The anthology with my short story, “Between My Ribs,” was released on November 1st. It felt like an auspicious date, part of the Halloween, pagan new year, día de los muertos set of days when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. A magic time, a good day for the book to be born. As I write, I see another layer. In my short story, the veil is thin, too. I grin, loving this connection I am drawing now. But I don’t know why I didn’t announce it, didn’t tell you all about it right away. I think maybe it’s a little bit because I am not one for tooting my own horn, as they say. It makes me self-conscious. And maybe, too, because there is a part of me who feels silly to be promoting the release of my first short story. But I bought extra copies, and one of my favorite people in our writing group at the library bought one. I got to inscribe it for her, and it was such a delight. My first signing. And I am bringing copies to the writing retreat, even if it may be a little goofy, even though it is not my first book but my first story. I am bringing them because I love the idea of them sitting there. It makes me almost teary with a kind of tender gratitude. And now, finally, here I am telling you about it, my dear readers. I wanted to tell you right away, but I didn’t. I hope you’ll forgive me.
My short story “Between My Ribs” is a finalist for the 2018 American Fiction Short Story Award from New Rivers Press. The 19 stories selected for their anthology are now with the final judge who will choose the first, second and third place winners in the next few weeks. I’ve been eager to tell you, my readers, wanting to share this sweet news, knowing you’ll feel glad for me and wish me well in this. But I’ve been shy about it, too. As I write, I feel big gratitude and quiet glee. But I’m not sure I can do justice to all the feelings this evokes in me. I feel thrilled and grateful and lucky. Of course. And I’m delighted my first publication will be with this university press who I’ve been so fond of for years now. But I feel afraid and sad and uncomfortable, too, and I can’t really point to why. I know I’ve been grappling with my discomfort over wanting to win. I feel honored to be chosen for the anthology, but I would very much like to win the contest, too. I worry about being greedy, so I wrestle with it. “Of course you want to win,” I say. “That’s only natural.” But it sits awkward in me, this wanting it to be more. But maybe I am only afraid of being disappointed if my story isn’t chosen for first place. Maybe it’s as simple as that.
But there is a deep desire in me to win. I want that recognition. I’ve held myself back in so many ways for most of my life, I think. I want to just step forward here. I want to lead this collection. So I’ll ask for your good wishes in this now while the judge is still reading our stories, still weighing his responses to each of them, still sorting through them for himself. I whisper my own prayers into the palms of my cupped hands. I can hear the house finch in the courtyard, and the mountains are clear this morning for the first time in months, keeping vigil with me. I kiss the center of my palms, fold them around each other, bring them to my heart. I sit very still, holding my hope. And then I open my hands, slow movements, the bird released to take to the sky. I grin, lightened, filled with the honor of this gift, at peace in this moment with whatever is meant to unfold next.
And thank you, too, for holding this in your own hearts with me. Just the thought of it makes me want to cry.
[Editor’s note: I don’t know much about Facebook, so this is clunky. But below is both their announcement of the finalists and my own section of that post when you scroll through all the photos. Here I am in my goofy head covering—I got the news when I was staying at the hostel and had to get a photo to them right away, so I took this with my iPad in my favorite chair outside. You can also access the post in their Facebook page here.]