After Rivalry, Sometimes Surprise

John Clark taking a break from trying to stay ahead of the garden goodies. Everyone knows about sibling rivalry, but what about sibling synergy? If it hadn’t been for multiple nudges by my mother and my sister Kate, I would never have become a writer. Kate and I haven’t always gotten along well. In fact, thanks in large part to me, she was lucky to survive her childhood. Dad ran over her with a garden harrow, she fell and the metal edge of the egg grader went through her cheek, I kicked her off the bathroom stool and she broke her collar bone, While racing back from the mailbox, I banged into her and she went through the glass storm door, I dropped a wooden ladder on her and she got poison ivy, an infected heel and a ruptured appendix all at the same time. Did I mention she was born six weeks premature? Anyhow, she became a Blueberry princess, class valedictorian and a lawyer. Me? Not quite as successful. Anyhow as siblings get older and things go right, there are some magical things possible. We had a bit of that last weekend when Kate stayed overnight after doing a book event with Roger Guay at the fly-in up in Greenville. After catching up on kids, grandkids/granddogs, we started talking about life, priorities and, of course, writing.

I’ll be the first to admit that I really like the freedom to do little or nothing as a retiree. Every time I look at how much time and effort Kate and my fellow authors on MCW invest in promotion and rewriting their next book, I cringe. Spend three evenings a week at events or sit on my deck until dusk reading a new book? Guess which wins every time. I’m being totally honest. Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion my brain doesn’t have the horsepower it used to and keeping stuff straight in a full length manuscript ain’t so easy any more.

Me in another life perhaps?

That brings me to one of the things we talked about last weekend-my two recently published short stories. Kate suggested I describe how they came about and what they’re like. In the course of discussing writing, our family and creativity, several other interesting thoughts entered my head. First, I’m beginning to suspect that my last three full length efforts might have been me trying to write the same book with different characters in different parts of Maine. When the weather gets colder, I’m going to examine that possibility more closely. For now, sitting on the deck letting the sun warm my cranky knee while reading has greater sway over me. The other realization came when I pulled up some of my older short stories, as yet unpublished. Most were rejected by Level Best. In revising one called ‘A New Wrinkle Down at the Mill’, I realized how much closer to horror than mystery it was. After pulling up a couple more, I noticed the same thing. At least now I know what market to aim them as.

My story ‘Relatively Annoying,’ is in Day Of the Dark: Stories of the eclipse. I saw the invitation on the Shortmystery group at Yahoo, but talked myself out of writing something until a week before the deadline. I had the pieces of a story about mutant parasites floating around in my head for at least a year and the possibility of an eclipse going bad was the perfect impetus to sit down and write something. Most, if not all my short stories are set in small fictional Maine towns and feature hardscrabble characters, often teens. This story features such a location and such a teen. I had fun writing it and the best part of the process was participating an a day long launch on Facebook where each author took an hour to talk about the book, their story and answer questions.

The other story ‘With Great Relish,’ appears in Level Best Books’ Noir at the Salad Bar-Culinary tales with a bite. This one was written five years ago when we were on vacation in Lubec and celebrating Beth’s 60th birthday. I was hoping it would make it into the first (or maybe second) The Killer Wore Cranberry anthology. After it was rejected, I forgot about it until seeing the announcement about Noir. I pulled out and edited it, shortening the story by a few hundred words. It also features a hardscrabble family, a son who has just been freed from a Guatemalan jail and a greedy lawyer who gets his comeuppance at a holiday gathering. Getting it published was not only a morale booster, but it was a reminder that rejection doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t worthy, but it might be the wrong market.

I’ll answer the question if you give me a treat.

I’m curious, who are the people who help your creativeness?

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7 Responses to After Rivalry, Sometimes Surprise

  1. Lea Wait says:

    To begin with — I’m so glad Kate survived!
    And I enjoy reading what you’ve written.
    One truth of publishing: often we write what has the best chance of being published. It isn’t always exactly what we dream of writing. Self-publishing (indie publishing) as an alterative? But, then, there’s that “need to pay the mortgage and by milk” that tells most of us we prefer traditional publishing.

    Your life sounds grand! And it includes writing. Do with it as your heart tells you! (But keep blogging — I love to read your blogs!)

  2. Barb Ross says:

    Being an editor at Level Best opened my eyes about rejection. I used to think it meant my story was crap. Now I know that it might mean that, but it might also mean in that particular volume there was a similar story submitted, or there were too many long short stories or too many short short stories or too many stories by authors from Maine or too many funny stories or too many dark stories. If you believe in a story, keep submitting it.

  3. Karla Whitney says:

    Hi John,
    Siblings can sure teach you to take the knocks in life. I’m the youngest of 4, and sometimes the teasing was intentional, the bumps and bruises were accidental (mostly), and to this day my 2 brothers and sister are still the people I can count on for an honest opinion on my writing or anything else. How lucky we are, right?
    And I agree with Lea, glad you’re a writer and that Kate survived.

  4. Beth Clark says:

    I see a lot of synergy when you and Kate get together and share ideas. Two creative people feeding off of each other bring a lot of laughs.

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