It Took a Long Time

Some essays come together in a flurry of draft writing. Others take a bit longer to conceive.

My new essay, “And She Was” (Argot), took about two years to write, re-write, submit, face a few rejections, re-write some more, pitch a query, clean up the prose before hitting send… and finally find a home. It is one of the essays I’m most proud of putting out into the world.

After a few months of fussing around with the opening paragraphs in 2015, I pulled together the first 1,500 words of the essay for a March 2016 workshop in Asheville, NC that I was invited to attend by Ariel Gore. I wrote another scene for that same essay later that summer in a Women on Writing online workshop taught by Chelsey Clammer. I knew I would have to thread those parts together, but it wasn’t until August that I had a full draft ready for submission.

Part of what helped me gather the courage to write this essay  one in which I confront the internalized biphobia of my early 20s, acknowledging the wrongs I perpetuated against a woman I loved (and still love) — was the HippoCamp ’16 keynote speech “Don’t Be a Hero” by Ashley C. Ford. During the Q&A, I asked, “What if you’re struggling to write an essay because you’re the asshole in your story?” Her spot-on advice propelled me forward:

After the keynote, I walked over to say thank you and she was not only entirely warm and gracious, she even posed for this:

ashley c. ford

(Notice how Ashley C. Ford looks happy and composed… and I look as if I am in dire need of a hairbrush!)

Once “And She Was” went out into the world, I waited… and waited.. and waited some more. Narrative essays that are neither political/pop culture hot takes nor written by famous authors have a hard time finding placement online. I was turned down by a few literary magazines, and then I sent a missive into a writing group: “Where can I send a 3,500-word queer essay?” I was fortunate to be pointed into the direction of Argot, a non-profit publication dedicated to creative writing, smart analysis, and art across mediums that centers queer culture, the feminine narrative, and marginalized communities.

Thank you, Ariel Gore, for telling me, “I think it would work perfectly as part of a novel.”

Thank you, Chelsey Clammer, for telling me, “Keep going with this one.”

Thank you, Ashley C. Ford, for all of the advice on being brave in the writing, even (and especially) when you’re the asshole in the story. And thank you for posting this on Twitter:

Thank you, Laura Bogart, for reading multiple drafts and telling me, “Find a place that will pay you.” I’m so thankful that I did.

And most of all, thank you to Liza Winthrop, the center of “And She Was.” The girl down the hall who accepted my friendship in 2006 and helped me to accept my full-fledged bisexual self. The woman who reconciled with me over a dance at a wedding and I’m so glad that through all of the ups and downs of our past and even the writing of what we went through, she remains one of my dearest friends.

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