Every Story Has a Back Story
Twenty-seven years ago, I wrote a story called “Jungle of the Heart.” It sat in a folder for about the next seventeen.
When I decided to return to creative writing, I pulled it out. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought, ‘maybe with some editing, this could be published.’
I sought help from mentors Susan Tweit and John Brantingham. Susan gave encouragement and editing advice, while John motivated me with an array of journals to try for. He said he knew of a small online journal that would publish it immediately, but he thought I should aim higher.
The first place the story landed was a writers’ blog site called RedRoom.com. A writer whom I’d taken a workshop with, Victoria Zackheim, recommended it. Although a blog, the story had to be accepted by the editor. He admired it so much that he linked it to the RR home page, where my little ant-sized photo joined the likes of Maya Angelou, Jon Stewart, and Barack Obama. Man, was I thrilled!
Eventually RR became defunct, so I decided that the story’s new home should be a literary journal. I wanted the journal to be both online and print formats (I’ll explain why in a minute).
As directed, I aimed high. I got rejection letters from fancy-schmancy journals like the Paris Review, the Sun – maybe a dozen all together. That was depressing; no writer likes to receive rejections. Some are better than others. We’d rather read a personal note like, “We loved it! And we almost took it, except… Signed, Shelby Worth, Editor,” than the generic form letter that says, “Thank you for submitting your work. We regret that we cannot use it at this time. Signed, Generic Editor Who Hates Your Writing.”
To be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time submitting the story, because I’d begun work on a book-length memoir in addition to teaching full time. I figured that when I sent to the right journal at the right time, it would happen.
The right time turned out to be Spring 2018. And the right journal turned out to be Westwind, UCLA’s Journal of the Arts.
But not right away. My first contact from their editor said that their editing committee might consider publishing it if I would be open to suggestion. Uh oh. I had a feeling I knew what “suggestion” she was talking about: They’d want me to take the word “cock” out. Could I do that? I decided that in the interest of sharing the story, I could. There are other words. Dick. Sex. Manhood. Schlong. Anaconda. Down there. The list goes on.
If only that were it. But no, they wanted more, and at times, less. More character development. More richness of detail. Less superfluous information. I sighed, knowing I would be taking an unplanned vacay from my book in order to accomplish this, and yet with no pot’o’gold guarantee waiting at the end.
But I did it! And I saw that my changes made it a better story. The editor told me they were very excited to publish it. We laughed together about how I thought it was the word “cock.” (I mean, their own description of their journal’s ethos said that they are very open-minded, but how often have I heard that before?) She apologized for having suggested one change, only to tell me, after I made it, “Ohh, don’t hate me – but I think I liked it better the first way.” Argh!
I didn’t realize how long it would take to come out. We finished our edits last summer, and then I waited. I checked the website every few days. Summer ended. Fall began. Fall ended. Winter began. And I started to wonder if the whole thing had been my imagination. Or maybe the journal had lost funding? Maybe UCLA had CLOSED DOWN? (No, that could not be. Get a grip on yourself, Lynda!)
In mid-January I checked the site a couple of times and saw nothing change, until… Suddenly there it was: The Spring 2018 issue that contains my story! Page 90. With little blurbs about the authors (e.g., me) in the back. And the word “cock” still intact (I checked).
I like the art work, people with what could be little red hearts. The editor even references the story in her Fiction Editor Note just inside the front cover. Best of all, and something that readers of the journal will never see, was the comment she made when we were negotiating: “We almost wondered if this was too good for us.” Whoa!
I haven’t seen the print copy yet. Which brings me back to why I wanted both formats. Print copies become part of the collection housed in the Library of Congress. As for online, the story is used by the International Professional Surrogates Association as a training tool in preparing surrogate partners in sex therapy. I have done some sex and body image education for them (see also my blog post Body by Lynda.) The online link is an easier resource for them to access.
As a result of showing John Brantingham this story, he invited me to do two public readings and then to teach a workshop on Writing About Sex. I did it at last year’s Writers Weekend at Mt. San Antonio College, and I will be teaching it again this year (weekend renamed Culturama).
I guess the moral of this back story is, “Don’t give up your dream!” I’d wanted a career as a writer but let my dream get side-tracked by the need to make a living. By the time I went back to writing, I had no idea where the road would lead. I didn’t have a blog, a website, a published story, a writing award, or a book that was nearly finished. Now I have those and more, and all I can say is that I’m enjoying the hell out of it!
