Friday, November 30, 2012

My First Short Story Submission Part 1

The year was 1983. I was a college graduate that jumped into Ronald Reagan's recession with both feet and got stuck in the mud.. I worked in a Turkey factory, making slightly above minimum wage. I worked a lot, partied a lot, and wrote short fiction and humorous letters to college friends that  had moved away. The era was before the word processor and the personal computer. I sat at my electric Brother Typewriter and banged out twice as many words as mistakes.

I lived in Turlock, California in a big old house built in 1915, with two female roommates, both artists. I read the San Francisco Chronicle on a daily basis but Sunday was my favorite edition because it had the Pink Sheet. Any event that was in Northern California and especially San Francisco was listed in between its bright pink pages. The events were not the only items of interest, but regular features such as At The Drive In, by Joe Bob Briggs and On Language by William Safire. William Safire's syndicated column looked at the origin of words and new lexicon being brewed up by politicians, business and popular culture.

I purchased a clothing item one day and noticed that it was made from 'Virgin Acrylic.'  Back in '83, there was no recycling of plastic. How do you get 'Virgin Acrylic?' Why would you list 'Virgin Acrylic' on a clothing item? Like a consumer would be fooled into thinking it was maybe Virgin Wool?  Anyway, I wrote a humorous tale of Virgin Acrylic and sent it off to Mr. Safire. Perhaps he would use it in his language column or maybe he would pass it along to someone that might know what to do with the story.
William Safire

My first rejection, but a nice rejection it was. This busy and well known man, speech writer to presidents, sent me a personal note back in his own handwriting, telling me it was interesting, but not his cup of tea.

I've still got the note somewhere and the story. Perhaps I'll post it on the blog if I can find it. (That's why I named this Part 1) I've submitted many stories recently and many have been accepted for publication, but I'll still remember the first and the man who took the time to give a kid a kind word.

The Pink section changed when the San Francisco Chronicle was sold by the founders family, the de Young's to Hearst Communications. I stopped reading the Chronicle not too long after that. The paper wasn't the same without columnist Herb Caen and the feel of the paper changed from being an Institution  to being just another Daily Rag. Not to say I don't check the on-line edition every once in a while, because San Francisco is a city like no other.

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