The new issue of Washington Square is out, and it contains my story “Burning Down Wal-Mart,” and the whole thing is just gorgeous. I’m in there with so many folks I adore, from CK Williams to Charles Simic to *gasp* Osip Mandelstam.
Go here for the full issue details: http://www.washingtonsquarereview.com/issues.html
On Saturday, February 6th, I read the story at the issue’s launch party. My parents came down from upstate, and a bunch of my friends came out, and the place was packed. And the fabulous editorial people at WSR really made such a wonderful big deal about my story. Fiction editor Sativa January gave me the most incredible intro - which made my sister cry - in which she said my work caused her to experience a “paradigm shift,” and likened it to that moment, on an airplane, just before take-off, where all machine noise and conversation come to an eerie stop. A quote from my story is included in big letters on the inside back cover.
Everyone showered such love on my story, and I walked out of there feeling really secure in my abilities as a writer. But here’s the thing. “Burning Down Wal-Mart” got rejected by 31 literary journals before it landed in the lap of these lovely people. And with every one of those rejections, I felt a slight expansion of that teeny-tiny puddle of hopelessness that every writer carries around inside of them. That fear that we’re no good, that our work will never matter to anyone, that no amount of publication or acclaim will ever make a dent in our own sense of failure. I don’t think I’m the only writer in whom that hopelessness contends with smug confidence, the conviction that our work will rise to Joycean heights of fame and respect and endure forever.
So the challenge is to hold tight to that kernel of euphoria - to remember that any of my stories could end up in the hands of wonderful people who will adore it, in spite of the rejection slips that stack up at such a staggering rate.