Here’s the link to the story, which is in the Spring 2018 issue and starts on page 90.
97 thoughts on “Every Story Has a Back Story”
Very exciting congratulations
Sent from my Galaxy Tab® S2
Thank you, Penny! You’re such a faithful reader, and I appreciate it.
CONGRATULATIONS! HOW exciting! It’s great to hear your story to your story and your story!
Hahaha! Thank you Karyn! I’ve been thinking about you – we need to catch up!
Congrats on your invite to teach! They new you had a gift and im happy you get to share it with everyone!
Thank you! That was a surprise, but I stepped up to the new challenge. (I’m glad I wasn’t too chicken, LOL.)
Im so happy yo had the courage to put your story out there! Because of this experience you have shown the world your talent for writing!
Thank you! I had put the talent on the shelf for a long time, but now I’ve apparently taken it down and dusted it off.
I am happy to hear that you finally got your work published! Reading about you continuing to chase your dreams only motivates me to continue chasing my dreams and not give up when things get difficult. Thank you for sharing!
I am so happy to read that you have this accomplishment under your belt. Thank you for reminding us never to give up on our dreams. It’s true what the saying says, “When one door closes a new one opens”.
My only regret is that I would be a better writer today if I had kept doing it all along. But it’s too late to go back, so all I can do is go forward!
Congratulations! It must have felt amazing having your work published for the world to see. Hearing these success stories (reading in this case) helps anyone of any age realize that their dreams can always be a reality. This story has reinvigorated me and I now want to continue chasing some of my smaller dreams as I continue my college life! Thank you for this inspiration! Again congratulations and thank you for sharing a part of your life with everyone here.
Thank you, Matthew! I’m glad this inspired you to keep trying things. Good luck with your dreams!
Congratulations Lynda! I enjoy hearing that you had went back to do something that you love. Also that you made it and do to your ambition and love for writing you published the story! Again Congratulations!
Thanks! It has been very exciting for me.
Congratulations! I envy you Professor. I always wanted to write, however fear comes in my way. I never thought writing a story does takes time. How long did it take to finish it? Thank you for sharing.
Thank you! And I have to say, don’t let fear stop you. I actually wrote the story pretty quickly but over 20 years ago. Then it sat in a folder. I went back to it about 10 years ago and spent some time revising. Then quite awhile sending it out and getting rejected, before I found the right journal.
That is really encouraging professor I personally would be terrible at writing just writing this comment I feel the struggle with it because I am so bad at it, but to write a story would probably be even worse for me
But the irony is, the more you do it, the better you become!
First of all, congratulations on your success with your writing, it truly inspires me to grow. I also remember Professor Brantingham bringing up Culturama during class but I was too afraid to attend, I was not sure that I would fit in but I regret going since I could have met you. I am happy that you are now able to use this platform to share your stories with us.
Oh my gosh, definitely go to Culturama! It is an awesome gathering of some truly amazing writers, published or not. Thanks for the kind words, too.
This is a very encouraging and powerful story to read. This is a true example of grit of someone who is persisting to achieve a goal. I can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions from the dozen rejections to the acceptance of UCLA’s Journal of Arts!
Every rejection was so depressing. But I knew the story was good and would find a home somewhere. I just had to keep sending it out!
Thank you Professor for sharing such an inspiring story! Also, congrats on having your work published! While growing up, I always had a passion for creative writing; but had to set it aside due to college. When I read your story, it truly inspired me to continue my works in creative writing in the near future.
I hope you do continue, Vivian! I stopped writing to work on my career, and later I regretted it. Yes, I am getting some things published now, but I would have had more, and would be a better writer in general, had I continued – even a little at a time.
Thank you Professor for sharing this blog. This was an absolute inspiration reading your story. This is an example of how you can still succeed when you dont give up.
You’re welcome! It was discouraging, but I kept trying anyway – and look how it turned out!
Very encouraging to see you going back to chasing your dreams of becoming a writer. Just goes to show it’s never too late to pursue what you love and reminder to continue investing in the things that bring you true happiness and fulfillment.
I wish I hadn’t waited so long. But you know what? Better late than never! 🙂
Congrats on your published work, not everyone has strength to overlook rejections. Do you feel that this is your greatest accomplishment or will you be implementing further projects in the future?
