My Stories About Troubled Marriages

When I started writing, I never imagined my work would be out there for anyone to read. Now that I’ve had some luck in the short story world and I can look at all of my stories together and see some–well, interesting themes, I’m nervous about the idea of readers. Most of my short stories feature troubled marriages. If you read this blog even occasionally, you know I’m crazy about my husband, Bryan, who seeps into my posts even when I think I’m simply writing about writing.

So what gives? I don’t know. I’ll tell you about my three most recently published “troubled marriage” stories later in this post. But first, I want to speak to writers who want to know how I–a fairly new and untrained writer–managed to get a decent number of stories published in a couple of years.

For some of us *raises hand*a novel is the goal, but not something we’ll see for quite some time. I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting that long to see my work published. Therefore, as I work on novels, I’m always writing stories to practice technique, voice, etc. If you produce enough stories, you’re likely to end up with some that are good enough for publication.

There are no secrets in this business. If you don’t send your stories out, they’ll never see the light of day. In terms of writing ability, I’m like any other beginning writer out there trying to get better. I suspect, however, that I face the “literary world” with a heartier dose of chutzpah than your typical non-MFA, not-even-an-English-major newbie. My attitude: the worst they can say is no.

Let me give you an example: In 2008, having no idea how the journal process worked, I submitted the first story I EVER completed to Glimmer Train Stories. In hindsight, that was a preposterous move. However, Glimmer Train Stories actually listed me as a finalist. HUGE news. I’d seen the words “Glimmer Train Finalistincluded on the back of some of my favorite authors’ books. If these novelists felt being merely a finalist (aka, not published in the magazine) was significant enough to list in their bios, then holy moly–maybe I was on to something with this whole writing “thing.” Of course then I got over-excited and wrote an entire novel based on that story. But that’s a post for another time.

I cranked out more stories and sent my work to more realistic places, including online journals.  I have strong opinions about NOT being a snob in regards to online journals. I’ve had stories in both print and online publications. Guess how many of my friends and family read the print ones? Right: my mom and my aunt. Guess how many read the online stories? Hey–more than two! I can link to those on Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog. And those journals have editorial boards and a selection process that is sometimes as competitive as the print journals you’ve been hearing about for far longer. (Maybe not as competitive as The Atlantic and the gang, but I reiterate: be realistic.)

Of course I’m not ragging on print journals. In early 2010 I received a “positive” rejection letter from The New Yorker (they called my story “clever”), one from Ploughshares, and another from Crazyhorse. Those three notes continue to fuel my outrageous chutzpah. If you can get your work into one of the many fine print journals out there, great. For the rest of you/us, do your research: READ print and online literary magazines; take a chance on newer publications; and get your work out there.

BACK TO TROUBLED MARRIAGES

I’ve had three stories published in the past four weeks–all centered on, as I said, troubled marriages.  “The Pleasure of Your Company” is available from Independent Ink Magazine via Amazon on Kindle. Or via Amazon as a download on your PC, Blackberry, Android, iPad, or iPhone (you’ll have to download the free Kindle software from Amazon first, which takes two minutes). It’s about a young mother named Mara attending her childhood best friend’s wedding. The wedding gives Mara and her husband an excuse for a much-needed weekend without the kids since they haven’t been, um, alone “together” in a long time. A glitch arrives in the form of the bride’s father for whom Mara has harbored a problematic crush since high school. NO, it’s not autobiographical, nor is the next story nor the third. (See how I fret!?)

“Picky Eaters,” published by The Pedestal Magazine, is a flash fiction piece (meaning very short) about the dynamics between a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, and two difficult guys (one a child, one an adult).

“The Safety Wife,” published by The Potomac: a Journal of Poetry and Politics, is about a woman who finds out her husband’s boss has unusual plans for her future.

FINALLY, I’d like to share three excellent resources for writers looking for places to submit their work.

Good luck and let me know about your successes! (And remember, a “nice” rejection note IS a major success in this business.)

