Today is the publication date for my first ever published short story, "The Joy of Baking," which appears at Luna Station Quarterly, an online journal dedicated to publishing female speculative authors. I've published poetry and flash before, but never a longer piece like this one.
When I started out writing short stories, it was a long time before I began to feel like I didn't suck at it. To be honest, I still question myself a lot because short stories just aren't my comfort zone. A poem? I could write ten a day and they'd be pretty rad. Short stories are much harder for me.
I'd like to share with you the story behind the story, because writing is hard. Because persistence matters. Because even if you think you aren't that great at writing a certain genre, or a certain type of story, YOU CAN. I believe in you. And you have to believe in yourself. So I'd like to show you the different places this story journeyed before it found its home.
This story started out when my husband told me he wanted me to write a story about baking. We'd been obsessively watching the Great British Bake Off and mocking the male judge to each other for a while. James has always been my baking buddy - he helps me out when he wants me to bake and sometimes I wonder if I should just make him bake more, but he genuinely enjoys being my baking assistant. So I thought about his request and that's how this story came to be. I started writing this story sometime in 2015. I still have the handwritten draft, see below. Isn't it a mess?
This story is a reflection of my interest in the afterlife and reincarnation. But it's also about bad decisions, about the people in your life that hurt you. It's one of the most hopeful things I've ever written. In a way, it was a kind of therapy for me and that's not a thing I'm very familiar with. It gave me hope to think that even if you die, there might be nice people there to greet you with cake. It gave me hope to think that people who've been hurt in this life might find peace in the next. It was wishful thinking embodied in the form of cake.
After I wrote the story, I sent it out to a few friends. But I was so in love with the story, I couldn't bear to make a lot of revisions. Of course, the comments were helpful and influenced some of my editing of the story, but I just couldn't bear to change things that some people didn't like about the story. So I stayed true to my own gut instinct and revised lightly.
This story went out to five markets before being accepted. Looking back, I realize that's such a small number! I've heard of people wading through 20+ rejections to get to publication. I was glad that I stuck to my guns. I knew that the story was going to find someone to love it, because I loved it.
Of course, it turned out to be one of my husband's favorite stories, because my husband has a very hard job where he works with sick children each day. Stories about dying are hard for him. So for him to say he loved it meant a great deal to me. It also means a great deal to me because much of it is personal and influenced by my own experiences, in ways I can't really describe in public.
So that's the story of my story :) I hope that you will do me the favor of reading it. I'd love to hear what you thought. And thanks to all those who supported me in getting this out there.
Read "The Joy of Baking" at Luna Station Quarterly
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Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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Holly Walrath's books on Goodreads
ratings: 19 (avg rating 4.21)
Our Space: Shorts & Poetry from the Houston Community
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)
In Medias Res: Stories from the In-Between
ratings: 2 (avg rating 4.50)
The 2017 Rhysling Anthology: The Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Poetry of 2016 Selected by the Science Fiction Poetry Association
ratings: 16 (avg rating 4.31)
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.67)