Daniela, I love this story, but now for 5 years I have been writing a book-length memoir. Much harder and more involved, but I will very proud when it’s done! Thanks for asking.
Congratulations on the publish! Very inspiring! I’ve also been wanting to pick up a few of my dreams (music and photography), but I’m very afraid of rejection and judgement. However, it’s amazing how you were able to face rejection and make your dreams a reality. Very, very inspiring!
Believe me, I was just as afraid of rejection as you! Most people in the arts find out that it comes with the territory. But if you push yourself to do it anyway (for yourself, and not necessarily for someone else), you might be pleasantly surprised when that first acceptance comes through … and then another … and then another!
Congratulations on the publication, professor! I feel really inspired by your story and have tremendous respect for your perseverance. I have always had dreams of being able to write music, but stopped during high school after making a fool of myself during an assembly. Since then I have been virtually inactive in music, but this story of you being able to pursue your dream is so exciting and its given me a sense of hope that I hadn’t felt since high school. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you luck in your future endeavors!
Thank you! And I hope you will continue with your music. When I was younger I had several events that made me stop writing. Now I regret that so much, because I would be better today if I had kept it up. But I’m back to it now, so that’s what counts.
I’m very surprised of the amount of time and energy it takes to publish a story. There is a ton of hard work behind it. Congratulations on your achievements! It is very exciting to read about the comment from the editor. Writing is a small hobby of mine, but I am not the best writer by any means. Your story gives me hope that someday I can also have a story published. I was happy to see hyperlinks incorporated in the post, but I was not able to access some of the links. Unfortunately, this includes the link to the story posted in the Westwind UCLA journal. They sent me to an error page.
As someone who also loves to write, I know just how exciting it can be when people read your work and tell you that they love it. Congratulations on pursuing your dream and achieving what you were aiming for! I’ve already put my love for writing on hold because I am also focused on making a living first. I hope that when I have a stable career that I can also go right back to writing.
Honestly, Giselle, I recommend sooner rather than later. Even a little, like a short daily journal entry.
This is such empowering story. I really connected with it. I am happy that everything worked out for you at the end. I believe that as long as you don’t lose focus on what you want to do in life one will eventually accomplish it.
Great Post Professor Hogan
– Omar Mercado Soto
I absolutely love how real you are! Reading how you stayed true to your roots and weren’t afraid to be vulgar! Congratulations on your success! Seeing how ambitious you are is a true motivation to not ever give up. I’m looking forward to many more posts like this.
Wow, thank you! You made my day. I so hope to motivate others who may be struggling with … whatever. <3 (P.S. Yes, mo roots are quite vulgar, LOL.)
After reading this it gave the feeling to not give up on anything, and thing will can happen. I am so used to instant gratification that I never appreciate the time and effort I put into most things. These are the type of stories I read to boost myself esteem and help me get through the semester! I, thank you so much, for you sharing this story. I really need it!
I’m glad it helped motivate you! Re-read it anytime! (LOL)
Congratulations on your success!!!
Your determination and “go get them” attitude is really inspiring..you are truly a role model to follow 🙂
And I have had some readers say, “I’m going to go back to doing my writing” (or some other art or hobby that they stepped away from). That inspires me, too!
Congratulations!!! This just proves that no matter what you have to get back up and try again and one day it will pay off.
Thank you! It was very exciting! Famous coach Vince Lombardi said it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.
Your Blog reminds me of my self I married my high school sweet heart and after being married for 13 1/2 years I finally decide to no longer put up with the cheating every so often he would cheat but I wasn’t able to prove it besides the amounts of money missing from our bank account and all of his excuses on why he was late . Besides all of that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get back up from bed I just wanted to sleep all day didn’t want to see anyone nor have to do with the world. But just like you that one day came where I got and I said no more it was amazing and now I even went back to school to obtain my degree. It kind of of similar to you never gave up and stood up…and I didn’t give up on my dream,,,,,
Good for you for pulling yourself out of a bad marriage, out of depression, and getting your life on track. Follow your dreams, for yourself and your kids!
Congratulations!!! You are such an amazing writer and I am happy that many more can experience it now.
Me too, Jacqueline – thanks! I enjoy writing, and I’m glad people enjoy reading.
This is very exciting! Congratulations, Lynda!
As I read more of your blog posts, I enjoy the next more than the last (And I enjoyed the first post, ‘I wrote my will last night…’ a whole lot) It’s almost like the gift that keeps on giving!