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and Tcjewfolk.com, and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in The Times of Israel as well as Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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38 Responses to My Stories About Troubled Marriages
  1. Anne Greenwood Brown
    May 9, 2011 | 11:52 am

    Don’t fret. I don’t think anyone equates “write what you know” with “always write autobiograpically.” I’m pretty sure Bryan isn’t so picky as to eat nothing but pizza. In fact, I think I saw a pic of him scarfing down pie on this blog, right?

    Actually, I think the more accurate dictate should be “write what you want to know more about” or “write what you imagine,” and that’s what you’ve been so successful doing.

    Congratulations on all your publishing news! Can’t wait to read the Nina Badzin Anthology.

  2. Natalia Sylvester
    May 9, 2011 | 11:54 am

    I so admire your chutzpah! It’s a great attitude to have, not just in writing but in life.

    Like you, I also worry that the themes that keep popping up in my fiction will be interpreted as somewhat autobiographical. I think that we could probably all trace why we’re obsessed with certain themes, but that the origins aren’t always as simple as people might assume. They’re not necessarily mirrors on our lives; they could just reflect curiosities we keep coming back to.

    I’m intrigued by the descriptions of your short stories. Looking forward to reading them!

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 7:57 pm

      “they reflect curiosities . . .” I love that!

  3. Melissa Crytzer Fry
    May 9, 2011 | 11:59 am

    Congrats on your recent publishing success, Nina: three stories published in the past four weeks! Oo la la. Wonderful news.

    I have heard two conflicting bits of advice to the “publish short stories to get a novel published” theory. One is that doing so means you’ll be taken more seriously when it comes time to query. The other (which I seem to have adopted) is that “writing short stories is an entirely different market” than novel-length fiction writing. Since I’m a professional freelance writer with magazine publishing credits, I opted to focus all my energy on novel writing. Maybe I’m wrong, but my head seems to think that short story writing requires an entirely different skill set – not to mention all the time of researching which literary journals you want to submit to, querying, writing. For me, that it simply time taken away from my goal of being a novelist. Am I looking at it the wrong way?

    You’ve helped me see that there is another side to it as well: the practice part of it, the building of momentum, and the building of confidence. I personally think that what you have done as a “not-even-an-English-major” writer is nothing short of spectacular! You might have even inspired me to reconsider my stance : -). Thanks!

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 8:01 pm

      Hi! So I’m not advocating getting short stories to “get a novel published” per say. I think the process of finishing a piece and getting ready for an audience and having editors reject it and you fix and send it out again, etc, is just good writing experience for someone hoping to see a longer work out in the public. It’s not that one leads to the other, but I don’t see how it could hurt the other. Am I making sense? Plenty of people publish novels without ever seeing a short story of theirs in print. However, I’m sure short stories writers who eventually wrote novels saw their short story experience as good training. I know Jenna Blum says so and you know I listen to everything she says! ;) But you’re right that it does take time away from the novel you’re working on. Their is no question about that. I just happen to think it’s time well spent.

  4. julie gardner
    May 9, 2011 | 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the links, Nina ~ I am definitely interested in submitting work. Can I borrow your chutzpah?

    I promise to give it back – eventually…

    (Hope you had a FABULOUS Mother’s Day!)

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 8:02 pm

      I KNOW you have plenty of chutzpah! You just have to release it to the literary world! Your blog readers enjoy it regularly!

  5. marykateleahy
    May 9, 2011 | 12:51 pm

    The Pleasure of Your Company sounds really intriguing. And has a great title :)

  6. Amy Fellner Dominy
    May 9, 2011 | 12:56 pm

    Hi Nina,

    You’ve just given out wonderful advice. Start small. Write articles, and short stories and SUBMIT.

    And you’re right–the only thing someone can say is NO. But if you don’t send it out, it’s still the same result. Only, you’re the one telling yourself no. (Who needs that, right?)

    Keep going and good luck!

  7. Erika Robuck
    May 9, 2011 | 1:19 pm

    Great post and great links.

