Sunday, October 01, 2006

History of the Orlando Sentinel "Being There" Essay

Sometimes you can become published in the most unlikely ways.

Case in point: about two and a half weeks ago, I started back up with my writing workshop after having been away for about a year. (More on that in a later entry). Our second prompt of the day involved writing a feeling or emotion onto a small slip of paper, and then handing that word to the person at our left. The word I received was "peace." We were then instructed to write something that described the feeling or emotion, without ever mentioning the word in what we wrote. I wrote about a float trip I took on the Glen Canyon river in the fall of 2005. We all read our writing out loud, and to my pleasure, everyone guessed that my word was "peace." After class, the leader of our workshop, Jamie Morris, mentioned that my piece might be appropriate for some sort of travel publication. She suggested that I take the time to clean it up a bit and send it in. I was taken by surprise at her suggestion -- after all, the piece felt like a stream of consciousness journal entry of some sort -- but I told her I'd think about it.

A day or so later, when I had some free time to look at what I'd written with new eyes, I started thinking about where I might submit it. I checked the word count of the piece, and it came in at just over 450 words. I then checked the submission guidelines for the Orlando Sentinel's "Being There" feature -- 300 to 400 words. So I set to work to see if I could edit my work to under 400 words. There was a time several years back when I would have had trouble doing this -- but the experience of editing a 700 page manuscript down to 424 pages has made me an expert at tossing words and tightening sentences!

About an hour later, I'd succeeded at cutting the piece down to 399 words, and I'd even added the missing word from the original -- peace. I drafted a brief cover letter, and with the click of a key stroke, submitted the piece to the Sentinel.

The next day I received a response that the paper wanted to publish my piece. I was thrilled! I think this was probably the fastest I'd ever received an acceptance -- it's usually the rejections that come so swiftly!

The piece can be found in the Travel section of today's (October 1, 2006) Orlando Sentinel, and it can also be viewed online for a limited time.

The moral of the story? A good writing workshop is a wonderful thing . . . it can motivate you to do more than just put pen to paper. It can help a writer to see potential in things that might have otherwise been delegated to the bottom of the desk drawer . . . Thanks, Jamie!