I’d like for you to think of your writing as Twinkies—not for its abysmal nutritive content, but for the extraordinary vitality of its preservative army: your writing can continue marching on, even after it has bivouacked for a while. Twinkies, of course, have a reputation for staying soft and squeezy long past their recommended consumption date (if anyone recommends consuming Twinkies). Such is the less-sugary substance of your writing—you can achieve successes with writing that has been gathering hard-drive webs, by sending it out anew after its slumber. You can also redirect writing that you thought was a fruit, but really turned out to be a vegetable. (Note: Twinkies are not vegetables. Or fruits.)
Here’s what I mean: This past weekend I received an email telling me that I’d won a scholarship to the Wrangling with Writing conference in Tucson, Arizona, held this coming weekend. The award, which includes the hotel room, was given to me on the strength of an essay I wrote some time back—not for this conference, but for another online contest. Though the topic of the conference essay was pretty close to the online contest essay, I had to trim out some fat and slant it a touch to make it fit their guidelines. I really didn’t think I’d win, but I had the piece snoozing on my hard drive, so why not wake it from its nap?
Slot Machines on Ice: Melt Them
Another roll of the dice: I wrote a short story about Las Vegas in the 70s years ago. I’d prodded and poked that thing a bunch of times, sending it out to magazines and small literary publications. No jackpot. So, it sat with its slot machine unplugged for a while until I thought, what the heck—I sent it out earlier this year to the Labletter, and they were happy to publish (and pay for) it in in their annual journal of arts and literature.
And just one more example of how you can shave the grizzled beard of your writing to reveal the fresh face below. I wrote a short story in grad school about some high school shoplifting hijinks that was never published. Years later, I heard about the National Steinbeck Center’s short story contest. I thought it was a real longshot, but again, why not? I was shocked to have won, and still cherish the lovely glass plaque that was given to me. I cherished the $1,000 prize as well.
Naturally, I haven’t emphasized the bajillions of rejections I’ve received over time for my Tantric poetry muffin recipes, or that little matter of the novel that can’t seem to fit in any agent’s ear. But I don’t need to emphasize those, because they don’t matter. What matters is that you can’t succeed if you don’t keep sending the stuff out. Once in a while, those old Twinkies will still have a twinkle.
Bonus Twinkies Story
Many years ago when I lived in Seattle, I dated a nice woman whose high apartment windows faced out on a warehouse district in the city. One late evening, staring out at the cityscape, I notice some huge trucks—with big cylindrical carriers like gasoline trucks use—lined up against a factory building, with giant chutes attached. When I asked my pal what was going on, she said that those were sugar trucks, and that they were unloading their white wonder into the Twinkie factory! That gave me quite a thrill, since I have been a lifelong fan of sugared objects, and it was rather a hallucinatory sight to witness the eerie glow from the wee-hour factory lights, dumping massive amounts of sugar in the semi-darkness, destined to torque the brains of young children all over America. There was something criminally poetic about it all…