This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.
“Coffee Talk” went in seamlessly. I think it’s a lovely little piece, so I didn’t change a thing. Then, I dropped in the other two pieces: “Observations From a Pew in Church” and “When It’s Over.” These are pieces I wrote as an undergrad around the same time as “Coffee Talk.” For that reason, I was thinking they were stylistically similar, and in general, I was right. All three of the pieces were in third person, and all three operated on themes of sexual indiscretion.
The theme wasn’t quite tight enough though, I think. The original version of “Observations” didn’t mention cheating at all, instead, the main character spends a bit of time fantasizing about Lacey. I wanted the ‘indiscretion’ to be more explicit, so I cut the fantasy and instead dropped a sentence that clearly showed Mary was actively cheating on her husband. I like this version a lot better than the original, which I think bordered on melodrama. It feels a bit more realistic to me, even if it is kind of bleak.
Then I looked at “When It’s Over.” I just didn’t like it. It was depressing in a way that I just didn’t find enjoyable. So then, I found myself a tad stuck. I felt that the piece needed three pieces to truly count as a collection, but I didn’t have anything else about cheating. After I got over the messiness of my relationship, the topic lost interest for me.
So I wrote a new piece.
“The Thing About Cheating” was something I wrote pretty dang quickly. I wrote the first three paragraphs ending with “Can you remember that first time?” and then turned to a software called charNG that I discovered on Gnoetry Daily. Gnoetry Daily was introduced to me as a service to help create super weird poems, but I wanted to use it for fiction. I wanted to revisit those moments of cheating I’d just outlined but disorient them. So I plugged the original paragraphs into charNG and edited them down to create what I thought was a good-sounding (and good-looking) re-visiting of the beginning paragraphs. I wanted it to feel like the narrator was starting to lose their way, desperately trying to find the reason they started this in the first place and realizing it just wasn’t worth it. Then, I had to think through the ending. It felt amazing to end it on not knowing what happens next because the next two pieces explore that. “Observations” has the cheating character contemplating her wedding, and “Coffee Talk” has the woman deciding to stay with her husband despite what he did.
Overall, I think it ended up being a lovely little collection of things, and it was great to have Patrons to thank on the acknowledgments page. I am so, so grateful for all of you, and it felt incredible to put that in a zine.
Love, gratitude, and happy reading.