literary Mama has department editors who function as real developmental editors (I published a piece of creative nonfiction with them in 2007, and the situation was the same.). This is unique in my limited experience publishing short work, but it was a big part of publishing my books with G.P. Putnam. It's hard to describe what developmental editors do to someone who hasn't worked with one and especially to people who aren't writers. But, essentially, they help develop the story. Developmental editors working for a publication or a book publisher see something in a submission that appeals to them in some way, that they think could work for their publication or company. Writers and editors agree to work together to develop the story, to help it evolve into something they all believe enhances the original submission.

In this case, the original submission, called Take It From Me, was written as an older mother's advice to new mothers. The main character had two children, and she had more experiences that she talked about. It was essentially a superficial rant. Looking back, I think there was a feeling that the children were at fault somehow. Literary Mama's fiction editor liked a particular aspect of the story. She suggested dropping one of the child characters and creating more of a relationship between the mother and remaining child. She suggested dropping some of the experiences the mother originally talked about and elaborating on the ones I did use. She also suggested dropping the advice frame I was using, which went a long way to eliminating the ranting.

Maintaining the mother's voice was important to me. Among the good things that happened as this story evolved is that the daughter developed a voice as well.

The story became much more sophisticated than it originally was. I hope that the experience of working with this editor will have a positive impact on my future short story writing.

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