Back in the dial-up day, before there were so many online literary magazines and publishing resources, I used to scroll through the Call for Submissions in the print version of Poet and Writers, looking for anthology themes as a means to find inspiration to start writing about something, anything. Now the calls for submissions flood my Facebook and Twitter feed, entangled between the endless calls to sign petitions, dogs howling at TV videos, and the tiresome parenting memes. The expediency of posts is overwhelming. At night, my dreams are filled with so many imaginary Instagram and Snapchat images, I feel unmotivated and unable to write notes in my dream journal.
This past week, on a day when I thought things couldn’t become even more bleak at work, they did. Then a call for submission flashed by with the theme: A World in Pain. Seemed like a twisted moment of fate.
But I did not want to address this theme about our World in Pain since that has seemed to be our country’s mantra since the last presidential election. The dogs and I took the easy way out and we left for a walk.
When I returned from the walk, for some stubborn reason I decided to tackle this unpleasant theme, but not in my usual creative nonfiction form, but as a migrating bird flying from Canada to Mexico, flying over those borders with relative ease, free of the Facebook and Twitter feeds, the endless news on TV and radio. At times, the effects of climate change made the journey more difficult, and the bird learned to be on the lookout for the elderly, who have already endured a life time of personal tragedy, leaving them less grief-stricken and immobilized, and more enthusiastic about the arrival of the birds.
Then the short story ended and I felt a little better about life.
Until I submitted the story and discovered that the magazine had closed their fiction submissions early, perhaps even at the very moment I tried to send the story, because just the day before, I could have submitted the story, had I not decided to sleep on it first. Perhaps this was their own personal twist to their theme of pain.
And then, just like that, another call for submission emerged with a climate change theme, and that bird flew off for another migration while my submission now enters a form of hibernation.