Back in the fall of 2002, when I was an undergraduate going into my final year at the University of Waterloo, I realized that, while I was doing okay for money that term, things were going to be tight once Christmas was over. I’d worked two jobs in high school (at one point working sixty hours a week on top of being a full time student, and maintaining a solid B+ average) and had been so burnt out by the experience that there was no way I would be able to get a job and deal with the workload of being a fourth year university student. I saw an ad for a short story contest, and decided that I would get a little bit of cash by winning that. There’s no way I could manage that level of hubris today, but back then I was kind of like that sometimes. (It didn’t help that, aside from chronic money troubles, everything I’d been working toward for nearly seven years was falling into place almost exactly as I had planned.)
So I wrote a story. The first draft took me about three hours, and the second draft took me two, maybe three days. It was six pages long, and has been described by most who have read it as “experimental”, though I deliberately used no techniques developed more recently than the 1920s. When it comes to my writing, I’m a Modernist at heart. I packed as much stuff into those six pages as I possibly could. A dissolving relationship is front a centre, a common theme in my work even then, despite being nearly five years into a relationship I thought would last the rest of my life, but there are other threads there that still matter to me. Different ways of using language—and dialogue in particular—for different modes of narration. Paranoia about sexual acceptance, the faithful incorporation of real places and things, pop culture references, literary theory references (and theories of mind, etc, incorporated into the structure), and heavy borrowing from and hat-tipping to writers I respect from the last three hundred years. If you know how to look for it, there’s even a remix of some Beck lyrics, and a little bit of HTML/CSS. Like I said, I packed a lot into those six pages.
I won the prize. Ridiculously, I submitted the same story to another contest, and won that prize too. Like I said, the world wasn’t really helping to keep my hubris in check back in those days (in 2005 the world realized that I’d been obscenely lucky for too many years, and pulled me back down to earth so hard I’m still not back on my feet yet).
I submitted the story to two magazines. First, The New Quarterly, a bunch of folks I know and respect, but for whose publication it was entirely wrong. They rejected it, and rightly so. I next submitted it to Carousel, and they accepted it as written. It was exactly what I had expected to happen, and I’ve been paying for that particular moment of hubris with a bushel of “we like it, but we’re not going to publish it” rejection letters for every single piece of fiction I’ve written since. The piece, “A Story With No Title Whatever” (because I’m saving “Untitled” for something special) was published in Carousel‘s fall 2004 issue, number 16. It’s a pretty gorgeous magazine, and I’m proud to have been in it.
I’ve been neglecting this blog for mental health reasons (I really just needed a break from my life, and plus I’ve been reviewing books for the great folks over at Quill & Quire, who pay me, which means stuff for them comes first), but the publication rights to my one little published story reverted to me pretty much immediately after it saw print, and I thought I’d share it with you folks, you know, for free. It’s a PDF, just a quick export from MS Word, because epub (the ebook format I want to support) isn’t actually capable of handling my formatting decisions, which I feel are essential to this particular story. When I get a better handle on Adobe InDesign, I’ll replace it with something prettier.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Download “A Story With No Title Whatever”, by August C. Bourré (PDF).