I have always loved writing. I still remember the first time one of my stories was posted on the classroom wall which was a HUGE deal for me.
It was in 1st grade and we were told to write a short story about our weekend. Funnily enough, I was terrible at writing, physically. It took me a while to get a nice grip on the pencil to write a legible sentence. However, my teacher was impressed with my writing and imagination despite how hard it was to read. I was so proud to see my writing on the wall and to get a treat because of it (I ate those Goldfish Crackers with a great feeling of accomplishment). Since then, I have never complained about an essay or any writing exercise. Well, maybe a couple of times. But for the most part, I have enjoyed almost every single essay I had to write for school. Even that one time in 11th grade when I had to pretend to be a hardcore pro-life individual in order to show my persuasive writing skills. Listening to others is one of those skills that is simple yet so difficult to master and what better way to strengthen those listening skills than to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, amirite?
Anyway, reading this post has given me an enormous boost of motivation to make my dreams come true. Thank you for that! Although I’m on the path to become a fashion designer, writing is still one of my hobbies I cherish and hold close to my heart. Maybe I can become a fashion designer and a writer. Or merge both of my passions together and become a fashion blogger. Or maybe, I can become the next editor-in-chief of Vogue! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you never know!
A fashion blogger! I love that! Not that you couldn’t be editor of Vogue, but a blog is something you could do RIGHT NOW. One of my biggest regrets about my writing is that I let it slide for so many years. I would be a better writer today if I had kept it up (practice always makes one better!) I hope you find a way to incorporate creative writing back into your life – I enjoyed your story about the essay on the wall. 🙂
I am deeply inspired as a college student to not give up when things do not go the way planned.
And that’s a great attitude for seeing you through life!
It feels as publishers or people who are involved with writing don’t really go through any of your work but i’m glad to hear that they didn’t discourage your passion for writing.
Some are very encouraging! But in every profession there are those who don’t care.
I admire your perseverance to put your work out there. You honestly deserve it.
Thank you! My only regret is that I waited so long to get more serious about it. But so far it’s going well, and that’s what counts.
Awesome read! Thanks for sharing such a great success story. Persistance leads to success! I can relate to the feeling of having the need to continously check for an acceptance then almost convincing myself I had imagined it all. Its a difficult feeling to overcome but when we contribute full effort to achieve a goal then no feeling of discomfort should ever consume us. Great work!
Are you a writer? Then my advice is keep trying and never give up! I wish I had not waited so long to do more with my abilities. I’ll never get that time back, but I still have time left!
I enjoyed the part where you had a crazy thought of UCLA closing down and told yourself to get a grip. It made me laugh. I find that I sometimes have craziest thoughts only to reassure myself by reality. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!
It’s normal to have crazy thoughts – but important to hang on to reality! Thank you.
This is such an inspiring story of fallback and triumph. Having spent your blood, sweat, and tears to your passion and finally getting the recognition you deserve is one of the best abstract emotions in the world. A literary piece is a form of legacy which will forever be inscribed in the hearts of the readers. Being a former school newspaper writer myself back in high school, this brings back memories of the praises a writer receives when his or her story is published. Reading this, I also got inspired to write a powerful piece that can move people. I also have a passion for writing and this reading helped me to pursue more. A writer might meet his end, but his or her works will continue to thrive. It will continue to touch lives and inspire people. That is how powerful these literary pieces are. Another thing that I have learned from reading this is that one must not change their character and simply just be authentic. Thank you for the implicit encouragement to do more and push for my passion professor, Congratulations and keep up the good work!
Oh my, I couldn’t be more happy that my story inspired you to want to write again! I virtually stopped in my 30’s to focus on career, and I deeply regret that (not the career, but the fact that I stopped writing). Because practice makes us all better, and I could/should have been practicing all along; I’d be a better writer today. Go for it, even if it’s a paragraph a week!
HI! I enjoyed reading this because you did not give up even though you received rejections and still kept going. Congrats!
There’s a famous saying about that, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. But it’s about not giving up.
“Don’t give up your dream” but got side-tracked by the need to make a living resonates so much with me. Instead of working with an organization which is commitment to underserved communities and the pay is low I decided to pursue the money. I went with the big organization since I wanted to provide for my wife and kids. Now, I no longer work with the big organization and in transition between careers. My recommendation to your readers is to pursue their dreams when though the financial rewards may not be there. It’s always better to be happy and comfortable than rich and unhappy.
