Today I took another look at my short story, “The Interior of Sheridan Price,” and honestly, it might just be because I’m tired, but I’m starting to have my doubts. Part of me thinks that a good rewrite and polish of this story – finally adding in the extra scenes it needs, fleshing out the characters and tightening the work a bit – would be perfect to submit, along with “Ala ad-Din,” as part of my graduate school applications.
But, well. Sometimes I don’t know. I mean, what exactly do creative writing graduate schools look for?
“The Interior of Sheridan Price” is a quirky YA-focused piece about a high school girl, the titular Sheridan, who spends her weekend breaking into churches in the small West Texas town where she lives. It’s narrated by Sheridan’s classmate, Wendy; and it’s just as much Wendy’s story of self-discovery as a detail of Sheridan’s craziness. I like to think it’s got a tone kind of like Barbara Robinson’s, if The Best Christmas Pageant Ever were written for high school students and had lesbian realization undertones.
On the other hand, “Ala ad-Din” is a magical realism fairy tale about an old man and a djinni whom he’s contracted to serve as his butler. The undertones there are mostly hints of 19th-century Britain mixed with the djinni’s very Islamic origins. It’s also the story that the Strange Horizons editor told me was beautifully written but too predictable.
It’s not that I’m not proud of both these words. Sheridan Price needs a little sprucing up, but it’s still got some great potential; and I’ll keep sending Ala ad-Din around until somebody either picks it up or I die. But…I don’t know. I guess I’m just paranoid about what grad schools will think of my work when they read this. I run into so many English students in my creative writing class who write this high-brow, oh-so-intellectual and literary stuff, and people act like this is the expectant norm.
Let me be honest here: I hate writing literary fiction. I think it’s boring and a pointless designation since all literature, right down to pure escapist mediums like comic books and video games, have literary potential and are most enjoyable when that potential is fulfilled. I love reading the stuff that people write for the love of writing and seeing the universal and personal symbols that crop up – like Hayao Miyazaki’s flying sequences or Annie’s towers-by-the-sea motif. That’s the literary value to me, the stuff that’s organic and natural. Going out of your way to force “literary” symbolism into a work to get that genre distinction is annoying and pointless. I hate reading it as much as I hate writing it.
But what if that’s what the academics are looking for? What if writing honestly – writing like a genre writer – hurts my chances? What am I supposed to do then?
Buckle down and find something else do to with my life, I guess. I’d rather never go grad school than write something that doesn’t represent me.
NaNo Countdown: 4 days and counting!!