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Author of Fortune: "The Short Story That Came Up Short"

Read Time: 3 min

Lily Delaney discovers that maybe no one wants to publish her short story because no one wants to publish Micheal Park.


Someone rapped on Lily's door - loud, like machine gun fire. Crossing past the couch where Micheal was sitting, Lily flattened her hands against the door and looked through the peephole. "It's Glenn," she said.

Micheal Park dug a hand into his pants pocket, searching for something. "Not again," he said. "Why is it that every time he comes over, I leave my earplugs at home?"

Lily unchained the locks and opened the door. In the boring tan hallway, Glenn McKenzie smiled wide. As he pulled off his thick sunglasses, his other hand waved a fat stack of envelopes. "You're pretty popular today. All of this is yours."

"Thanks for picking up my mail, Glenn," Lily said, plucking the stack from Glenn's fingers. "I really had to finish editing this story with a client. He wouldn't let me off until the sex scene had a sentence with the words 'mounting' and 'shotgun'."

"Whatever pays the bills." Glenn crossed past Lily into her apartment - the box, she called it, since whomever designed the place gave half of a wall to the kitchen and shoved it in the same place as the living room and the dining area. "Hey, Mike. What's up?"

"I just got back from clearing a situation with Darla," Micheal said. "The judge said she could take half of my stuff. She left me the dog carrier and put Nero in a box of packing peanuts." Micheal looked up at Glenn. "I was wondering why her boxes smelled like pee."

Locking the door, Lily pulled an envelope from the middle of the stack. As she read it, she let the others fall on the side dresser with a smack. "Hey, Saturn Magazine finally sent me a reply for that short story I mailed them a month ago!"

"Congratulations," Micheal said.

"Don't thank me yet," Lily said. "It could be another rejection. I hope not - I've sent this story out nineteen times already."

"Nineteen times?" Glenn said. "What happened, did you print too many copies because you didn't spay your printer?"

Lily walked over to the couch and plopped down next to Micheal. "This thing's been rejected by nineteen different magazines. I have no idea why. I rewrote all the scenes, all the dialogue...I even changed genres! It used to be a mystery set in the 30s."

"I never liked mysteries anyway," Glenn said, pinning down the couch's armrest. "Only mystery I like to figure out is how Stallone crams a grenade into a guy's windpipe so cleanly. What's the story about now?"

"It's actually about Micheal, believe it or not," Lily said, looking at the older man.

"Who'd want to read about Mike?" Glenn asked. "All he likes to talk about are his ex-wives and how they'd look inside a woodchipper."

A frown cut Micheal's face. "It was a hypothetical situation, all right? I'm just saying that there are models that make a finer dust." He rose from the couch and walked over to Lily's sparse kitchen. "Anyway, this character isn't entirely based on me. His name's Corey Randall. He has my personality, but he's supposed to look different. Personally, I thought it was an honor for Lily to ask me to be in her story."

Lily took a dramatic breath. "Well, I won't know what happened until I open this, so let's get going." She grabbed a top corner and tore it downward, circling around the envelope until one side was ripped open. Lily pulled out the letter inside and unfolded it. "'Dear Miss Delaney'," she read.

"He already knows your name," Micheal said, pouring a glass of water from the pitcher he had withdrawn from the fridge. "You're lucky. Darla didn't learn mine until she saw my water bill."

"'While I found Searching Midnight to be cleverly written, I'm afraid I feel too distanced from the characters to feel any emotional connection towards them.'" Lily ran her hand over her mop of blond hair. "'In particular...I thought the character of Corey Randall was the most unsympathetic. He tries to hide it, but he is so depressing that I don't know what was sadder, the funeral scene or the fact that Corey was there.'"

The water Micheal was pouring overtook the rim of the glass and drained onto the counter.

"'I think that you should rework his character entirely or replace him with someone more appealing. Maybe one of those alien dog creatures Jessica mentioned in passing. Readers like dogs.'"

"Ouch," Glenn said. "I'm sorry, man."

Micheal set the pitcher down on the counter. "It's not my fault. That editor doesn't know what he's talking about. There's nothing wrong with my character. Lily just needs to use me in a story that I'd fit better in." He picked up his glass and realized it was still dripping on the now-soaked counter.

Glenn just shook his head. "Micheal, I don't think they'll take snuff films."

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