In 2018, my husband J.P. and I bought a used lamp that turned out to have a rather macabre history. It entered our lives at a pivotal time, and for a while, I actually thought it might be haunted. Of course I had to write about it. And I did, using this experience as the subject for an essay I wrote for a Women on Writing class with the extraordinary teacher Naomi Kimbell in January 2021. Writers among you may find the story of my essay as interesting as that of the lamp. It is truly a story of how many a “no” will eventually turn into a “yes.”
Because this work was so unusual, I felt that it might be a contest piece. I like contests because they’re usually open to all themes and for the price of the submission fee you often get valuable feedback. Over the past year and a half, I entered an essay I called “The Perfect Lamp” into a number of contests, and while it didn’t win, it was named a finalist in two places, the Lit/South competition and the Barry Lopez Nonfiction Award. Along the way, I also received a tremendous amount of feedback, from contest judges as well as that of my classmates and my faithful Mem-Warriors, Ang and Marilyn (whom I first met in another WOW class). Additionally, other friends read it and contributed their advice.
And I continued to submit, submit, submit……from pitching it to commercial magazines (yes, even the BIG one) to literary publications. I had never thought about it as a podcast but when I saw a market listing for PenDust Radio, a project of Rivercliff Books and Media, I started to think of my essay in a different way — not just as words on a page, but as an experience in sound. Because of the many nuanced elements in the story, it occurred to me that a podcast might be an interesting approach. Lucky for me, Lisa Duff, Rivercliff’s talented editor and publisher, agreed. She also helped me tweak the title, and just in time for Halloween, “The Perfect Lamp” has been reborn as “My ‘Haunted’ Lamp: Murder, Mystery and Remodeling” and is now live as a podcast.
The lesson for us writers is one we know all too well but still bears repeating. Submit, submit, submit! The practice of thinking about our work in its published form opens the door for continuous tweaks and improvements that might never happen without the inevitable rejections and feedback. And the act of sending our revised work out into the world yet again brings powerful rewards all its own. To do so acknowledges that we writers are capable of growth and development, lessons that will bear fruit in the next (and the next and the next) piece that we write.
With the approach of Halloween, I wish my fellow writers all the best in the metamorphosis of their own work. After all, revising and submitting again is very similar to donning a new costume, isn’t it? As my experience proves, I have no doubt that you, two, will see a “yes,” even it leads you somewhere you never expected. Enjoy the ride!