I published my first short story in 1995. Twenty years ago. How can this be?
I was a graduate student at the University of Alabama. I’d been sending out my stories for two years without much luck. Then, over Christmas Break 1994, I went with my mother, a hospice nurse, on a “death call” in suburb of Cincinnati. The experience stuck with me, and when I got back to Tuscaloosa, I tried my hand at writing a “short short story,” or what we might call now “flash fiction.” 742 words. I sent it to Quarterly West. and they accepted it immediately.
When I got the magazine in the mail, I marveled at it for awhile, and then I put it on my shelf. My poet friend Tim kept the journals in which he’d been published in a place of honor on his desk, like a trophy case, and so I did the same.
I also added a line to my very brief curriculum vitae.
“Hospice.” Quarterly West. 41 (Autumn/Winter 1995): 6-7.
A year later, I published a story in The Florida Review about a man raising his daughter alone. Another magazine on the shelf. Another line on the vita.
“Leon’s Daughter.” Florida Review 21:2 (1996): 88-98.
Slowly, I kept adding more journals to that shelf. More lines to the vita.