“A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage.”
I have a new short story publication to share. “Her Last Dance” appeared in the August issue of Gemini Magazine.
It’s scary sending your work out in the world. First, there’s the inevitable rejection that’s simply part of the submission process. Happens to all writers, no matter how experienced or well-published. Keep revising and submitting. Get critiques. Don’t give up.
Even when your story, essay, article (or book) finds a home, you may wonder how it will be received. This can be particularly concerning when publishing personal essays or opinion pieces.
So far, the response to “Her Last Dance” has been positive. Gemini Editor David Bright said he and the judges were very moved by my story. One reader commented on its “chilling ending”. Another told me I had “nailed the teenage voice”.
The narrator’s voice came easily to me. I knew the POV had to be through the girl’s eyes. I wanted the reader to empathize with the teen’s experience but also know more than she does. Through the use of subtext, the reader can see what the girl cannot, what is truly going on.
The ending is what gave me trouble.
Once I employed the advice: a good ending should be surprising yet inevitable, I felt satisfied with my choice. (See blog post on story endings).
So here it is! I’d love to know what you think. (Really.)
Her Last Dance
Mom is in our hotel bathroom fixing herself up. I smell her apricot perfume from outside the door. I’m supposed to get fixed up, too. No idea why Mom uses that expression, I mean, it’s not like we’re broken or anything. I bend over, let my dark hair fall forward, start brushing to make it fluffy like in those shampoo commercials. I check myself in the mirror, dab on bubblegum lip gloss, and a smudge of cherry blush.
Then Mom comes out. “Well?” She spins around in her sleek black skirt. “What do you think?”
I swallow. Her dark eyes seem bigger, like they’re eager for something. “You’re taller.”
“Hah! I haven’t worn spiked heels in ages. What about my outfit?”
“You look pretty, Mom. Really.” And she does.
“Thank you, my dear.” Mom squints into the mirror as she puts on her gold hoop earrings. “You’re never fully dressed with bare ears.”
“Wish Dad could see you. Want me to grab the camera?”
“No, don’t bother.” She steps back to admire herself. “I don’t want him thinking we had too much fun.”
“How come you don’t get dressed up at home?” I ask.
She looks at me, her perfectly penciled eyebrows raised. “And just where might I be going? Ballroom dancing?”
I hate it when she gets snarky. “You could take Dad out. You guys stay home too much. I don’t need a babysitter anymore, for your information.”
“For your information,” she says, “once upon a time your father and I used to go dancing every Saturday night.” A shadow of sadness passes over Mom’s face. “He was pretty damn good.”
I try to picture my father dancing. Instead, I see him in his wheelchair spinning around the floor. He’s the one who needs fixing up. I don’t like to think about Dad home alone with just boring old Carol to dress him and tie his shoes. Mom says there’s no reason to feel guilty–this is our “well-deserved” vacation. Maybe she’s right. So far we’ve had a decent time visiting Chicago, but I am not sure I like the idea of meeting Malcolm.