That was the day that my friend Wesley Charles Tank approached me about publishing a collection of my short stories. So long ago was it that it took me about half an hour to skim through e-mails for the first mention.
“but actually before that i was thinking of publishing just a book of your short stories maybe titled Scenic Utah? how would you feel about that? A friend of mine went to Utah and took some stunning pictures, so I thought I would maybe use them for the cover. check out the remedy ink tumblr: www.remedyink.tumblr.com to see some of them… val’s been posting your stuff a bit as well… she just said this to me on chat as i wrote that: ps i’m ready to read bahl’s novel whenever. also i hope we get to publish his first collection of stories. is he psychic by the way ?”
I had just written the title story of my upcoming collection, Scenic Utah. It was similar and very different from anything I’d previously written. I was just sending it around for the first time. I would imagine Wes was one of, if not the, first to see it.
After this e-mail (side note, in my responding e-mail, I included one sentence that my ex-girlfriend would later read. This one sentence bears the weight of about 40% of our later breakup. Words are very powerful things, indeed), Wes took the time to compile all the short stories I’d written over the previous six years. I don’t think I can thank him enough for taking these first steps. Without this catalyst, I would have never even thought to embark on this project.
Truthfully, I had most of these stories in a file called “Probably Suck.” I think (for me, at least) it’s completely natural to become wholly disenchanted with something I’ve written. This is the phase I was in.
From an e-mail I sent to Val on 4/22/2010: “I’m not sure about these honestly. I haven’t thought about them in a long time and have them saved on my flash drive (only, not doubled up on the computer) in a folder called “Probably Suck.” I need to go through them with a fine tooth comb before I’m comfortable releasing them. I don’t know that I ever had higher aspirations than MySpace for them so they haven’t been revised much. So the formatting is fixed, but I’m not sure the stories are. I haven’t gone through and reread them yet. I’ll start today or tomorrow and go until I get overwhelmed with paid employment again. I’m giving the fixed formatting versions in hopes you or Wes might be able to look a bit too and help? Editor-publisher? It’s up to you. I ain’t about to tell you what to do, but I would appreciate feedback.”
Yes, I was disenchanted, but also, they did kinda suck, at least a bit. They needed work.
This is where Val, co-blogger here at Heart of Lit comes into play. She made the notes that made these stories better. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read these stories and she’s matched me every step of the way. Besides that, though, she and Wes encouraged me. Which is something I really, really, really needed. Without an external voice egging me on, there was simply no way I was going to overcome my own self-doubt in order to put these stories out.
But I did. And now we’re here. Soon, Scenic Utah will be 100% ready. We’re doing a couple final touches. Within a month or so, I believe. Though every step has taken infinitely longer than I thought it would so I hesitate to put too firm of a time frame on anything.
I am happy with the stories. I am proud of this. These are sentences I am comfortable typing.
Six years to write the twenty-one stories. Four years to edit and format and compile and tweak and fine tune. And now we’re here, ten years later. Ten years is a lot of work-hours. I hope you like my book. I tried my hardest, I promise.