Galleys for New Asimov’s Novella: What We Hold Onto

A few days back I received emailed galleys for my upcoming novella, What we Hold Onto, which should appear in the late spring, in the June issue of Asimov’s.

Again, I experience a weird mixture of triumph and terror. Gut wrenching fear.

What if people hate it?

The POV character is female, a middle aged woman. What if they say she doesn’t feel female?

I’ve made up a new human culture. What if people say it’s total bullshit? I use the made-up culture to explore some ideas in and around race. What if people say I’m whitesplaining, mansplaining?

Even worse, what if people think it’s boring?

What if it makes people cancel their subscriptions and I never sell another story?

Everything I’m proud of in the twenty three thousand word thing, every revelation, every thing that came alive on the page as I wrote it now looks like a dissected frog in the galley. Yup. Those are the organs. That’s a heart. That’s a stomach. That’s a, a… liver, I think. Uh huh. That’s a frog all right. I think.

I’ve been through his ten times now, in the big magazines.

Some part of me will love this thing again, in the future, I know. But not now.

And as I anticipate failure, some part of me wonders, what if it was nominated for an award and I felt like I’d finally, once and for all, arrived? What if I felt perfectly welcomed and accepted and loved by all of science fiction? What if my Clarion instructors read it, and sent me notes, on a job well done?

What if it got me a thousand twitter followers?

What if it made attractive people want to be my friend?

Would that change the nature of the blank page in front of me when I write? Would that blank page feel any better?

Would that page beckon any more brightly?

Knowing what I know, about myself, having got this far, what do I think, really?

That’s right.

I hear a voice which says, soothing, ‘just do your work, just do your work, just do your work.’

This is as good as it gets. It doesn’t have to get better.

Be content. Get back in the saddle.

And ride.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications
2 comments on “Galleys for New Asimov’s Novella: What We Hold Onto
  1. Kathy Gill says:

    Jay, I’m reading it right now — 3/4 done. Sobbing. Asking myself why in the world am I reading this on Mother’s Day, 10 years after my mother’s death. I keep trying to put it down, but it calls me back.

    You done good.

    While I dried my tears, I decided to learn more about the story. That’s how I found this post.

    (Clarion or Clarion West? I’m in Seattle.)

    • admin says:

      First of all, thanks, you’re the first here, so, yay!

      My six weeks in Seattle in the 90s were the peak of my first try at writing; I loved the city as it was then. I want to go back.

      I grew up in Syracuse, which was green and rainy but of course, a dying postindustrial wasteland depleted by suburban sprawl. My family fled the city, was part of that migration; a recent Atlantic piece said that Syracuse became, in that diaspora, over the last 30 years, the most segregated city in America. I went back for a visit, after being gone for 30 years, but the city I knew is gone.

      But oh, I love my Nomads. I love second acts and second chances. I’ll keep writing them as long as I’m able.

      Thanks again. Your words mean more than you can know.

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