Amidst all these exciting developments in my flash career, my creative nonfiction is humming along. I’ve been waiting and waiting for my hard copy of the literary journal ZONE 3 to arrive, with an essay that’s part of my constellation of essays on my childhood and family. It’s out, but hasn’t arrived in my mailbox yet.
And my essay “Another Mary Doyle” has just been published in UNDER THE SUN, a wonderful journal that switched from print to online a few years back, and has published many Best American Essays Notables and essayists I adore.
This particular essay probably had more rejections and went through more revisions than any essay I’ve ever written. I stuck with it because the subject was important to me. About ten years ago I did an interview with Dorothy Allison (a writer whose work I love) and she described her “accordion style” of editing: she expands, expands, and expands, then contracts, contracts, contracts. Repeatedly. This essay was like that. It must have gone through forty revisions, many before I started submitting, even more after that. Each time it got a few rejections, I revised it again. The focus and narrative arc kept shifting. For the last revision, before this acceptance, I scrapped everything but the imagined interludes where I picture Mary Doyle’s daily life, and built the essay again, paragraph by paragraph. I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied with this one.
Pleased that Heidemarie Weidner has published me for the second time in UNDER THE SUN. Steve appeared there when they were still a print journal. And my essay “Discovering My Gall Bladder” appeared in UNDER THE SUN a few years back. (Also very exciting that I encouraged a student in my creative writing class, Justin Dabill, to submit his essay on PTSD and his time in Iraq to UNDER THE SUN; “Thorns,” his first publication, appears in this issue.)
The essay and title “Another Mary Doyle” were directly inspired by a short, wonderful flash by Sonja Livingston: “A Thousand Mary Doyles.” First published in Brevity, then in revised form in her great book Ladies Night at the Dreamland. She also did a great craft essay about writing “A Thousand Mary Doyles,” and a 4.5 minute video version. When she made the video, she put out a call for photographs of Irish immigrant women. I was thrilled when she included some of my family photographs, including this one.
So glad to have this essay finished and out in the world.