I started submitting short stories to online contests and magazines on January first. Not really a New Year's resolution; that was more of a coincidence.
This was a big step for me because, with the exception of very few people, no one but myself has read my work since I was maybe thirteen. I know "being a writer" means different things to different people, but for me, part of it means being able to say that my work appears somewhere in the world - print, online, podcast - that I didn't put it. That someone else said I was good enough.
I currently have 14 stories trying to make it in that big, scary world beyond my monitor. I've received three rejections, all of which I'm saving in a special folder titled "Most Cherished Rejections". Because they are. They're proof that I'm doing something, that I'm trying and that people are actually reading the words I've written. And that's the only way to get published - to put yourself out there no matter how much that scares you.
Ah, symbolism. The bane of my existence in high school that took a poem about a tree and turned it into a poem about everything except a tree and made all my answers to the test wrong.
I had a literal mind. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the notion of something representing something else. And forget about me actually adding symbolism to my own work.
I've gotten better at recognizing symbolism in books and movies, but never tried to add it in my stories because I thought I was awful at it. Everything I tried screamed "hey, by the way, that pond represents his relationship with his mother!".
So imagine my surprise when I'm reading through the first few chapters of my work in progress and realize that the main character's illogically going after a warship that attacked his ship, even though there's no way he could beat them, is basically symbolizing (and accidentally foreshadowing) his later battles with the big bad guys.
The warship damaged his ship, the bad guys tried to assassinate his beloved, both are giant entities he's in a David and Goliath battle with...
I've noticed other instances of this in my writing, and while I've definitely seized these and ran with them, I still can't do it on purpose. Almost makes me wonder if any of the literary masters I was forced to read and scrutinize in school actually planned every bit of their symbolism, and if my teachers ever picked up on something Poe or Dickinson didn't intend.
I think every writer finds themselves researching something for their work at some point, and usually it's helpful stuff like the year of birth of Marie Curie's daughter Irene or the logistics of riding an ostrich, but sometimes we go down the rabbit hole and end up learning something you never intended to learn.
The other day I learned that whales are not kosher; whether you want to call them fish or mammals, they lack the fins and scales or cloven hooves and cud chewing that would make them kosher.
And all because I drew a doodle of a spaceship. It was meant to be a zeppelin with a glass dome at the top but ended up looking more like a whale wearing a yarmulke. My ADHD took over from there.
But someday I may be writing about a seafaring Jewish character and I'll know the basic guidelines of what they would and wouldn't eat. Maybe not. But you never know.
Now, the real question is this: 500 years in the future, with humanity spread across the universe and religion more or less obsolete, would my space travelers have any idea what a whale or a yarmulke is?
My name is Jennifer Lee Rossman, which, if you rearrange the letters, spells "more ferns, ninja eels". I've been writing for as long as I can remember (note to self: extremely cliche, give the character a more interesting backstory), but am just now seeking the whole "published author" thing. And it scares me, but no good story comes from staying in your comfort zone.
I'm supposed to be part of the generation who blogs and tweets and does the whole social media thing, but I've never been the type to share myself with others (ooh, character development /sarcasm). I'll be honest. I only went out and got myself a blog because I've been told it's useful to have a website when trying to get published.
That doesn't mean I'm not willing to be excited about this. I'm always trying to be more outgoing and try new things and, you know, not be the sad and lonely writer stereotype. And my inner graphics designer is excited about playing around with colors and fonts.
So let's do this blog thing (I must point out that "let's do this blog thing" is a phrase not fitting with the characterization of this character).
And yes, I do criticize the "character" of myself in real life and point out possible foreshadowing. My therapist finds me endlessly amusing.