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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Essay dilemma

I am the daughter of a belly dancer. The way I see myself, the way I parent, the way I handle stressful situations, and how my childhood memories of music and dance affect my children is the essence of my essay that was recently rejected by Brain, Child magazine.

I've been trying to figure out what to do with it. Since I wrote that piece with Brain, Child in mind, it is written for the readers of that smart and thought-provoking magazine. For instance, it is 4,000 words long, and it focuses more on the parent than on the child. There are very few magazines that publish personal essays of that magnitude with that kind of slant.

I hate to cut it apart to make it fit into other magazines. Most seem to want 1,000 words or less. Many want 500- to 600 words. I could easily trim 500 words, but trimming 75 percent or more is just killing me. I've been trying to trim it for Mothering Magazine. I've been trying to trim it for the Christian Science Monitor. I've been trying to trim it for Redbook. None seem exactly right. But with the right amount of editing, I can make it work. I'm good at finessing. But it is so hard to trim because I really love it the way it is. I'm sure part of that is because I'm so close to the subject. That I'm sure is one of the hardest parts of writing personal essays. How can it not be taken, well, so personally?

Photographer Friend recently blogged about the hardships and frustrations of being an artist who is trying to earn some money practicing her craft. She wrote: "Its a tough business because every lead is a potential blow to your ego, every possibility can take with it a little piece of you soul."

Her struggles apply whether you're a photographer and writer. And as I attempt to tailor my work so that the masses can enjoy it, with every word, every paragraph, every scene removed, I feel like I'm scooping out its innards and it hurts. I need to stop taking it so personally. But that is what is happens when your craft is very personal. The rejection. The disappointment. The tailoring of your work to fit different publications needs. That was partially while Bethany decided to self-publish her short story Postpartum Euphoria last year.

Still, publishing in its entirety would be my favorite exit strategy. But then again, if that doesn't pan out, I need to decide what it more important: keeping the essay as is, or chopping it so that it can be enjoyed. Ultimately, maybe the most important thing is to get it out there and to move on.

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