oh, reader! (writing career update)

I’ve been feeling depleted and tired despite a perfectly lovely holiday season. My positive interpretation of this is that it meant I was very present during the holidays, giving my energy to the people I was with and the things I was doing. My negative (or factual) interpretation is that now that I’m firmly past my twenties, my energy levels will just never be the same.

Today at least, my brain chemistry is helping me latch onto the first interpretation. Also, this beautiful magazine celebrating all things reading, issue 014 of Oh Reader, certainly helps. I picked it up in Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles just before New Year’s Eve, aided in my quest by my partner. As far as I know, the magazine is only available a B&N stores or via subscription (subscribe here).

hand holding issue 014 of Oh Reader magazine

I had started looking for this issue since the beginning of December…because a personal essay of mine was published in it! See opening pages below. I didn’t have any input on the accompanying art piece, though I’d expected one would be paired like for other pieces in the issue, but I absolutely love it. It hits right in the feels. My essay is about growing up as the only English reader in my household, and how that was both liberating and isolating.

issue 014 of Oh Reader magazine opened to the pages of author's essay

It’s an incredible moment, and I’m still soaking it in because I had happened across a summer issue of the magazine just last May or June. I read it cover to cover on a plane ride and later found out that the magazine was open to pitches. I’d already had a personal story idea churning in my mind, but I hadn’t determined the format or outlet I wanted it to come to life in, beyond unorganized brainstorming in a phone note. I probably broke every rule about submitting a good pitch, because I brain-dumped 500 words, just letting my emotions take over. But…it worked. It struck a chord with the editor, who emailed about four months later to accept my idea for publication. I had truly forgotten about it, or forced myself to for all intents and purposes. To sustain any sort of writing life–any creative life–you must learn to quickly forget about not being picked, or else it’ll eat away at you.

I distinctly remember seeing the email come in on my phone while I was brushing my teeth and frankly in a low mood. I was astounded, but not because it took four months to hear back. (If anything, that’s fast in the world of publishing.) I’d never pitched a magazine before, and I was also nervous to actually produce a coherent essay from my pitch.

There are many sayings about how constraints or scarcity breed invention, innovation, and so on. Well, having to tame my thoughts into a piece with a word count limit and a deadline definitely bred a tighter essay than I could’ve imagined. I was panicking two days before the deadline because I hadn’t figured out my ending. And then, deadline magic hit–the last two paragraphs arrived to me in a burst, and–just as miraculous–I didn’t hate them either. Cue Jimmy Neutron brain blast!

Thank you to the magazine staff and my fellow contributors for creating an issue to remember. As I run my hand over the nice heavyweight paper again, the last thing I’ll say here is: I hope print never dies.

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