Z is for ZYZZYVA


I wrote a story. It was the first and only story I’d ever written at the time. My UC Extension teacher, in whose post-day-job, evening fiction workshop I tentatively engaged, urged me to send it out. Where? I’d asked. I didn’t know. A litmag. The only litmag I knew was ZYZZYVA*, a subscription gifted to me by an ex-boyfriend a guy I used to know.

(*At the time, ZYZZYVA was in all caps, italics. Now, the italics is no more).

Send it there! My teacher, now a good friend, urged me to send my story over.

And so I did. As an exercise. I expected a rejection. They say that writers get hundreds of rejections–I hadn’t sent any stories out, so the odds were not in my favor. And yet, I was naïve enough to dare to send my first story out to ZYZZYVA. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been too cowed to send my story to such a competitive litmag. (There may be a lesson in this somewhere).

Even so, I got a letter in the mail 4 days later. It was an acceptance. From Howard Junker.

I opened the envelope, one I hadn’t yet learned would bode well, by the heft of its contents–experienced writers know that acceptances (ironically) weigh more than rejections. I hadn’t known then that I would receive hundreds of rejections as a writer go forward. I unfolded and began to read and there I saw the words “like,” “accept,” “publication.” At that point, all I saw in the entirety of my world was that acceptance letter.

And that–that was the moment I knew that I could become a writer and begin to dream.

I was in the kitchen. I set down the letter, only half read. I called my husband. And screamed, “My story is going to be published!

That story was “Bile,” published in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2003 issue.


Joining Heather’s Abecedary and Fog City Writer in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces. Except I’m going to go in reverse, beginning with “Z.” It’s called Alphabet: A History.


Filed under Alphabet: A History, Memes

9 responses to “Z is for ZYZZYVA

  1. yay for Howard Junker. And YAY for you. (this is for the “Y” category). xoxoxo (for the “x” category).

  2. i’m glad you’re back on the alphabet train–and a great moment from which to start. 🙂

  3. Congrats to you on an amazing early accomplishment!

    I submitted a short story to a paying magazine when I was 16 years old. I’d read a call for submissions in the back of some writing magazine and had a story that fit what this magazine was looking for. It was the first time I submitted something. They not only accepted the story, but they paid me $90. I remember thinking, “Where is the rejection everyone speaks of? Look at me, I’m on my way!”

    Insert laughter/sobbing as the hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of rejections eventually rolled my way…

    Anyway, there is something to be said about feeling blissfully ignorant about the difficulties and just sending work out without agonizing over it. Not sure I’ll ever get back to that point, but still.

    I like this memoir/alphabet idea, by the way.

  4. Yay! Glad you’ve joined in the alphabet fun (in reverse)! You’ve inspired me to think about getting back to that…

    • @Laura: thank you. amazing things happen when we just toddle forward in blissful ignorance! 😉

      @elizabeth: yes! we all need to get back to it. (I’m dreaming up “Y” as I type).

  5. Pingback: “Bile” | 80,000 words

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