The sense of accomplishment is really quite draining.
I recently had a poem published in my school’s Literary/Art magazine (sadly, more art than literary these days). When I first saw the poster begging for submissions, I noticed the subheading- “Literary/Art” – and somehow missing the slash between the two words, assumed that they meant what they said: Literary art.
The acknowledgement that writing is an art form, that a picture may, in fact, be worth a thousand words in some cases, but that if those thousand words are written well, they’d outstrip the visual every time. As the overly sentimental romantic that I am, these words touched a chord in me.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old, when I began penning and illustrating my own series of books entitled “Catty and Mousey”. They were, in retrospect, a Tom and Jerry rip-off, but, hey, I was six.
Almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be published. I’d watch my mom on our comically large computer as she cranked out our local Mensa newsletter; I’d follow my dad to work – at the time he was a newspaper reporter – and play with his typewriter. Guys he worked with would wander in occasionally and tease him about his cute four year old on the typewriter, acting like a grownup. That is, until they realized that I could actually read, even if my spelling was nothing to brag about (I had a proclivity for the letter Y, and would often put it where it didn’t belong. Example: “Hayll Doyr” = “Hall Door”. Perhaps it’s because I’m Southern).
People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’d say Published. I still say this.
“But you are published,” my mother will say, “you’re published on the Internet.” “Well, that doesn’t count.” I invariably protest.
I’ve always wanted to be a real author, with a bound book – be it a novel, collected essays, or poetry – available in Barnes and Noble. Published on the Internet? Vanity press? Locally published? I know I’m a snob, but none of these things are real, at least not in the way I ever wanted to be real. Not that they aren’t good things, just not the apex I’ve been working towards. To me, real is the difference between having your major motion picture open in theatres across the country and having a video on YouTube. Real is italicized, boldfaced, hard to miss. Nobody’s self-published novel ever hit the NYT bestseller list.
But today on a whim, I checked out the periodicals section of the campus library, and there I saw them, bound, cool, and serene: Literary/Art magazines dating back to a good decade before I was born, coming to a rest at last year’s edition. I flipped through a few of them, recognizing no names. And then it hit me.
The kids published in this magazine ten, twenty, twenty-five years ago are all gone, graduated, some maybe even dead. But here they were, on a library shelf for anyone to read, check out. Immortal. And I’ll be joining them. The most recent edition, the one with me in it, is going to slide easily next to all the others. Not only am I published, I’m coming to rest in a library.
What I wanted has come to pass. Maybe not on the scale that I hoped for, just yet, but still, there I am, on a shelf to the left of the reference desk.