Writer, Poet, Community Builder
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Awards Eligibility plus General Gratitude Post!


I wasn’t going to do an awards eligibility post. Instead, I was going to write a post about my 2016 publications I’m proud of, but then I’d dropped the ball on even that for a while. The past year had its highs and lows (as it did for, it appears, everyone), and at one point, the lowest lows led to me not writing and submitting for a stretch of almost five months. But my lovely writer friends are lovely and are encouraging me to do this now, even though it’s late in the game, even if it’s just as a record of what I’ve accomplished this past year.

Looking back at 2016, three things stand out to me, and I’m ridiculously pleased with all of them. One is my first-ever poetry sale, one is my first pro-rate fiction sale, and one is my most hybrid, weird-form sale yet. Here goes!

Propagation, watercolor painting by Suedabeh Ewing, created in response to my poem as part of the 2016 Art&Words Collaborative Show.

PROPAGATION (poem), Strange Horizons, April 2016.

This poem, you guys. The little poem that could. I will hold this poem close to my heart forever.  This was my very first poetry sale, and it sold the very first time I submitted it as poetry. Before that, though, it raked in a few rejections when I submitted it as flash fiction. You know why I subbed it as flash? Because I didn’t think I was a poet. If I sat down to write a poem, I’d freeze up. I originally wrote Propagation as a challenge to myself: can I write a story in under 300 words? The jury is still out on that one, but apparently I can write a perfectly fine poem in under 300 words (ha). I was blown away when it sold to Strange Horizons, one of my dream venues. And then, in a super unexpected twist, Propagation was also read on Boston Free Radio as part of Mr Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon (where While I Wait and another flash piece of mine, Ward, published in Crab Fat Magazine, were also featured). AND THEN Propagation was chosen for the 2016 Art & Words Collaborative Show, an annual project by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam in which twelve artists and twelve writers are chosen to create new pieces based on each other’s work. So there’s a gorgeous, abstract interpretation of the poem by watercolor artist Suedabeh Ewing, whom I got to meet during the show opening, and everything about that experience gives me the Happy Fuzzies. In conclusion: this poem. 

WHILE I WAIT, (flash fiction) Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, January 2016.

I don’t know where the spark for this story originally came from, but luckily I found it just where I left it for myself: in a strange little fragment on my phone’s Notes app. Something about feeding ghosts in my backyard like chickens. The backyard turned into the front stoop, chicken feed turned into bowls of milk, and the ghosts… well, they stayed ghosts. Even though some people read them as zombies. Which you are welcome to. Props, though, to Charles Payseur for recognizing them as ghosts in his write-up at Quick Sip Reviews, and gratitude for choosing it as one of his three favorite January 2016 flash pieces in his Monthly Round at Nerds of a Feather.

This was the publication that made me feel like I could become a part of the SFF community that I so admire. It also taught me that I could be as weird as I wanted to be in my fiction, and to trust readers to see the story.

Art by AJ Gabriel, accompanying my flash piece To Escape the Witch’s House in Liminal Stories Issue 2.

TO ESCAPE THE WITCH’S HOUSE (poetic flash), Liminal Stories, October 2016.

This one is kind of a flash piece, kind of a poem, and definitely a list. I remember sitting at a coffee shop in Kemah, TX with my friend Holly Walrath, trying to get some writing done. After a couple of hours of nothing, I shut the laptop and got my paper notebook out, and bam! The first draft of To Escape the Witch’s Househappened. Sometimes hand-writing is a winner. All the whimsy and strangeness was there in the first draft, but the pain and longing and sadness I had to pull out gradually. This happens to me a lot. It’s why speculative writing works for me. I can trick myself into writing the Difficult Things, the ones that are like a cat that hides under the couch when you call, no matter how many treats you offer, but who comes out to rub all over you and demand your undivided attention as soon as you quit trying too hard.

Liminal Stories, as young as the journal is in numbers of issues, was another dream market. I loved Issue 1, and I’m super duper thrilled to be part of Issue 2. My story went live on the day of the Art & Words Show’s opening night, so October 1, 2016 will forever be the day that I got to see not one but TWO amazing pieces of art inspired by my writing. I often randomly go to look at the Liminal Stories art for my story (by AJ Gabriel) because it’s such a perfect fit in its beautiful, unsettling glory.

In closing: enormous thanks to Strange Horizons, Fantastic Stories, Liminal Stories, and their editors; so, SO many thanks to all my writer friends and the wider writing community (of Houston and of Twitter, ha). You all are so encouraging, so supportive, so kind. It’s easier to believe in yourself when you have such excellent people in your corner, rooting for you. My sincerest thanks.

In 2017, I’ll try hard not to let the world get me down. When I catch myself slacking on writing, when I feel like I don’t have anything to submit, I’ll look back at 2016 at the things I’ve published because, among all the tangles and weeds of that dreadful year, they stand out like little flowers in my little garden. They may not be many, but I tended to them with love. 

Layla Al-Bedawi