John Strausbaugh, Stories

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About This Site...

 

 

 

 

 

 I wrote a novel when I was 12. Probably it was more a novelette, but I thought of it as a novel. I spent all summer writing it. I wrote a first draft, futzed with it, then a finished draft. It was the early 60s, the Age of Bond, so I wrote a spy novel. It was set in La Paz, Bolivia. I'd seen photos in National Geographic and it looked like a suitably exotic locale. I remember nothing else about the story.

I wrote it on my first typewriter, which was approximately the age, size and weight of a '49 De Soto. My mother had taken me to a used typewriter shop in downtown Baltimore to pick it out. I remember wandering aisles of dusty shelves, scanning old typewriters of many descriptions before making my selection. I picked one that had a look of gravitas, a serious writing machine. The shop owner grinned. "Son, that thing weighs more than you do," he said. "Tell you what. If you can carry it to the counter I'll knock a few bucks off the price." My ears burning from what I perceived as mockery, I wrapped my arms around the thing, slid it off the shelf, and barely managed to get it to the front of the shop. He knocked a few bucks off the price.

It took up the entire surface of the student desk in my bedroom. I remember it had a sticky ; key and a period key that punched a hole through the ribbon every time I came to the end of a declarative sentence. I went through a lot of ribbons.

I finished the novel by the start of the new school year, and mailed it to a paperback publishing house in New York City that had put out a spy novel I enjoyed. Then I waited for the letter of acceptance and my first check. Instead, a few weeks later I got the manuscript back with what I later realized was a very kind note, informing me that the publisher only did paperback reprints of previously published hardcovers, and wishing me luck with the ms. elsewhere.

I was shattered. My first rejection as a writer. My whole summer wasted. In a fit of rage I ripped up the manuscript and tossed it. I wish I hadn't done that. I'd like to see what the twelve-year-old me wrote.

Despite the demoralizing start, I've been a writer ever since. It was another eight or nine years before I saw my first check, for a short story in the science fiction magazine Analog. I learned to take rejection better, if never well. Over the last couple of decades I've put a lot of journalism and several nonfiction books on public view (click here if you're interested in that), but almost none of my fiction. So I built this site as a place to put some of it.

A few notes:

I will be adding to this site periodically. If you want to get an alert whenever I do that, use the RSS feed at the bottom of the home page, or
click here and send me your email address.

This site is for my fiction only. Please don't submit a story and force me to send you a rejection letter. We all hate rejection letters.

This site was designed for me by Frank Lusardi. Big thanks to him and to the artists who contribute original illustrations. I'm honored.


All material on this website is copyrighted and may not be republished in any form without written permission. Copyright © 2009 John Strausbaugh