Travelers' Tales China: True Stories

I'm published! Yay!

The first edition of Travelers' Tales China is on bookshelves (or order it from It includes a story from my cross-China bicycle tour in 1998. I'm not saying which story; that's a surpise.

I'd submitted a package of 11 stories and Travelers' Tales selected the 9th on the list. There are a couple ways to interpret this. First, I don't have much of a clue what Travelers' Tales is looking for in a story. I believe the general practice is to submit a sample containing a few stories to prospective publishers and agents. 11 is several more than a few. Second, I'll boldly observe that the reviewer didn't put the package down after page 10 (the "must impress by" page) but kept reading, ever onward, for 57 double-spaced pages, through an introduction, a bio and eight other stories to reach the story they eventually chose to publish. Evidently, I was on the right track from the beginning.

Being published for the first time is an oddly giddy feeling, even before holding the thing in my hands, even before it has reached the shelves. Actually, my words have been published before, though just brief blurbs of about 50 words in a theatre festival review newsletter, and another brief comment in a literary journal

"Months later, we still talk as if this is a new world, a new battle, a new war, new enemies. But it is not. The conflict is ageless. All that has changed is the destructiveness of our weapons, and the vulnerability of the innocent. But there are the beginnings of change. We are a little more discerning in our labelling of enemies so that entire races and cultures are not targets of retaliation.

We talk of the enemy's cowardice, for attacking and killing innocents. Yet we drop bombs from the deep blue sky which 'inadvertently' fall on the innocent. We say that in war some civilian casualties are inevitable, and in the same breath say that not one life of an infantryman should be put at risk while there are yet more bombs to drop.

There remains a long way to go "

Patrick Jennings,
I edit a small literary magazine of social concern in the USA. May I have persmission to use this quote in my next issue. Thank you for your consideration.
the best and peace,
Ave Jeanne

ave jeanne, editor
Black Bear Publications, USA
, post 9-11. My essay, Reciprocal Madness, received the unusual distinction of appearing in an art gallery show, "In Honour of the Bravest." And my textual work has been performed on stage in two productions. For the first production a playwright incorporated a story of mine into a larger play, and for the second I wrote and produced the play myself. Of course, a giddy rush accompanied each of these and writing the play proved to be the most spiritually moving experience of my life. Nonetheless, there is something undeniably unique about the experience of having a respected editor and publishing house choose to publish my work.

The pay is about 10¢ a word for my 1,000 word story, apparently low for a book, and I receive no royalties on sales. On the other hand, I've never been paid for writing before; indeed, my play lost money. And that is 10¢ US, afterall. But being paid is only one aspect of what is largely part of the process of considering myself a "professional." More than cash is the respect of people I can now refer to as peers. Being published in professional, reputable, popular publications differentiates authors and writers. It's less about the implicit credentials than the sense of belonging to a tradition. I'm in the club.

This thought really strikes home when I consider some the authors whose stories appear in the TT China. Have a look in the sidebar for titles by Peter Hessler, Orville Schell, Pamela Logan, John Kirch and Zhang Xianlang. That they are not named Bryson, Theroux or Cahill does not diminish their accomplishments in travel writing and other genres. It's a talented club.

There's another aspect to this, perhaps more important than the professional implications Writers write to an audience. Many people write in their journals, or to friends and acquaintances. However, I write not for my own mind's ear, or a specific someone else's. And I don't write for just anyone who will read. At the lower levels of consciousness, I write with a type of reader in mind: someone I respect, who shares fundamental aspects of culture and is interested in appreciating and creating beauty in all its manifestations. I write for the kind of person I'd like to get to know personally. Being published represents a kind of contact with that audience. In a sense, having a story appear in a widely published book is like standing on stage in front of a stadium filled with cheering fans. OK. That's hyperbole (unless you're JK Rowling and actually have read in an indoor football stadium for tens of thousands of wildly adulous pre-teens) But it's not far from the truth. It's like being the guest of honour at a party, the atttendance to which has swelled beyond all expectations. That might seem odd, but it is an odd occupation.

See, writing is a solitary effort. Sure, few writers succeed unless they have a life outside of writing, but the work itself, while underway, has no audience. I suppose in that sense it's not much different from composing music, or making art of any sort. We all take what is outside us, internalise it, interpret it, and create something we think beautiful, or evocative, or entertaining or otherwise important, and then try to get others to have a look. More often than not, we're not even present for the "performance." I think, for writers, eeing the cover of their soon-to-be-published book is a bit like standing on stage receiving applause. You might think a public reading would be the more rewarding experience, but we're not performers and many writers are shy of the public. We write to be read and being published in a book is the purest form of accomplishment and can only be improved upon by wide public and critical acclaim.

All that said, I am oriented towards performance, though shy of performing myself. The single biggest thrill writing has ever provided was while in the audience while my words were performed on stage. There is nothing more moving than a troupe of trained professionals bringing what I've written to life. No matter that their interpretation often varies from my intent. Sometimes this is a departure from my vision but more often it is an expansion on it. Being in love with film from an early, early age, that's the obvious next step in my writing. But there's something else I'd like to "close the book on" first.

Receiving the acceptance letter a few months back motivated me to renew efforts toward completing the manuscript for Movement: Seeking Perfect Lines, an anthology of my travelogue stories. There are too many stories in the collection, currently about 56, making it quite long. I need to reduce it to 40 or so, leaving some difficult decisions to make. (Hey, they're all my babies!)

Travelers' Tales just confirmed my suspicions that I may not be the best judge of my own intended audience. The stories I submitted were in more-or-less priority order, and TT chose from near the bottom of my list. Had I selected the content I felt represented the strongest few works, rather than just throw the whole catalog at them, I might not have been published at all. So, I'm looking for readers to review the book and let me know which stories they like best/least. Do help out if you can. (For those of you who already are: thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!)