Monday, February 29, 2016

My First Time: Andrew Roe

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands. Today’s guest is Andrew Roe, author of the novel The Miracle Girl, which is now out in paperback from Algonquin Books. It was recently named a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award (the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction). Andrew’s fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, Glimmer Train, The Sun, and other publications. He lives in Oceanside, California, with his wife and three children. Click here to visit his website.

My First Short Story Acceptance

I got a phone call—not an email, not a letter, but an actual phone call.

It was 2001, and I was living in Arcata, in Humboldt County, the far northern reaches of California. I was working on a novel (eventually, many years later, in 2015, published as The Miracle Girl), swimming in a sea of writerly doubt.

After a morning of writing and then a bike ride to clear my head, I came home. There was a message on my answering machine. It was from Linda Swanson-Davies, one of the editors of Glimmer Train. She said she loved my story, “Rough,” which I’d submitted a few months ago. They wanted to publish it.

I remember collapsing on the floor in disbelief. Then, after listening to the message a few more times, I remember jumping up in the air, then collapsing back down to the floor. Why did I do this? I don’t know. I was alone. I was shocked and stunned (to quote a line from The Rutles). But it’s one of the most vivid memories in my writing career.

The acceptance was such a huge validation. I’d sent the story through the slush and somehow it had gotten noticed and accepted (someone once quipped that it’s easier to get into Harvard than Glimmer Train). In addition to appearing in the magazine, the story also got published in the anthology Where Love Is Found: 24 Tales of Connection.

I’ve been lucky enough to have two more short stories appear in Glimmer Train, and each time I’ve found out via a phone call from Linda (and that first time, by the way, I did call Linda back and talk to her). This has never happened with any other publication. I think it says a lot about Linda and her style and the magazine, which she co-edits with her sister, Susan Burmeister-Brown.

That story, “Rough,” ends with the word hope. And it’s always struck me as fitting for my first published short story. Hope is so important to a writer, especially because there’s so much rejection and doubt to contend with. But hope keeps us going; hope pushes us to get better and persevere and expand; and hope is what’s carried me forward all these years.


  1. What a great story, Andrew. The image of you alternately collapsing and jumping for joy is both amusing and familiar. I've performed similar acrobatics myself. It's such a brutal profession we, as writers, have chosen. So much rejection, even after we had some success, that we must learn to smile and celebrate when we receive a complimentary rejection notice. And the now-and-then acceptance is worthy of much more.

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  3. I can vividly imagine the joyful, almost unbelieving emotions, you must have felt when you listened to your answering machine. A respected literary editor with an upbeat voice was conveying acceptance and enthusiastic praise for your writing! Wow! Congratulations!

  4. This is beautiful. Glimmer Train has been the source of years of reading awesomeness for me. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. Thanks, all, for the kind words and comments!