Becoming a writer was never something I thought about. It was simply how I identified from the age of five. I knew I was going to be a famous novelist like my writing idol Joyce Carol Oates. I was going to make a splash on the literary scene. I was going to be known; there was no question about it. I had been telling this to everyone for as long as I could remember.
When I started receiving acceptances and rejections from MFA programs the reality of being a professional writer started to sink in. Just because the writing I’d done throughout my childhood and young adulthood had been praised, didn’t mean I was necessarily something special. In fact, I was rejected by more writing programs than accepted. And once I began my MFA, I realized that maybe I was out of my league. Maybe what I had been writing for the past few years wasn’t that good. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to become a famous writer.
I kept writing though. In my first semester of graduate school, I stumbled upon Angela Carter’s collection The Bloody Chamber, where she re-imagines various fairy tales from a feminist perspective. I couldn’t put the book down. I started pouring through databases for journals and collections of The Bloody Chamber’s nature. I began to experiment with my style to see how studying fairy tales, gender, and sexuality could influence my writing. And while not all of my professors or peers supported this change in style and genre, it didn’t really matter to me because I never got bored reading and studying fairy tales, unpacking them, and rewriting them to follow new perspectives and have different endings. An entire world opened up when I started writing fairy tales, one that I got to explore and conquer. I still feel that passionate about this work two years later.
Yet even with these small successes, I receive more rejections than publications. Getting an email saying thank you for your submission, but we’re not going to publish your piece is defeating. However, there’s nothing quite like getting an email saying thank you for your submission, we loved your piece, and want to publish it. It’s those moments, no matter how rare and fleeting, that get me excited about producing and sharing new writing.
The other thing I do to encourage and push myself to keep writing and putting my work out there is readings. I do at least one public reading of my work per month. In fact, I run a monthly open mic at a bar in my neighborhood in Philadelphia. I find it exhilarating and terrifying to read my work in front of a mixture of friends and strangers. It’s invigorating to have people tell me that they think what I’m working on is worthwhile and want to know where the story and its characters are going.
I don’t think this line of work, this passion, ever gets easier. Even if you’re Joyce Carol Oates, you probably still experience self doubt or writer’s block. I might not ever be as famous as she or Angela Carter, but exploring and creating my own world of fairy tales is, in its own way, my version of success.
Christina Rosso is a writer, educator, and dog mom living in Philadelphia. She has a MFA in Creative Writing and Master’s in English from Arcadia University. Currently, she is an adjunct professor of English at La Salle University and Penn State Abington. Her work has been featured in Supposed Crimes, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, and Ac