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A WRITER’S FIRSTS

Writer David Abrams runs a great blog called The Quivering Pen (Zola!). He’s extremely supportive to other writers and back in July, featured Cascade‘s book trailer in his Trailer Park Tuesday column.

He also runs a My First Time series, where he asks writers to talk about their first writing-related anything–first rejection, first acceptance, first success, failure. I’d wanted to do one for a while, but I’d also had so many writing firsts that it was hard to choose.

I could write about my first rejection letter, which was also a handwritten one from the New Yorker, and how at my fiction workshop, we passed it around like a pie we all wanted to bite from.  I could write about my first acceptance–from Redbook magazine, back when Dawn Raffel was the editor and they still published serious fiction. There was even a big check involved (a first AND last).  First surprise rejection: the time the Missouri Review asked for two rounds of edits, then said, um, sorry, no.  First crushing disappointment: The New Yorker editor who left me a voice mail asking me to call, and when I did, heart batting against my chest, had this to say: “I just want you to know I fought for this story.” Then she quit the magazine.

As an editor at Ploughshares, I had many painful firsts. It’s never pleasant to reject someone’s effort, and particularly hard to reject an almost-right story, or a famous person, or an editor that published you. The best parts of that job were always discovering a wonderful surprise by a new writer, and then seeing that story end up in BASS or Pushcart.

So many firsts. How to choose? Well, it turned out to be easy, in the end. I received my first copy of Cascade from Viking, solid and real. A book with an ISBN number, a book that is catalogued at the Library of Congress. I experienced my first, joyous, book event and that my friends, is My First Time.

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