Challenge Accepted! (Update)

by Ron Hayes

Well. Welcome Spring! While I can’t know what it’s been like for you where you live, I can tell you that in my neck of the woods, we are only just now beginning to emerge from the frigid darkness of winter. Amazing what a simple quarter of the year can bring.

If you’ll recall, we here at 5writers kicked off the official coming of winter last December with a reflection on 2014 and a challenge for 2015. This month, I thought I’d kick off Spring by revisiting that challenge and assessing how I’m coming along. One of the things I know is a weakness of mine is persistence; so many writer friends of mine are so much better than I am at maintaining a writing regimen, pursuing publishing opportunities, and self-promotion that I fully acknowledge the success I’ve yet to attain is attributable to that particular shortcoming. However, reflection is the not-so-obvious foil to said persistence. And I like to think I have that handled pretty well. With that in mind, let’s see how I’m doing with last December’s challenge.

Let’s start with the bigs, the overarching, year-long projects. In Jennie’s original challenge, she reminded us to be realistic in setting our goals. I still believe I was realistic in planning to finish a full draft of my novella and complete an outline of my favorite novel idea. As of now, my novella has seen the light of two new readers and continues to evolve. However, if I’m being honest here (and why not? What do I have to lose?), the novella can be evolving all it wants, but it isn’t getting any more written. Failure #1. The other project, the working skeleton, is also evolving, and has indeed seen some progress. But the question of whether I’ll have a working outline by the end of the year is still up in the air. While I’m hoping to have one done by the end of summer, the reality is, I’ve not worked on it as much as I should have. Failure #2.

Next, a poem a month. Easy. Got that one nailed and then some. Failures 2, Successes 1.

Following my realistic poetry goal was a slightly more tenuous goal of four new short stories in 2015. I have to say that I don’t think I’d have made nearly the progress I’ve made so far on this one if it weren’t for my new reading group, Cindy Bee and Abbey Porter. With their help, I have one new story completely written and I’ve even revised it a time or two. Further, since that time, I’ve added a wrinkle to this challenge: I want to have a short story collection finished by the end of summer. So, checking the scoreboard, I’m calling this a win, taking me to Failures 2, Successes 2. I’ve drawn even!

Two more goals I set last December remain. The first one I want to mention is that I wanted to read more. Have I? Have I! This sounds petty and kinda crazy, but I am beyond excited to report that I am just past one quarter of the way through Moby Dick. Yes, THE Moby Dick. The White Whale and Ahab and all that. Call me Ishmael, but I’ve never been a big fan of literature that predates the 20th century. Just one of those weird personal peccadilloes. But it’s fascinating (and, truth be told, it feels pretty good to be able to say it) that I’m so easily able to stay with it this time around. Yes, this is my third or fourth go-round with Mr. Melville and somehow I’ve been totally engrossed. I still read slowly, but I’m sticking with it and loving it. In addition, I’ve added April L. Ford’s The Poor Children, which I reviewed for this site (found here), Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, which was PHENOMENAL, half of Steve Eoannou’s Muscle Cars, and a dozen or so short stories from various literary magazines. In short, Success #3. Pulling ahead!

The last goal, and likely the most important (after completing the writing itself), was to make a committed upswing in the number and frequency of submissions. Clearly the thrust of this aspect of Jennie’s challenge was the simple math behind it: you’ll always be 100% successful at getting nothing published when nothing is all you submit, and the likelihood of being published increases exponentially with each added submission. Thus with that in mind, I made a concerted effort through the end of basketball season to pound the proverbial publishing pavement…

And boy did it pay off.

If I’m beyond excited at my Moby Dick progress, I am damn near a mass of quivering goo at what I have to report: TWO poems placed (thank you Gerald at The Five-Two and Kate at three dropsand a short story submission LONGLISTED (thank you Fabula Press)!! My first real short story publication! Further, I received the following message in my email this morning from Kate, the editor at three drops from a cauldron:

Hi Ron,

I’m just writing to ask your permission to include your poem ‘The Boatman Considers a Scone’ in the first three drops from a cauldron print anthology at the end of July (details here:

More details will follow, but as I’ve now selected the perfect 35 poems (from January until the ones I have scheduled up to the end of June) I wanted to get permission to include them as soon as possible.

Please let me know if this is okay. And thanks again for sending your work in the first place!

Best wishes,

I got ink forthcoming!

Okay, okay. I realize it’s kinda silly and I should calm myself a bit. But the thing is, I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve never been much of a submitter. Big difference, there. BIG. And thanks to Jennie’s challenge, I can say those times they are a-changin’. All because of the challenge.

What does it mean to you? Simple. DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING WHEN YOU WRITE. I’ve always just presumed my stuff was good but never good enough, so my enthusiasm for submitting never really percolated. In taking this challenge and sticking to it, I realized success damn near immediately and in a higher concentration than ever. And as exciting and encouraging as that was, the fact is, the success was far more liberating than anything else. I’m free now. Free of self-doubt and insecurity. Instead of talking myself into being a writer, I can now realize I AM a writer–and so can you. Give yourself a challenge. Meet the challenge. And soon you’ll be accepting emails not unlike the one I share here, which makes accepting the challenge more than worth it.

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