    Like you, I often feel the need to state that what I write is usually not what I’ve experienced. Case in point, in my new novel the mother and daughter have a very strained relationship. In my life, my mamma is the apple of my eye and I dedicated the book to her.

    I can’t wait to read your stories!

  8. Sara (sarasexpletives)
    May 9, 2011 | 1:40 pm

    Fabulous advice, and congrats on doing so well. I submitted my first completed short story to an online magazine recently. It’s not that I think it’s going to get published (though I guess, who knows?), but I’m trying to forge ahead with the same attitude of getting my work out there. Submitting is the whole point and I figure I can only learn from it!

    I’ve got to catch up on your short stories. I can get down with that theme. :)

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 8:05 pm

      My advice–unless the magazine explicitly says “no simultaneous submissions” than go ahead and submit to several. Most magazines take quite a long time to get back to you and most editors expect that you’re submitting simultaneously to other mags. Just remember to withdraw the piece if it’s accepted elsewhere. Good luck! :)

  9. Anne R. Allen
    May 9, 2011 | 1:57 pm

    OMG, you got a personalized rejection from the New Yorker??! That is fantastic. Even famous writers get form rejections from them. You are doing everything so right! This is the way to get literary fiction published. Get in the good journals and make your short fiction as important as your novels. But you’re right that print journals don’t actually get read by many people (although the biggies get noticed in the Industry) so submitting to online journals is best for getting name recognition. Doing both is best of all. I wish I’d been as smart as you a decade or so ago. (Not that I think I could have got attention from Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, or the New Yorker)

    And troubled marriages are pretty much the #1 subject of literary fiction, aren’t they? (I mostly read New Yorker short fiction) Upper middle class angst. Not so easy to write for those of us leading edgier lives. But the sweet spot for you, it sounds like. Congrats. I look forward to reading your stories.

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 8:07 pm

      Anne- you’re so sweet! Those notes are good for my ego and little else. But I love that you’re calling me literary. I really think of myself as “women’s fiction.” But truthfully those definitions seems to exist solely within our little community and the general publishing one. I’ve never heard a reader say, “I only read women’s fiction.” Or “I only read literary.” Most just want a great read! (I think)

  10. Jenny Phresh
    May 9, 2011 | 4:06 pm

    Nina,
    I have given you an award! Come and claim the item at:
    http://thepartypony.blogspot.com/2011/05/eat-me-blog-award-that-will-swell-you.html

  11. Julie Nilson
    May 9, 2011 | 6:01 pm

    Good for you! That Independent Ink issue has another story from another online friend, so I think I’m going to have to DL it. :)

    • Nina Badzin
      May 10, 2011 | 8:08 pm

      I hope you like it! :) Don’t tell me if you don’t. ;)

      • Julie Nilson
        May 22, 2011 | 6:42 pm

        I do! I liked the structure of the story, where we get the backstory in little bits leading up to the big revelation about Jocelyn’s dad. I also liked that you used a lot of dialogue–it seems like a lot of short story writers spend a lot of words creating a mood but we never hear the characters speak! I feel like I get to know the characters much better when there’s dialogue, so I felt like I knew the main character.

        Congrats!

  12. Lara Taylor
    May 9, 2011 | 6:23 pm

    That’s aweome Nina!! :) Maybe if I keep reading great stories of success, I’ll get some good luck by osmosis…although, I’m not sure how that works via the internet! lol :)

  13. Jack@TheJackB
    May 9, 2011 | 8:51 pm

    Any time my friends read my fiction they automatically assume that they know the people that I am writing about. Consequently if I provide the characters with any sort of issues I am always interrogated about them and asked to provide the “real story.”

  14. Julia
    May 9, 2011 | 8:59 pm

    Impressive track record; and thanks for the great resources! I loved “Picky Eaters,” and so I’m looking forward to reading the others as well. (I’m no expert, but maybe your choice of story matter is due to examining and understanding the breadth of human feelings and relationships — and since you know what the very good is like, you’re examining the not so very good?)