Nothing could be truer than your last line! Of course everyone needs money to live, but the price in quality of life may be too great. I’m glad you’re seeking happiness even though it’s not easy.
A million thank you’s to your blog/writings all though my professors may see a decline in my studies (just an excuse) I really enjoy your work. Not being the ‘typical” age of most students (I refuse to admit mine) I find myself enjoying the “real” talk you give. I’ll be sure to thank her for recommending your blog. Most intriguing form of the world we live in. Thanks again..
I so appreciate your comments and hope you keep reading!
Congratulations! I’m happy to hear after multiple rejections you finally made your dream come true.
It’s a good reminder to never give up!
Congratulations on getting published! That’s such a big deal and is very exciting! It must be very hard to keep going after receiving many rejection letters. It seems like that was the perfect journal for you to be published in! I guess you just had to wait for the perfect journal to come along!
Thank you! And that’s what my fellow writers say about every rejection, it just wasn’t the right place, right time.
Wow!! This is inspirational in more ways than one! A dozen rejection letters or one, it is never a good feeling to be let down on something you invested so much love and time into. Those fancy-schmancy publishers created a challenge but it did not stop you one bit! I personally like to think every challenge should be interpreted as an opportunity and not seen as a disadvantage or a setback. You definitely overcame your challenge and I am thrilled to see that your article got published! Congrats on your wonderful achievement!
Thank you so much! It’s a lesson (including for me) on how we should never give up!
I am glad I read this. I am currently in school and been thinking about giving up. But just because I am overwhelmed should not be a reason to give up. The end goal will be worth it. I see that now after reading your blog. Thank you!
Don’t give up! It WILL be worth it in the end. Of many regrets I have in my life, my education was never one of them. It’s something no one can take from you.
Professor the Writing a blog about your self show everyone have ups and down the one who learns from mistake and the other who don’t can have a different life. You blog/article inspired me to do things that I like and don’t give up on them because those are thing thing we enjoy the most that we like. Thank you so much for show the two Side of the story which how everyone goes through struggles and people don’t even know about it. 🙏
Oh, I’m so glad you got that message! I hope you pursue your dreams.
Thanks for the inspiration. I hope that helps me and others when we feel down, and thats what can make us keep going. I always think about giving up when exams get too hard, but I have your words to help me now. Thanks!
I’m so glad my message affected you! Thanks for reading.
I feel like I read this at the right time, because I feel as if I’m no where close to my goals. It’s a defeating feeling but, all I can to do is to keep going even though sometimes it feels never ending. Theses small steps never seem to get any traction but I know one day I’ll look back and see how far I’ve come and after reading your article it was really inspiring and reassured me that I am on the right track and to keep going.
I’m so glad to have inspired you to keep moving forward. It will be so worth it when you can look back at what you did. And even now – reward yourself for what you have done!
This is very inspiring. Your work ethic is phenomenal. I can tell through your writing and throughout the story, you never gave up. Your story is a great example for the saying, “hard work pays off”. Pre-pandemic, I was in San Francisco studying journalism, and during quarantine I withdrew and changed my major. This article made me realize how much I miss writing and sharing pieces of my life with others through writing. Your article reached a far audience. It’s amazing that Barack Obama has read your work. Keep writing please.
– Genesis Chacon 6-4-21
Oh, I do hope you go back to writing and sharing your stories! They’re so important.
As someone who really enjoys writing and wishes to someday publish a book, this was not only comforting but also inspiring to read. Thank you for the wonderful read and for sharing your story.
You’re welcome – and keep writing!
Keep up the hard work Lynda! never give up on your dreams. My instructor professor Naluce says very good things about you!
Congratulations on your success.
Oh, thank you! And you have a great instructor. 😉
This is a good example of not giving up on your dreams and at the same time willing to compromise. Things happen for a reason and I am glad that it all worked out for you at the end.
Thank you! I think that theme often appears in my writing.
I love that you didn’t give up on your dream! This is definitely something that I’ll keep in mind in case I ever get too overwhelmed.
Yes, don’t give up! I hope you always remember this.
It makes me so happy to read that you accomplished your dream and that you never gave up. It also speaks volume that you were open to constructive criticism. I find that so inspiring and I look forward to reading more of your work!
It’s hard to be criticized, but that’s how we learn. Yes, never give up on your dreams!
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