Welcome back! Today, I’m highlighting another original story from my collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. This time around, we head to a childhood vacation spot that isn’t quite so welcoming as it seems with “The Five-Day Summer Camp.”
Now sometimes, when I do these behind-the-scenes blogs, I like to give insight into the story’s origin (mostly because I love to read blogs from other authors that discuss inspiration). Then there are times when it seems more pertinent to discuss the story’s development or its quest toward publication, because let’s face it: these beasts can often take on lives of their own. So it went with “The Five-Day Summer Camp,” which—with its two unusual sisters who must endure a world brimming with oppressive terror—might be best described as a little bit Shirley Jackson and a little bit George Orwell.
From the get-go, this was a story that I loved writing. It includes elements of my other work—sisters, outsiders, coming-of-age—but it also takes a different, and at times darker and more precarious, path to get there. That made this one both a challenge to write and a joy to take to fruition as a storyteller. But that was pretty much where the joy ended, because when it was finished, I had no idea where to submit this tale. It’s a bit of a between-genre piece with echoes of dystopia, horror, and the weird. As many of us short fiction writers lament, there aren’t a ton of markets for those stories that bridge those hard-to-define gaps. So last summer after completing this story, I was incredibly morose about its future, fearing it might never see the light of day. I mean, seriously morose (there might have even been some moping involved). After a day or two of my said moping, it was my husband who told me with complete confidence, “Don’t worry. It’s a great story. Just hold on to it until a publisher asks you for a fiction collection.” I promptly scowled and told him in my most dismissive tone, “No one’s ever going to ask me for a fiction collection.” (I probably rolled my eyes at him too, though fortunately we were on the phone at that time and he didn’t see that part.) But it’s true that I didn’t think there was much chance of me having a collection in the foreseeable future. Because when it comes down to it, I’m still such a relatively new writer; my first published story only came out in 2013, so why would anyone ask me for a collection?
But then, someone did. An awesome someone. Less than a month later, my beyond fabulous editor Jess Landry contacted me and asked me to send her a fiction collection. Naturally, “The Five-Day Summer Camp” was included in the book. So basically within a matter of days of claiming I’d never have a fiction collection, I was proved quite merrily wrong, and my husband likes to point this out whenever we discuss this particular story. Well played this time, husband. Well played.
To top it all off, I’ve already had several readers tell me how much they enjoyed “The Five-Day Summer Camp.” Over at her blog just earlier this week, Maria Haskins named it as one of her favorites from the collection and called it “a gut-wrenching story about resistance and rebellion.” If only every tale of author woes ended so happily, right?
I wish I could say this story has taught me something about endurance during the submission process, but truth be told, the next time I have a story that I love that can’t find a home, I’ll probably mope around the house all over again. But it is nice to be able to look back and remember a time like this one when it all worked out in the absolute best way. So maybe that’s something of a lesson in itself.
Happy reading, and happy submitting those strange stories that you love so much! Keep at it, because they’ll find their homes!