My first real step towards being a published author took place in February of this year, when my eighth attempt to submit a work of mine turned out to be unexpectedly successful. A Plutonium Record is a post-apocalyptic piece told in first-person, alternating journal entries and narration, which is just a little too long to be a short story, but isn’t yet a novella, let alone a novel. Its acceptance was a perfect example of the storybook and/or cinematographic law of consistently failing at something when you hope for a result, and succeeding once abandoning reasonable hope. It was that approach that caused me to submit the story to the internet podcast magazine Nil Desperandum (the title which, appropriately enough, is Latin for ‘do not despair’). I mean, it was obviously too long for a podcast, and the alternating narration would be anything but easy to convey. But I guess it’s true what they say – much less great endeavours began with the words ‘this is a great idea, and we can pull this off’ than with the words ‘what the hell, let’s try this’.
So it was back in February, when I received the unexpected positive response on APR, that I acknowledged myself as being an author. I even signed a contract with the magazine, in which my name was followed by the words ‘hereafter known as “The Author”‘. It just doesn’t get more official than this.
In the months to follow, my creative efforts were mostly involved elsewhere (either in music, or in struggles with the long slipstream-ish piece that, I am happy to say, is finally starting to look like I’d like it to), and some time in summer, I started submitting again. For one, A Plutonium Record was taking a long time to publish (understandably, given its length and nature); for two, it was going to be an audiobook rather than print or electronic publication; for three, the rights I had granted under the contract were strictly non-exclusive. I must say that my feelings when submitting to secondary markets were completely different from before, despite the fact that the story had only been accepted for publicatio, not actually published, so I could not include any real credentials in my cover letter. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if anyone else in the world knew that there existed a publisher that considered my work worthwhile. As long as I knew that.
Four unsuccessful attempts later, I had placed APR with The Fringe Magazine, on whose website it was published on the same day as I was informed of the positive decision to that effect (I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the pdf version). And here came another somewhat world-shaking realisation – seeing my work published on someone else’s website, and being credited for it. It didn’t matter if some of the formatting got lost in the process (nothing critical); it didn’t matter if I wasn’t getting paid for it. The fact remained that, as long as the magazine existed, there would be a story on it, titled A Plutonium Record, by one Maria Stanislav.
The following few days were slightly weird. It was almost as if some part of my brain, one that had nothing to do with reason, was expecting the world to suddenly turn into a place where I was a famous author of a multitude of books – and the fact that it, understandably, didn’t, was doing that part of my brain in.
Some two weeks later, I got an acceptance letter and a praiseful comment on another story of mine, titled Athena, from The Indigo Rising Magazine. It is a piece I am extremely fond of, so hearing it referred to as “original, well written, and very thought provoking”, and the editor’s wish to see some of my stories in the future, was purely euphoric.
I think the fact that I got two stories placed with different markets within such a short period of time helped me get some perspective on the world that has, even as of this moment, failed to transform into one where I was a famous author, but did remain one in which I was published.
I didn’t become famous overnight. The truth is that I had not, in fact, yet done anything that would warrant fame (save some small-scale recognition in fanfiction circles). Having my work published didn’t have a profound effect on the world. It did, however, have a profound effect on me, in two different ways. On one hand, it was conclusive proof of the fact that I can write marketable works. On the other hand, it was a reminder for me that there is no such thing as a final destination when creativity is involved. Not just creativity, actually. With everything in life, there is no such thing as a final destination. There is no ultimate goal, no magical achievement after which you don’t need to strive further. I have always shunned saying things like ‘I can die happy now’ or ‘my life is now complete’. If I have any say at all, it never WILL be complete, regardless of how many years I will have at my disposal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the author of two published short stories, or a world-known novelist. I started this post by mentioning ‘the first step to being a published author’. As I am wrapping it up, I realise I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Being published for the first time is a huge deal for a beginning author, of course. It can, and often is, one of the goals the author sets before themselves. But it can never, ever, be THE goal. No creative process can have any ultimate goal, because anything ultimate involves an end. It can consist of smaller projects, each of which has a beginning and an end, but the process of creativity is continuous, and for an artist, it makes no more sense to declare their career complete after a certain, however tremendous, achievement, than it does for a human being to commit suicide after visiting Paris or scaling Mt Everest.
The moral of the story is can be summed up in the words of an extremely talented and inspiring man, which can serve as the best advice to any artist, irrespective of the chosen field. It took me about a thousand words of blog post to arrive at the conclusion that he managed to convey in two words: