Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Posted on 29 August 2010

When I got serious about submitting my work last December, I knew I’d be spending a lot more time (and money) at the post office. Eventually, I fell into a routine and began frequenting one particular post office where the same employee rung me up time after time.

Since my manila envelopes were always addressed to the fiction editors at a various literary journals, it wasn’t exactly difficult to figure out what I was doing and what was in those envelopes. If the postal worker noticed, however, he kept it to himself — until I started entering short story collection contests.

The first time I mailed a book-length collection, he pointed to the address, which likely included “First Book Award” or something to that effect, and asked, “Did you write a book?”

Talking to strangers about my writing – or even admitting to strangers that I write fiction at all – is not something I usually like to do. But I went ahead and told him it was a collection of stories. He then wanted to know about the contest, how long I’d been writing, what I wrote about. That last question I managed to bypass with a simple “literary fiction.” (Hell if I know how to describe what I write about. I mean, I know, but it’s not something I can easily sum up in one sentence. Some days I wish I could write exclusively about pine cones, or John Hughes movies, or rare hoof diseases. It would sure make answering this question easier.)

From then on, whenever I brought in some submissions, he asked how my writing was going and if I’d heard any news. Most people might consider this friendly small talk. But me? It makes me want to run. There’s nothing worse than having people ask for status updates when you just got your 79th rejection with no hope in sight. Even though I knew he was just asking to be polite, it always put me at a loss. So I’d smile and say, “I’m still revising!” or “Still working on it!” and that would be about it.

I liked that this post office employed such a nice man, but I also kind of wanted to be anonymous again.

Around this time, I discovered a more conveniently located post office that also better fit my schedule, so I started going there instead. The woman who works at this post office recognizes me on sight. She knows that I’m going to hand over a couple of manila envelopes, and that those envelopes will say things like “Fiction Submissions” or “Fiction Contest,”  but she doesn’t say a word. She knows I will always answer no to the “Anything liquid, fragile, or perishable?” question, and that I’ll never get delivery confirmation or insurance.

And you know what? She doesn’t care. God bless her, she just wants to do her job and make me go away. And I love her for that.

Back in January, when I still frequented Post Office #1 on a regular basis, I plunked down my short story collection yet again. It was addressed to the Chandra Prize for Fiction at BkMk Press. I imagine this was one of those times the postal worker commented on my writing, but I have no idea what I said. I know I didn’t really expect to win. By that point, I probably didn’t even know why I was entering at all.

Seven months later, I found out that I won that very contest.

So maybe the next time I send out a batch of submissions, I’ll make the trip to Post Office #1 and see if the same worker is at the counter. And when he asks how my writing is going, I’ll tell him.

Image: Tim Morgan

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