James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater County series

UPDATED: Simultaneous Submissions: An Embarrassment of Riches a/k/a Be Careful!

I sit waiting tonight on an answer regarding what could be my most significant short story publication yet: a lovely little sepia-toned autobiographical piece I wrote called “Trailer Trash,” about a grandfather and his cronies conspiring to arrange a young man’s first brush with manual labor, was named a finalist in the 2012 Saturday Evening Post Short Fiction competition. Autobiographical to the nth degree; a huge honor for it to be selected as a finalist by such a prestigious publication.

I can see why it made the cut. For the demographic that likely still read the famous, but faded, American magazine brand, “Trailer Trash” could be well-nigh on perfect: set in the mid 70s among a group of World War II veterans who only seem to come fully alive in each other’s presence at Halsey’s barber shop—the narrator’s grandfather, who seems to suffer from what we now call PTSD, grows angry at his grandson’s curiosity about the war—the men grumble about this n’that, including the concern about one day having to send ‘our boys’ over ‘there’ again. One of a number of ‘stories of adolescence set in my all-purpose fictional Edgewater County, SC—a companion piece, “Heroes and Villains“, won the SC Fiction Project in 2010—I’d sent the piece off back in the late spring, at the same time I sent out a whole batch of material, quite a bit of which stuck, including this one.

Twice.

I’d been in the woodshed for two years, not sending out, writing, revising, working on craft, mainly—stories and novels I had, I simply needed to make them better. By the responses I received, my time working on my voice and style and powers of editing had paid off, particularly in the case of “Trailer Trash”—for the SC Writer’s Workshop journal Petigru Review, I sent in a 2500 word version of the story, which captured the spirit and humor of the boy’s toil at cleaning up a horrid, abandoned mobile home, but not really the best of the old men’s banter, the war references, and other, smaller atmospheric details. “Trailer Trash” turned out to be popular—too popular. I’ve fallen victim to the danger of simultaneous submissions that yield an embarrassment of riches, a problem that until recently I didn’t worry about too terribly much. As my confidence, and acceptances, grow, however, I’ll be sure to show all due caution in sending out multiples of the same piece.

And while as of this writing it remains unresolved whether the prior publication of a version of “Trailer Trash” will disqualify the story from the comp—the SEP editors allow modest prior publication in the form of online journals or blog postings—let it be said that when I saw the SEP contest back in May I thought, I’ll likely never write a more all-American, Norman Rockwell-ish piece than “Trailer Trash,” and so of course I sent it in.

I’ll update this space when I hear from the editors. As a fellow writer said, either way it comes out, this is a win.

UPDATE: And… owing to its prior, publication, TT has been disqualified from this competition. But it’s okay, as I now have an open invitation to submit other material that would be a good fit, which of course I do have at hand. FWIW, the editor seems terribly disappointed to have to DQ it. Ah well.

UPDATE, November 27:

Got word today that ‘Trailer Trash’ will be appearing in the SEP after all, listed as a runner-up, but published in full both in print and online. The very kind editor also asked if I had other material in this vein, which I happened to have at hand, and have already submitted. A wonderful update and conclusion to this saga!

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest book, a story collection called The Year They Canceled Christmas, releases in November 2017.

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