Incredibly talented writers-editors Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan unveiled a Kickstarter project last year under the skin-shaking name of Foreshadow, an online anthology of short stories from new and established writers in the world of YA. I saw their call for stories on the summer of 2018. I, of course, with reckless fire, sat down, rolled my sleeves, and wrote a story. A story I called River. And I submitted it a week after.
If there’s one thing I learned about myself, I write better prose when I think less. But better prose does not mean grammatically-correct lines and clear plots. Which is why I didn’t have much hopes for it.
There was no response across 2018, and by Christmas, I have decided I was right to not expect. I cringed at Maya. And while writing Maya. But on January this year, there was this:
We are happy to say that our readers enjoyed and passed it along to our editors, and we would like to continue holding on to it as a possible fit for a future New Voices slot. The “New Voice” stories appearing in FORESHADOW will be ultimately selected by beloved, established YA authors—watch our website for the latest selectors!—and your story is that much closer to being selected! While we have received several wonderful New Voices stories, we try to make sure the ones we pass along to each author are a good match for their tastes. We feel your story might suit a later selector, which is why it might take additional time to get an answer.
While this isn’t a guarantee of publication, it does mean we intend to put your story in front of one of our New Voices judges.
Aaaaand like every writers, I fist-pumped in silence, smiled stupidly, and hummed heart-harrowing orchestral music because that’s what writing creepy things make you. Creepy. There was a flip of a switch in my head. I knew it. I’m better off writing fantasy. I’m better at writing gore.
There was hope, but just a small one, because eight months onward, there was silence. That’s when I thought, “Ah. It didn’t get in.” It did feel good to almost get into something. So when the rejection finally arrived, I decided not to read it. It’s not going to change anything, anyway.
That’s what I do. Try to evade the truth for a while and wait when I’m ready. And when I was ready, some random afternoon when my head is floating past dimensions allowed, I decided to occupy my emotions with things I should feel. I opened the email.
We are sorry to say that we have decided that this story does not ultimately fit our needs for our publication. There were so many wonderful stories to consider that we ran out of space for all we would have loved to publish.
Me: Thank you very much. It’s been very clear to me months before.
And then I read further down.
To aid you in submitting this elsewhere, we have included some of our initial reader responses for you to consider:
“I enjoyed the creepy-almost-uncomfortable atmosphere of this story. It pushed the boundaries and genuinely intrigued me until the very end. There were some awkward moments in the writing such as the stuttering dialogue which needs some work, but overall I think this story has a lot of potential. Some parts of the story also should’ve flowed more and could use some improvement.”
“The story is different, the MC is relatable, and her relationship with the monster works well. I wish it was a tiny bit more developed, and some world building rules need to be explained better. Some of the descriptions could be a little clearer. The author uses some foreign terms, and there’s even a glossary at the end, but I wish that was incorporated in a more organic way. The dialogue is a bit stilled at times. The ending could use some work. But overall, I feel this is original and interesting.”
“This piece is absolutely stunning and terrifying! Its haunting atmosphere reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth. The monster’s presence makes a lot of sense to me, and it adds such a great layer to Mara’s emotional and outer struggles I think the author does a beautiful job of keeping the plot going, while managing to deliver creepy moments at the same time. There are some parts that could use some smoother transitions, and there are some details I would like to see more fleshed out. There is a some room for improvement, and that’s okay! I want this story to shine.”
SHUT UP. I AM CRYING. DO NOT TOUCH ME. I know, I should have read it way earlier. I, other than certain, beautiful query responses, never had my work critiqued. And my heart was fluttering to know that it was something good. Something that actually resonated, despite the fact that some words were intentionally Filipino and my monster-boy speaks in a languid way. I am aware I have flow-and-plot problems, but we can work on that! I’m glad to have seen where my flaws are, and which ones can be improved.
To those who read River, thank you. I hope we all see it on an actual page someday. But as for now, my boy monster is going to rest until it finds a home. x