I love that there’s a literary journal dedicated to sport and literature–Stymie Magazine. The connection between sports and writing seems natural to me. My husband says a baseball season is like a Russian novel. I guess a football game might be a flash piece.
So I was excited when my story, “The Hit,” was accepted at Stymie Magazine recently. Here’s a little bit about the story.
First draft written: Oct. 6, 2013
Number of drafts: 2-3
Number of rejections: 9 (5 of those were personal rejections)
From submission to publication: 2 months
Well, you can see this story was written in the middle of the football season. So, I was watching a lot of NFL. During October, I was also trying to write a story of some sort every day. Thirty-one stories in thirty-one days, which I did.
When you’re trying to write a story every day, you get pretty creative about the topic for a story. When you’re watching football at least three days a week (Monday, Thursday, and Sunday), football’s probably on your mind.
I wrote this story before the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito story broke. If you watch as much football as I do, it’s not at all hard to imagine there’s a lot of homophobia, misogyny and racism in that culture, because there’s a lot of homophobia, misogyny and racism everywhere. Why should a football locker room be any different? What was surprising to me was that someone finally had the courage to break that silence and suggest that maybe treating your teammates this way is less than appropriate.
I remember reading an essay about visibility and invisibility in social life. If you’re the only woman in a room full of men, you’re very visible. But some statuses are invisible–they disappear. They are people you don’t see, who blend into the background. Referees are a classic example. We don’t see them until they do something wrong. No one watches the referees and there’s a kind of power in that invisibility. That’s part of what this story is about.
I don’t think of the narrator of this story as a bad guy. He’s a product of his culture, and in fact, maybe this referee is abusing his power. Which doesn’t justify physical violence, but is still wrong, even if the person you’re harassing is a homophobic football player. I think life is easier if we assume there are good people and bad people, but really there are just a lot of people in crappy situations and a fucked-up culture trying to do the best they can.
I was surprised by how well this story came out in the first draft, which is always kind of nice. I changed a few words here and there. But the version that was published is pretty close to the original.
The piece only got rejected nine times and five of those were personal. Let us briefly sing the praises of the personal rejection, even if it’s just a sentence. Even if it’s just a word. This piece got a personal rejection from PANK, which is a personal rejection from Roxane Gay. It doesn’t get much better than that. Except, of course, for an acceptance.
There were no suggestions with the personal rejections. Usually just some encouragement to please submit to them again, which, of course, you do. But the personal rejection at least suggests to you that you might be on the right path. That your chances are good if you keep at it. That you are not, as you wake up suspecting every day, a complete and total failure.