I wrote my first short story at nine for a Halloween contest at school. The story came to me in the same way all of my writing has come over the years, I saw an image in my head and as I started to write about it, the story unfolded in my head. I was excited about my little story and asked my mom to type it up on her computer so it would look more professional. She did so and I handed it in. Time went by. I heard nothing. Finally the results of the contest were posted, the stories and their awards arrayed on a table by the window in the classroom. My story was not among the winners. I asked about it and received a very strange look from my teacher who went to the chalkboard and wrote the word Plagiarism in big letters. He turned around to the class. "Do any of you know what this word means?" Silence answered him, none of us knew, including me. But the teacher, who already didn't much care for me, kept looking at me. I became scared and nervous at his accusing eye, utterly confused by his look and what the strange word had to do with me. He then explained what the word meant: It means you take someone else's story and claim it as your own. I still had no idea what that had to do with me until I got home that night and my mom wasn't home. I ate some cereal, watched a cartoon, and when my mom got home she told me that she'd been called into the school. I asked her why and she reminded me of the Halloween story contest. I was excited, wondering what happened to my story. She said the teachers had thrown the story out of the contest on the premise that no nine year old could have written it. Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the compliment; that I was already writing above what might have been normal for my age. Maybe another teacher would have recognized the gift. Mine didn't. He already didn't like me much though I never knew why. So, rather than a gifted student, he saw plagiarism, though he nor any of the teachers had any proof of what story I might have stolen. That was the first door I shut between myself, my writing, and the world. I kept writing. I couldn't help that. Writing was like oxygen. If I wasn't writing I wasn't living. But I didn't tell anybody about it anymore. I didn't show anyone what I wrote. I wrote in secret, in my room, and I hid the pages when I was done. At fourteen, I started my first novel. At sixteen I began to write what would be Wing and Nien. I was brave enough to try and enter it into another contest, this time a big one in Salt Lake City, UT. My mom stayed up all night, once again typing it up on her type writer, as I dictated from my handwritten pages. I'd heard about the contest with only two days before the deadline. My mom and I stayed up most of the first night and all of the second typing it up. We ran the two hundred and sixty pages to Salt Lake, making the contest deadline by minutes. At the check in desk, standing there, both of us almost delirious with exhaustion, the ladies at the table looked at the first page of my manuscript, and handed it right back to me. "What?" I had asked them. "It's not double-spaced," the lady behind the desk said. I stared. My mom tried to argue with them. The lady was insistent. We walked away, manuscript in my hand, to the car where we sat, bleary-eyed and disbelieving. Little by little I was learning how unmerciful the world was. How little it cared. As an empath, I didn't understand how so many people could draw such a hard line. Nevertheless, it was probably around sixteen years old that I first entertained the thought of being a published author. I was in my early thirties when I had a brief flash of sitting at a table, my books in front of me, and a line out the back of the bookstore where a man stood, smiling kindly at me as I signed book after book. I'd been told by others that I would be a published author, that my books would go round the world...that became harder and harder to believe as time went by, query after query, where no one would even read a page of my writing and still say Not Interested, or Not a Good Fit, or Not Accepting New Authors. The realistic part of my brain began to say: You'll be published, but it will be posthumously. The years trudged by, having to answer the humiliating question: So, you're a writer. Are you published? God, I hated that humiliating question. In my early forties, I had the premonition that I would be published before I turned fifty. My forty year old self was not pleased with this suggestion. Still, I would send out the random query here and there. And then I received a reply one day in October, my fiftieth birthday around the corner at the end of November: "I'd love to be your publisher, but..." The moment I'd waited over thirty five years for and there was a 'but' attached. The but was expected: Self Publishing was a kiss of death for a writer that did not have a lot of their own money or was not a marketing genius; usually it required both. The company published Visionary Fiction and seemed like a perfect fit. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't even allow myself to be excited for the first week of contract negotiations. The day I signed the contract I sat in my car and cried. It took two days for it to set in. I am now, or soon will be, a Published Author. It was 1987 when I first entertained the thought that I might be one day. It was Fall of 2020 when it finally happened, a month before my fiftieth birthday. I could now say to someone else struggling to make a go of it with their art: Don't ever give up! The truth is, I never had the choice. I still wrote. I've written nearly every day of my life because it's what I am. If I'd never gotten a publisher, I would still be writing. The gift was never something I had to earn or convince anyone else of its worthiness. Like Grace, like Universal Love, the gift was mine from birth and will still be mine at death. I am blessed every moment I write, I am in Heaven. That has been my reward, my passion, my most endearing and enduring love. I am grateful to the Moon for this new step and to Aaron Yeagle at VIZIA FICTION for this opportunity.
Shytei Corellian, Author