Cleaning out, moving forward

When your husband gets home from work and says “What’s with all this water in the basement?” and your reply is, “Uh… what water?”

…you know that’s not going to end well.

In our case, it meant our water heater had sprung a leak. Thankfully there wasn’t any real damage, but since the tank was in the back part of my library closet, it meant hauling literally everything out of that closet so the plumbers could get in and replace the water heater.

Nothing stirs up ghosts like going through a whole closet’s worth of journals, papers, magazines, printouts, and three-ring binders, when you haven’t cleaned them out in over a decade. Some of those ghosts were benevolent spirits, like the handful of emails from my art teacher back when I was first married, and though she passed away last fall I could hear her voice in those lines, telling me yes, to do what I could to get published, but also to trust my HP (Higher Power) to give me the life I needed, even if the path wasn’t the one I might be expecting.

There were also old bogeymen, faded echoes from controversies and conflicts of years past that had long since lost their power to scare me. It was a good reminder to read through old printouts of emails and think of what a incredibly big deal some situation felt like, and how now it’s shaken into the dust of memory. (It struck me, particularly, how much in my twenties I felt the need to respond to everything, particularly if it felt like I was defending my creative work. The claws came out quick and sharp back then, and I realized how much I’ve learned, in the years since, that sometimes silence is the best response — especially for my own sake.)

I found training materials I’d kept from one retail job that reminded me of the things I miss about working there — and materials from another retail job that reminded me exactly what I hated about it. I found printouts of fanfics and stories from when I first discovered furry fiction, and I remembered what it was like to first explore that world and its tropes and possibilities, what it was like when I felt I was more a part of its community instead of on the edges.

And of course, I found old originals of my own work, too — the two novella-length quasi-medieval fantasies I wrote in high school where I turned friends and teachers into characters (and sometimes even let them have a say in what happened to them), as well as the middle grade fantasy that was my first completed novel, the one I thought I’d sell to a major publisher (back when there were still more than five of them and you didn’t have to have an agent to send them your box full of paper and get a form letter in return). And, when I realized that none of that material was still available in electronic form, I had them scanned to PDF so I could feel like my archive of early work was safely backed up, whether for someone else in the long future or even for myself someday to return to.

Now everything’s been sorted and reorganized (and many, many pounds of paper recycled), and my binders of short stories and poems are all neatly labeled and lined up on a new shelf. The library’s looking better than it has in years… and now all that remains is to get myself to the desk in there, and write some material for the “Short Stories, Volume VI” binder that sits empty and waiting.


Another nice bit of loose-end-tying-up that happened recently was finding a home for a piece of flash fiction that I’d been shopping around for a few years. Every time I was about to give up on it, I’d find one more market to send it to — and then, by the time that market rejected it, I’d find just one more. I skipped the stone of that story across more than four years and sixteen markets, until at last the seventeenth loved it. It may not be good form to mention how many rejections a story has had, but I note it here as a mark of triumph for this odd, rather dark little tale.

And it even got artwork. *beams proudly*

You can read “Ashes of Roses,” my somewhat undead take on “Beauty and the Beast,” by clicking on the cover below.

AshesOfRoses-HALL-ArtABergloff

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