The flash fiction Evvy Spied on Surfers went through three complete overhauls inspired by 58 rejections before finding a home in Necessary Fiction on February 3rd of this year. It was as far back as 2016 when I began submitting the piece—at that point, fewer than 300 words and called, “NorCal’s Gnarliest.” (Nothing like baffling an editor with the title before the story even starts.)
Renamed “NorCal’s Gnarliest Waves”—not much of an improvement!—the flash continued to be rejected with some positive notes from editors. They liked the mood, the Mama rocks’ armpits, and Evvy—dubbed in May of 2019 “the experienced surfer with the hints of tragedy” in a rejection from Jellyfish Review.
Check it: hints of tragedy. Three years into submitting “NorCal’s Gnarliest,” and I hadn’t written in the rape scene. I’d known that difficult element of the story since 2017. Even so, it never occurred to me to go into it until a long, fantastic rejection note encouraged me unveil more of Evvy’s past.
What rang clear was that the editor wanted to know.
I added the rape scene to the opening and exploring it in greater detail that it appears in the published draft. This version received more good responses—I came close with New Flash Fiction Review; still one of my dream pubs—yet I doubted the story. It was not until January of this year that I understood why the rape scene was the wrong opening. The story was not about rape. The story was about one possible effect of untreated sexual assault.
The story had always hinted at Evvy’s ephebophilia, but I wasn’t brave enough to write it clearly into the piece. After I finally did, I continued to submit; this time as “Winter Upsurge.” I received more feedback; NUNUM suggested that I cut out most of the interaction with the wanna-be surfers in their neon splendor, to let them walk to the beach and leave the reader with Evvy. Out came, “She could undo a zipped one’s wetsuit to his navel and tie its arms below his ass.”
I realized the implied location of Evvy’s face, were she to be unzipping a boy’s wetsuit and tying its arm below his ass. Nausea ripped through me. (It still does. Every time I read it.) And yet … it worked! It was the key to the story.
In the first of the year, I began to submit Evvy Spied on Surfers. I received a “yes” from Necessary Fiction—unfortunately, for a draft of Winter Upsurge. I was worried that I would have to do that arty thing where you refuse the publication. Thank goodness, the editor, Lacey N. Dunham, allowed me to blend the new stuff into the draft she had accepted. Thank you, Lacey!