• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
  • Archives

You Came and You Gave Without Taking

I can no longer remember the name of the first poems I got published or the name of the magazine that published them. I remember sending them out, individually typed on onion skin paper with polite cover notes and self-addressed stamped envelopes. I remember my two tone Smith Corona with the ribbon cartridges. I remember seeing my poems in the magazine and not feeling all that much. Angels didn’t sing. My parents didn’t suddenly understand me. Young men didn’t flock to me, leave love notes, swing from trees. I think I knew then that getting published was really good, was the goal, but it wasn’t the end. It was a hole on a putting green. A little plastic flag.

How was your first time?

16 Responses

  1. “How was your first time?”

    It was a state-university based annual awards magazine for regional high-school writers. So there was that, an awardy thing. A teacher who befriended select students brought the contest to my attention and sponsored my entries. She had read some of my poetry, said it was clear I had a strong sex drive. No, we never fucked, though it did cross my mind. I had just started writing poetry six months before this. A torrent of adolescent verse was flowing forth. It was good to see some in print, and in such a respectable venue. I thought it was always going to be that easy. It was right at the end of the school year — my senior year — so there wasn’t much basking in the warm accolades of my fellow inmates. I don’t think my parents knew about it. I don’t think they would have cared, except to be concerned their baby boy was writing verse. Only madmen and moral degenerates did that. It was time for me to settle down and get a decent job, leave all this teenaged frou-frou stuff behind.

  2. It was 2002 when my first book was published. I was sixty. The agent I had then for another book that didn’t sell read five pages of this one and told me it would be a problem sending it out (she didn’t explain why) so I sold it myself.. It was nominated for a Lambda Award. The ceremony was in Los Angeles at a fancy hotel–huge dining room, about 200 people dressed in tuxedos and evening dresses. I hadn’t worn a dress for years, so I checked out the Talbot’s catalog, called the number and told the person who answered that I wanted to to look just like the woman on page 34 and flew 3,000 miles to LA. After dinner, the awards were presented. My book was competing against four others by well-known authors, including Harvey Fierstein (just before he won the Tony for Hairspray). The five book covers were flashed on a huge screen on the stage. When Harvey’s book was showcased, the applause was deafening. A poet (I can’t remember his name, but he was famous), opened the envelope and said, “And the winner is–Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko. I grabbed my acceptance notes, headed for the stage, didn’t fall down, and gave a speech that made the audience laugh.

    I never wanted to be a writer. It was a fluke that I became one. An even stranger thing is that I knew in my heart that I was going to win that award. Otherwise, why would I wear a dress, and heels, fly to LA by myself, hobnob with perfect strangers during the cocktail hour and enjoy it (I’m a card-carrying hermit)?

    In any event, my first time was crazy fun.

  3. My first time . . . nothing like Bonnie’s but I think the feeling was very much the same.

    My debut, cobbled together over fifteen years with little clue of what I was doing until I had help from Ann Patty, and then another freelance editor named Caroline Upcher, was finally published in 2016. It received an IndieNext List pick, Debut Amazon Spotlight Pick, + Amazon Book of the Month, Library Journal’s Top Pick, Business Insider Pick, etc. It didn’t win any awards but I was so high in the clouds, it didn’t matter.

    That was one hell of an adrenaline kick.

  4. Southern Poetry Review. I was giddy. I can no longer remember the poem though.

  5. A cover story for Northeast, erstwhile Sunday magazine section for the Hartford Courant. I got the call from Lary Bloom, editor, and hit the ceiling. I had a nice ongoing gig with them, but that first story was glory.

  6. First op-ed 1988, (yup I’m that old), in Connecticut’s second largest newspaper. Peel me off the ceiling happy.

    While waiting for a publication date I sent another op-ed to another newspaper. Accepted. Pick me up off the floor astounded.

    Notified of publication dates: Sunday opinion sections, same date, two different papers. I was the most famous person I knew. Still am. Shows how dynamic my life is.

    Hundreds of op-eds, assigned pieces, articles and columns later I am a minnow in a mud puddle. I’d love a title page but for me bylines are my thing. Even after retiring my column I still get recognized. Now that’s a kick.

    • Hey Carolynn, I’m that old too, looking back to first publication in jeez, 1994 or maybe it was 98. Called Ari’s Way, about resilience, really. The story of a teenage boy who became a paraplegic in a ski accident in Stratton. Sounds sad but it was upbeat (he wanted to become the first Puerto Rican Jewish para president). I did a lot of stuff for Northeast and Seasons Mag. That and poetry, my bag. Nice to meet you!

    • Hey Carolynn, I’m that old too, looking back to first publication in jeez, 1994 or maybe it was 98. Called Ari’s Way, about resilience, really. The story of a teenage boy who became a paraplegic in a ski accident in Stratton. Sounds sad but it was upbeat (he wanted to become the first Puerto Rican Jewish para president). I did a lot of stuff for Northeast and Seasons Mag. That and poetry, my bag. Nice to meet you!

  7. I can remember feeling oddly subdued when I got my first short story accepted and then received my four copies of the printed lit mag. I had been trying for so long that the achievement just seemed like part of an ongoing process and not the last step. That was thirty years ago, and it seems to have become my template for how I am to react to learning I have another story published. Fine. Nice. Let’s move on. What am I working on right now? Let’s get to that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: