Brain Babies: A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Fame and Fortune


Not that I actually have either fame or fortune, but it sounded like a good title.

I’ve had a lot of pretty funny things happen to me since I started submitting to publishers (just typed “puglishers” there, but changed it because I don’t want to talk about squash-faced canines with chronic asthma).

It’s Anecdote Time!

Okay, so once I submitted to an anthology of seven deadly sins. Competition was tough, because they were only going to pick one story for each sin. Seven stories total. I chose “sloth” because I figured no one else would. After all, how can you write anything interesting/exciting about sloth? I asked a guy, a friend, who was kind of like a muse to me back then when I was still struggling to figure shit out, for help. He said, “Why don’t you have the character playing a video game and be too lazy to get off the couch, even though he’s in danger?”

Boom. A bomb went off in my head. I promised him my firstborn (who was pissed and refused to go) and hit the keyboard. I was on fire. I kicked out the story all at once, in a rush. It flowed out of me like arterial blood.

I read it over, edited the obvious screw-ups, sent it to my (then) muse and he gave me notes. I rewrote the end so it was tighter and sent it in.

Moments after, I double-checked the guidelines to make sure I had done everything right. This is a really, colossally stupid time to do that. Nowadays, I check before I hit send on the email or upload the file to Submittable. Ah well. Live and learn. Anyway, my tale for sloth came in about 400 words short of the minimum count. Shit! I was screwed. I spent several minutes panicking, thinking the publisher would be angry and would tell every other publisher in the world that I was unprofessional and that I was not to be trusted. Ever.

Then, figuring, what the hell, they’re going to reject it anyway, I sent them an email. I said, “Hi. I just sent you a story about sloth, but it comes in well short of your minimum word-count. I’m gonna plead that I was just too damn lazy to write anymore.”

I wrote it off as a learning experience and moved on to the next thing. But … and this is the cool part. They emailed me back. They said I had made them laugh, and that was pretty rare for them. So, they’d read it, even though it was short.

Two weeks later, they accepted it. My story, Deadweight, appeared in the anthology For All Eternity by Dark Opus Press. Available on Amazon, just in case you want to read it (it’s also in my story collection, An Aberrant Mind, along with a story about a bagel that is profoundly disturbing). It was one of my earliest sales for actual money. A penny a word. $13.65 total.

I had arrived.

What I took from this experience were two things: first, writing the piece that is harder can be a good exercise. And, second, it doesn’t hurt to have a good sense of humor about the whole process.

Sometimes, it’s easy to focus on getting your work out there, to try to get your foot in the door, to make a name for yourself. It’s easy to forget, especially when almost all our communication is done through email or websites, that there is a human being on the other end. A person who likes a good laugh, just like I do. Moments like this one help me to remember that. This is a good thing.

All right. That’s it for now. I have a ton of stuff to talk about, but I don’t want Kerry to think I’m gunning for his current position of third place.

Ken MacGregor 2016

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