  15. Racquel Henry
    May 10, 2011 | 7:01 am

    What an excellent post! Thank you for sharing. And yes, it’s a great idea to take a chance with newer magazines! :)

  16. Stephanie Alexander
    May 10, 2011 | 5:36 pm

    Hi Nina! I think anyone who’s been married, no matter how happily, knows that marriage is really the world’s longest WIP. We can all see how things can go wrong, people can make mistakes, etc. In some ways your stories about troubled marriages might be a way of reminding yourself of how great yours is!

    Congrats on all your stories! So awesome!

  17. Jess Witkins
    May 10, 2011 | 9:02 pm

    You’ve really inspired me, Nina! I was looking for some lit journals to submit short pieces too, and I WAS that lit journal snob you spoke of. I wanted to see it in print. Thank you for pointing out more people will have access to it, and I can link to it if it’s in an online journal. You’re very very right! And thanks for linking to more resources to check out. You are so helpful and giving to us writers! Congrats on your short story success, it’s a sign of more good things to come!

  18. Becky T.
    May 10, 2011 | 10:20 pm

    Thanks for the lovely mention, Nina. Keep up the great work!

  19. ramblingsfromtheleft
    May 12, 2011 | 12:55 am

    Nina, as I’ve already told you, I love your shopprt stories. I might think to take to heart the comments in your post and begin looking at my short stories once again with more vigor.

    In the meantime I am enjoying the process :)

  20. Emily
    May 12, 2011 | 1:21 pm

    I just took a break from the doldrums of this rainy day to read “The Safety Wife.” Loved it. I wish I could write short stories like you – I decided long ago that if I ever was going to write, it would be all short form. There’s something really magical about being able to be swept away and then brought back to reality in a short span.

    • Nina Badzin
      May 13, 2011 | 4:11 pm

      Thank you so much Emily! That means a lot!

  21. Amanda Hoving
    May 13, 2011 | 10:55 am

    “If you don’t send your stories out, they’ll never see the light of day.” I so agree with this, and can’t understand when writers (especially the obviously talented ones) don’t submit their work!

    Anyway, I know about your fretting. I’ve written a couple of stories that if read as as true-to-life would have the DCFS calling. They are labeled as “fiction” for a reason.

    Congrats on your successes~

  22. Melissa Romo
    May 13, 2011 | 9:30 pm

    Hi Nina- Really great and timely post for me. I HAVE finished a novel, am querying, but now trying to get myself going in the lit journals. I actually submitted my first ever story to the Glimmer Train too – just this spring! Am waiting to hear if I’m even a finalist, which would be great. Thanks for the words of encouragement and resources. Continued best of luck with your writing (and now I’m following you on Twitter!)

  23. kksorrell
    May 22, 2011 | 7:11 pm

    Okay, so I feel your pain. I can’t write a love poem for my husband. It just never works. I love him very much, but when I write about him, it is usually right after a fight or argument we’ve had. I turn to writing to work through it, and I’ve written several “troubled relationship” poems. Some end on a good note; some don’t. But they are some of my better poems. Keep on writing!

  24. […] my work for publication.  (Huge wake-up call THANK YOU to Nina Badzin for blogging this post on why it’s important to just do it and not be a snob about your publication opportunities.  […]

  25. New Writer Crushes | 2000irises
    June 16, 2011 | 2:32 pm

    […] naturally I enjoy her work. Her blog beautiful, honest and well-written. May I recommend her post “New Writer Finds Readers”? It’s about resisting lit mag snobbery and having the guts to shoot far and wide. Pretty […]

  26. […] my work for publication.  (Nina Badzin wrote this post on why it’s important to just do it and not be a snob about your publication opportunities.  But […]

  27. […] you’ll stick around for year two when I’ll continue to read a book a week and try to publish short stories in literary magazines. I also hope to write a longer manuscript (might be a novel, might be a linked collection), and I […]

  28. […] you’ll stick around for year two when I’ll continue to read a book a week and try to publish short stories in literary magazines. I also hope to write a longer manuscript (might be a novel, might be a linked collection), and I […]

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