Back in time: The first writing I ever sold
I recently found out that the first newspaper I worked at, The Orlando Sentinel, has archived its articles online going all the way back to 1985, which means that the internets are now graced by the first piece of writing I sold for cash: a short story called “Heading Home,” which appeared in the August 6, 1995 isssue of the paper’s weekly Florida magazine.
I had submitted this story to the magazine’s annual fiction competition – despite the fact that I worked at the paper in the composing room – and a couple weeks later, I received a letter from the associate editor explaining that while the story wasn’t among the top placers, she wanted to buy it for $100 and publish it in another issue.
I remember my hands actually shaking as I was reading this note – I had sold a piece of writing. (As an aside: The top prize for the fiction contest had been $100 and publication of the winning story. So, really, I was coming out on equal footing as the winner, and arguably better off than the second- and third-placers.)
It wasn’t until a year later that I was paid to write for a second time – a feature article assigned by one of the section editors I worked with regularly. That eventually led to me freelancing sports coverage – mostly high school games, with the occasional professional softball, minor league baseball and MLB spring training assignment.
This blog entry could have maybe been saved until the actual 15th anniversary of the date, but I didn’t feel like it – and anyway, I’m sure this story was already around at this point in 1995, since this version of “Heading Home” is actually a total late-night, fevered reworking of a story I had written and then shoved in a folder or an envelope or a desk drawer.
Of course, the electronically archived edition of the story doesn’t include the impressive photo illustration the talented Red Huber designed to sit alongside the text, and it’s missing several bits of punctuation – eaten, I’m guessing, by the gremlins that live in the spaces between editorial system changeovers.
Still, rediscovering it online got me to dig up my copy of the issue and scan it in here. Having done an awful lot of writing since the time this story was published, I recognize “Heading Home” has its weaknesses. It’s definitely the voice of a John Booth at a different place in his life, but there are also pieces in here I’m still proud to have written, and the gorgeous framed edition Jim Carchidi put together as a gift still hangs in my library.
Below, then, are the scans from that Florida magazine – click to enlarge them for easier reading – but if you absolutely must read the fudged-text-no-picture version, it’s here.