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Monday, May 23, 2011


In these articles (about once a month on the third or fourth Monday), I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned in the past fifteen years from first trying to get short stories and articles published in the non-adult market to publishing pretty much whenever I submit a short story, article or essay to a non-adult market. I’m going to do this chronologically so that those of you who are beginning your journey can learn what I did as I did. This will also tend to make me more coherent as I cast back to those first days – and I won’t make assumptions about what I did and didn’t know…

In 1994, HiCALL was the teen magazine of the General Council of the Assemblies of God Church; a sort of eight page flyer that could be handed out to the youth in a church. I found it in the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET GUIDE where the editor had listed that she was interested in science fiction.

I wrote a couple of stories that were rejected without comment. Determined to break into this market, I made drive-by visits to all of the Assemblies of God churches I could find in our area. There weren’t many. Entering the churches in the summer during the weekday, I didn’t find many youth directors around. But one was all I needed and she provided me with a few back issees of HiCALL. I studied the stories then wrote a letter to the editor listed on the magazine asking her what kind of science fiction she wanted.

A short time later, I got a response from her! She told me that she hadn’t seen my stories, but that, as a science fiction fan, I could submit another story to her, marking the envelope “Personal”. This would get past the first reader and go directly to her.

I hastily wrote “Dance to Change the Universe” using a world I’d invented in college called Enstad's Planet, for a friend of mine (Tom Enstad was my next-dorm-door-neighbor in college. We became friends, organized a group of eight young men to hike in the Rockies and got closer. Several years later, he was killed while stepping off a curb in Washington, DC; so stories on this world are a legacy of his provocative questions).

This time, the story made it to the head editor. She responded that while she liked it, she couldn’t use it. Because I’m Lutheran, I didn’t know that in 1992, in the Assemblies of God, dancing was a taboo subject. She also added, “…we cannot print a story about a girl studying ballet – even if she’s in space.”

I queried again and she responded that she’d love to see the story – but that they could no longer respond to my queries. Essentially, “Just send us the story, already!”

I wrote “Test” about a girl who had overcome sexism to become a licensed paramedic. She’d also overcome religious prejudice, as she was a Christian in a Muslim field of endeavor. But her excellence has given her a position on a paramedic team. Disaster strikes and she chooses to help one of her antagonists despite his proclamation that he’d rather DIE than be treated by a Christian woman.

She loved it and bought it in October of 1992. I was paid and then I waited with bated breath.

And waited.

For a year, until in 1993, “Test” appeared in the October issue of HiCALL magazine.

Thrilled with my first practically-professional publication, I quickly discovered two things. The first was that the writer has NOTHING to do with the art. My main character as interpreted by the artist was a…busty…Hispanic woman! Not at ALL who I had in mind as I wrote. The second thing was worse though – no one outside of my family noticed. There were no calls, reviews or fan letters. THIS was my first taste of the loneliness that would dog me until, at the dawn of the second decade of the 21st Century I would write a certain author and ask him, “What’s it like to be famous?”

Who knows, I might even share what he said someday. But for now, victory was MINE! I had finally published my first science fiction story in a teen magazine!

What I Learned #2: Research your market COMPLETELY before you fire off your story.

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