Publishing stories is not for the impatient: “The Inaugural Jump” in the Lifted Brow #15





In the summer of 2006, just after I graduated from Pepperdine, I spent two months living in my stepmom’s family’s home in Bellingham, WA–a lakehouse on Lake Whatcom. I’d written a screenplay in college and thought I ought to try another one, a sci-fi time travel thing. I sketched it out. I wrote scenes. It changed. I seemed to be able to write lots of scenes without any actual time travel occurring. I wondered if that was okay. To my friend Dave (who lived there with me) I said, “If this was a short story and not a screenplay, I could write the whole thing now.”

So I wrote the whole thing out as a short story and not a screenplay. It was 6,000 words, then 10,000 words, then 8,000. Each time I edited it, I saved a new doc. I never do that now. The story was different from every other thing I’d written in that it didn’t suck. I was 22 years old.

In the fall I returned to Los Angeles and applied to 13 grad schools. In every application, I sent the 8,000-word time travel story.

I got engaged.

That spring, the first school I heard back from was an acceptance. They loved the story. They gave me a scholarship. They gave me a 3-year teaching contract. All was going according to plan. The next 12 schools rejected me.

To the school that said yes, I said yes. To the fiance who said yes, I said yes.

I moved to Massachusetts. I sent the story out to lit journals. Everyone said no although Brock Clark liked it. I sent the story out to sci-fi journals. Everyone said no. I went on a tear writing stories. I published lots of the newer stories, some of them not as good as this older one.

I wrote a little novel, thought, “Man, that was hard.”

So I wrote an even littler novel with tiny chapters and no real plot to speak of, thought, “This is the best time I’ve ever had writing.” Thought, “Who wants to write short stories when you can do this?”

I moved to Nashville. I edited a journal. I nearly sold a short story collection to a big press. This story, the time travel one, was the longest story in there. Some readers thought it was the best one in the book; some readers thought it was the worst. I thought my best story was the one about 3 guys who worry they’re not sex-obsessed enough.

I continued to send the story out and finally Ronnie Scott accepted it for The Lifted Brow. I was 26. Around the same time, my littler novel was accepted for publication. Both the press and the journal said they’d love to publish it but I’d have to wait awhile. I said, “I dunno.” I said, “Okay.”

I moved back to Massachusetts. I edited a different journal. I wrote a nonfiction book about how weird it is to be alive right now.

I moved back to Los Angeles. Now the story has been published. Maybe another couple of people will read it. Feels like the end and beginning. I am nearly 29. I would like to thank the continent of Australia.


How does time even work anyway?

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4 thoughts on “Publishing stories is not for the impatient: “The Inaugural Jump” in the Lifted Brow #15

  1. Joe Sacksteder says:

    I have a story like this one too. Right after undergrad, when I was at LSU for music composition but just realizing I wanted to write words more than art music, my first ever lit journal rejection was a hand-written, specific paragraph of mostly positive feedback from the Missouri Review – and I thought, this is totally easy. 6 years and 30 rejections later… I feel like I had to wait for somebody to start up a journal (Midwestern Gothic) that would be the right fit for the story…

  2. Gabe Durham says:

    Ha, yes–it’s a good lesson. I remember thinking, “If this story got me into grad school, surely it’s headed straight to McSweeney’s when I let them know about it.” And then by a year later I was a mercenary about all that stuff.

  3. It has been a long journey for this demented and beautiful story. So glad I could be there for the start and the finish. Also, thanks for the shout-out, though it seems to me that you left out the part about Liz working at Ross.

  4. Gabe Durham says:

    To tell about Liz working at Ross, I would have to admit that I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get jobs at CVS, Dollar General, let alone the Bagelry.

    And if I started writing about our Tears of Exploration treatment, the post would suddenly become about that.

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