A lot of people measure their self-worth by how much they get paid at their profession. As we all know, money obviously means you’re good at something. (I’m quite sure I learned that on Dynasty when I was a kid.) Once you establish your worth, rarely do you go below that. You’ve entered an echelon of either standards, wealth or reputation. You can be proud to wear your badge. Shine up your nameplate. Dust the cobwebs off that neon sign you’ve been waiting years to turn on. Hoist the flag you’ve been waiting years to raise, the one that’s emblazoned “I AM A SO-N-SO” I’m finally worth something!
So how much am I worth? Fifteen dollars. That’s $15. That’s the cost of a specialty roll, a spicy tuna roll and glass of water at my local sushi bar. And regrettably, I have to skip the miso soup to stay on budget.
After 15 months at this publishing game, I can finally claim to be a paid writer. It’s a small sum, but I don’t care. I was paid for a story. And ironically enough, it took me 24 hours to realize I was paid for it. I received the news last month as I was spending a long weekend in New Orleans with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m used to rejection letters. So much that I know they typically always come in on Sundays. So, that Sunday morning while discussing how we still needed to go check out a voodoo shop that evening, I received the email. Assuming it was another rejection letter, I casually opened it. First word: “Congratulations!” I thought to myself, okay, this is different. I read further, and it seems Allegory Online Magazine has accepted a piece entitled “Graveyard Love,” which is about a young woman’s visit to a voodoo shop to reverse a spell that went a little too well. I was so excited and proud of this, especially since I was currently on my first trip to New Orleans, and the story takes place in New Orleans. What are the chances? It wasn’t until the next day while I’m making my way back to Texas that I received an email about my contract. What? A contract? What in the hell do I get a contract for? After pulling my car over to a Starbucks (because all serious writers go to Starbucks to write and find inspiration), I read my contract and discover I will receive monetary compensation. I was happy!
A month later, I still am. It’s a small sum, but I’m not complaining. When I tell friends or family that I got paid for a story and I reveal the amount, I see that little glimmer in their eye as if they’re not sure if they should be happy or disappointed. I can tell they want to ask “Is that all?” without it coming out insulting. But I don’t care. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It’s true, I could make more money doing online surveys in my spare time, but that’s not the point. Money is not the point at this stage in the game. My writing credits are. And now I have three!
I remember in a particularly funny episode of Will & Grace when Karen Walker referred to setting your self-worth as “It’s how you establish your quote.” Granted, she was referring to a woman’s first marriage and divorce, but the phrase always stuck with me. I guess I finally have my quote. It doesn’t mean a lot right now since I’m still submitting stories to mags and journals that can’t afford to pay. Being published is my quote right now. And I’m quite enjoying it.
So check out my newly published, first compensated story, “Graveyard Love” at Allegory Magazine while I change my flag from “UNPAID WRITER” to “PAID WRITER”. Support me with web hits and if you like the story, send a letter to the editor. Support is worth its weight in gold.