One of my stories is being reprinted.
It’s the first story of mine that was ever published, and it’s been reprinted a number of times. I’m pleased that it’s coming out again, and it’s in a particularly wonderful book: Happily Ever After, edited by John Klima. You can order it directly from Night Shade Books, or from Amazon.
Here are the gorgeous cover and incredible table of contents:
Bill Willingham, Introduction
Gregory Maguire, “The Seven Stage a Comeback”
Genevieve Valentine, “And In Their Glad Rags”
Howard Waldrop, “The Sawing Boys”
Michael Cadnum, “Bear It Away”
Susanna Clarke, “Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower”
Karen Joy Fowler, “The Black Fairy’s Curse”
Charles de Lint, “My Life As A Bird”
Holly Black, “The Night Market”
Theodora Goss, “The Rose in Twelve Petals”
Jim C. Hines, “The Red Path”
Alethea Kontis, “Blood and Water”
Garth Nix, “Hansel’s Eyes”
Wil McCarthy, “He Died That Day, In Thirty Years”
Jane Yolen, “Snow In Summer”
Michelle West, “The Rose Garden”
Bruce Sterling, “The Little Magic Shop”
K. Tempest Bradford, “Black Feather”
Alan Rodgers, “Fifi’s Tail”
Kelly Link, “The Faery Handbag”
Peter Straub, “Ashputtle”
Leslie What, “The Emperor’s New (And Improved) Clothes”
Robert J. Howe, “Pinocchio’s Diary”
Wendy Wheeler, “Little Red”
Neil Gaiman, “The Troll Bridge”
Patricia Briggs, “The Price”
Paul Di Filippo, “Ailoura”
Jeff VanderMeer, “The Farmer’s Cat”
Gregory Frost, “The Root of The Matter”
Susan Wade, “Like a Red, Red Rose”
Josh Rountree, “Chasing America”
Nancy Kress, “Stalking Beans”
Esther Friesner, “Big Hair”
Robert Coover, “The Return of the Dark Children”
I’ve been so fortunate lately to have stories of mine reprinted in anthologies with some of my favorite authors. Susanna Clarke! I love Susanna Clarke.
But since “The Rose in Twelve Petals” was my first published story, I thought you might like to know how it was written. This is for all the writers out there who are at the same place I was at the time. Here’s how it happened.
In the summer of 2000, I went to the Odyssey Writing Workshop (where, by the way, I will be teaching this summer). Before going to Odyssey, I had never published anything, for the good and sufficient reason that nothing I wrote was publishable. At Odyssey, I learned how to write publishable stories. Several months later, I started writing “Rose.” I started writing it because I started thinking, what about all the other characters in the story? Don’t they have stories of their own? That’s something I’ve thought about quite a lot in general, and many of my stories are about that – what sorts of stories the other characters, the ones who are not main characters, have. I think their stories are just as interesting, in some ways more so.
“Rose,” as you’ll immediately realize if you read it, is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.” It’s told from the point of view of a number of characters, including the tower in which the princess is sleeping and the spinning wheel who does not want to kill her.
At first, I thought that was all I was going to do with the story. But as I wrote it, I started rewriting the history of Britain. I believe I rewrote it so that Bonny Prince Charlie won. I worried at the time about complicating the story like that, but I remembered something I had heard at Odyssey: that I should not be afraid to complicate. That complication was good. So I went with that idea, and I think it made the story stronger. At the time, I was not a particularly experienced writer, and it was difficult for me to handle a subtext. I revised the story quite a lot, getting that subtext in. Now when I write, I find that I write text and subtext at the same time. I weave it in automatically.
That’s one thing that changes as you get better. You learn to write on different levels at once. I can write dialog that also reveals character and advances the plot, in the first draft. I used to have to put that other stuff in later.
So then, the next summer, I went to the Clarion Writing Workshop, which at that time was in Michigan. At Clarion, I learned to how to write the sorts of stories that pose a challenge to the genre. That’s what Clarion, at least my year of Clarion, encouraged. I brought “Rose” with me, because I had just finished it and it still needed to be workshopped. Kelly Link workshopped it, and told me both what was working and what was not. I actually didn’t need to make many changes at that point, and I was happy about that. The guest editor for that summer was Shawna McCarthy, and her first day there, she told us that she had already seen a story in the pile that she wanted to buy. Later that day, she told me it was mine. I was stunned, of course. To have my story bought like that! And published in Realms of Fantasy!
I’ve written many stories since then, some better than others. But I learn from each one. And I think that “Rose” is still one of my best. I’m very proud that it keeps being reprinted.
That was ten years ago, and all day today I’ve been working on a story, thinking about how far I’ve come since then. Is it far? I don’t know, I still feel as though I’m just starting out, even though at this point I’ve published almost enough stories for two collections, plus essays and poems. And soon, I’m planning on starting a novel. I still struggle with writing problems, although they tend to be different problems now. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel as though I know what I’m doing, not fully. And I suppose that’s a good thing. After all, if this were easy, it wouldn’t be writing, would it?