On my home office bookshelf is a tome that I started reading some time ago then abandoned for some reason. The best laid plans ... etc. and so forth. Anyway, the book, First Words: Early Writings From Favorite Contemporary Authors, is an anthology, collected and edited by Paul Mandelbaum, that is a fascinating glimpse into the embryonic calling of such celebrated wordsmiths as Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, Roy Blount, Jr. through the examination of their stories, novels, poems and other very early works -- grade school papers, in some cases.
It got me to thinking about the commencement of my own writing career. Back in the day, collecting clips mostly entailed getting poems published in small literary publications. When not rejected (which was frequent), payment for acceptance was always a contributor’s copy (or two) of the magazine. I wasn’t making any money, but that wasn’t the point. I was honing my craft while racking up the bylines. My name was in print, and how cool is that?
That is until I sent my poem "Twist of Faith" to Theme Poetry, a small magazine which I believe has since folded, for consideration. The poem was a raw response to my mother’s death and how I grappled with that stark reality. Because it was so close to my heart, I was delighted to learn the piece was accepted for publication -- and they sent me a check to boot. I was beyond giddy because this was my first sale that actually involved the transaction of currency. There was a problem, though. I received an acceptance letter and a check, but no copy of the issue my poem was published in, which I later learned I needed to purchase. The price for a copy of the issue? $5. My first writing paycheck? $5. Such is the lucrative, glamorous life of a writer.
ByLine Magazine published an essay I wrote about the whole puzzling ordeal.