A Theme of Many Firsts
On October 19, 2019, I submitted a new short story that I had written to the literary magazine, The Crucible, at my university.
On November 10, 2019, I received an email from The Crucible staff, announcing the acceptance of my short story, “The Firstborn”, into the Fall 2019 edition.
On December 07, 2019, I held my first ever published short story in my hands, and I cannot tell you how many minutes I have spent looking at each word, reading it over and over, and saying to myself, “This is only the beginning, Nichelle.”
I had been anxiously waiting for almost a month to see it for myself, and with butterflies of both nerves and excitement in my belly, I could barely keep still as my mom, boyfriend, and I attended the publication party yesterday evening. We walked into the room, and the faces of friendly strangers turned to us, smiling, and more emerged with each passing minute.
My mom went to retrieve our copies, and when she handed it to me, I was in total shock; the cover was beautifully designed, and it was a real book–a real book… with pages…and ink… and it even had a spine!! I felt like there needed to be a chorus of trumpets surrounding me as I opened it, and as I peered through the table of contents, I noted that mine was the last piece presented. Normally, this is only because my last name is at the end of the alphabet, so I moved on, and I ended up forgetting about it until later in the night. I felt a tight squeeze in my chest as I turned to page 31, and I stared at the beautiful lettering and held in a giggle as I read my name.
Usually, the writer’s name does not mean much. It is a tribute to them, and then we carry on with the stories, but this was different. There was a writer I knew very well behind that name, and the twelve-year-old dreamer inside of me squealed as I realized what this meant.
I stood in line to get a piece of cake after the introductions were made, and the girl in front of me asked if I had been published in the book. I told her, “Yes, actually! Mine was ‘The Firstborn’.” As I spoke to her, the people in front of us, presidents and editors of The Crucible, whipped around and stared.
“You wrote ‘The Firstborn’?” A chorus of questions directed my way.
I gulped, a little embarrassed for the attention, and I felt my cheeks turn pink as I said, “Yes!”
The members of The Crucible staff smiled at me, and one of the co-presidents said sweetly, “Yours made us cry! We always put the strongest pieces first and last in our books!”
I tumbled over my words, saying, “Thank you! Wow, that’s really great!” (Of course, by this time, I had already forgotten that mine was last.)
We sat down again, and as we began to eat, the vice president got up to invite anyone up to the podium to read their piece, or any piece that stuck with them. My mom looked at me expectantly, and I was so nervous, but I was determined to read my piece.
When it came my turn, I walked up to the podium, feeling my fingers shake as I flipped to page 31. I looked at my mom and boyfriend, whose faces felt like home in the sea of strangers before me, collecting a deep breath.
I knew my voice was shaky, and I fought hard to stay still as I read my piece aloud, but I focused on speaking precisely and conveying the emotions I felt while writing it. The entire experience was surreal, and I just kept thinking, “I cannot believe I am reading my piece, my first published piece, out loud!” I did not look up at my audience while I read, but my boyfriend told me later that the people he saw were trying to hold back tears.
But I knew my mama would cry.
When I was done, I walked back to my seat, and I could still feel my heartbeat in my ears as I listened to the rest of the pieces.
We met some very kind people at the publishing party, and we talked about writing and what our stories meant to us. I shared with the ladies at our table that the babies in my short story were named after the two babies my grandparents had lost many years ago, and I knew that it made my mom both emotional and happy that I had included a tribute to them and my grandparents.
We left the party feeling giddy, and my boyfriend whispered to me the rest of the night, “You’re a published writer.” I let the words sink into me until they began to feel real.
Both my mom and boyfriend required an autograph for their copies, and though it
Last night was a night I will never forget, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my writing and start down the path I have been ready to trek for years.
Every Fall semester, The Crucible picks a theme about which applicants should write, and for Fall 2019, the theme was “firsts.” My short story was written with this in mind, and the theme was absolutely fitting for my first publication. I am incredibly thankful that this piece got to be my first ever published.
The Crucible is currently not published online, but the editorial staff may be looking into uploading PDFs of the book soon. As soon as they do, I will include a link to it so that you may read it from its original source if you want to. Until then, here is a scanned copy of Death & Nature: Fall 2019 that you are welcome and encouraged to read!
This story was very meaningful to me, and I would love to hear some feedback! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.