Losing My Amateur Status

The Story of My First Published Story


About seven years ago, I wrote a short story called “Under a Full Moon,” for my creative writing class. It was a big hit. My prof said I had to send it to someplace “special,” and we made a short list of a few Canadian literary magazines I could try. Surely this masterpiece would be snapped up by Prism, the Fiddlehead, or (gasp!) the Malahat Review!

But alas, no. “We rarely, if ever, publish speculative fiction,” they said.

Was ist diese? I thought. Speculative Fiction? It turns out that my story is categorized as “speculative fiction” because it takes place in a world that is so unlike our own that the reader identifies the story as “fantasy.” My world has no moon. Speculative fiction. Alright then.

“Try ON SPEC,” they said.

I bought a copy of ON SPEC at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto. To my horror, I found that it was (second gasp!) a sci-fi/fantasy magazine! How dare those editors lump me in with Vampire mongers and socially-awkward Trekkies! This magazine was not worthy of my talents! So the story went into a drawer, to be lost forever rather than be found in questionable company.

Meanwhile, I finished my copy of ON SPEC. No one can prove that I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Fast forward to March, 2002. I was cleaning out some old shoe boxes and found the rejection slips for “Under a Full Moon.” All these editors giving me the same advice: Try ON SPEC. All these people, who publish and read fiction for a living, giving me advice I didn’t want. Didn’t they realize that my story deserved better than that? I mean, didn’t it?

Try ON SPEC. Oh alright. I put the story in an envelope and sent it off.

Again with the fast forward. August 31, 2002. I had sent an email to ON SPEC to check on the status of my submission. To paraphrase their response, it read: “Oh yeah. We want to buy your story.” I had to reread it a few times. Surely it couldn’t be this easy. Surely the editors at the other magazines weren’t that accurate with their advice. Wasn’t I supposed to have resorted to booze and cigarettes long before my words made it into print? This had to be a setup.

But no. Soon afterwards, a cheque arrived. An actual cheque, that I cashed and used to buy booze and cigarettes.

[Ed’s Note: Having been paid, he is now officially a professional writer, and no longer eligible for the 2004 Writer’s Games, to be held in June, in lovely Wawa, Ontario.]

In the following months, I purchased several issues of ON SPEC, and grudgingly admitted to myself that it was an attractive and well-produced magazine, and the stories were varied and engaging. I was glad to have traded my words for my ego.

Last fast forward, to today. My story is out there in the big wide world. My name is on a cover. With a beautiful painting of a half-naked chick in a red dress. Just how I would’ve wanted it.

[Ed’s Note: You can order your copy through the ON SPEC website using their online order form; it’s issue #54.]

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