I was published completely by accident, it never should have happened. At the time, writing was not my full-time job (although it was part of it) and I had never considered publishing anything I had written.
I was working as a grief counselor and managed multiple real-world support groups along with several online ones. I loved the online groups – no matter what time of day or night, there was always someone available to chat. I loved them even more because I could edit my responses and give well-thought-out replies. It was through these groups that I discovered the power of words – that a simple word change could make a huge difference.
In one of these groups, I had posted a short essay about how life sucks and how grief made me feel. It was nothing special, just another analogy about how I saw the world. One afternoon, I was sitting at my desk and the phone rang, “Hi Peg, this is Andrea Gambill.”
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Andrea Gambill but in the grief world, it’s a bit like getting a phone call from Cher. Andrea was the editor of the biggest grief magazine in the world and she was a grieving parent. I had no idea why she’d be calling me. I was speechless.
It turns out, one of my online parents had seen the piece I had posted, printed it out and mailed it to Bereavement Magazine. Andrea wanted to publish it. I wanted no part of it. She tried for ten minutes to convince me that it was a well-written piece, others could benefit from reading it. Finally she said, “I’ll print a photo of your son!”
That did it. She got me.
As writers, we do have to discuss the parent from my group. She was well-meaning in sending in my work and had absolutely no idea that this was considered unethical in the writing world. She read something, she loved it and just wanted to share it with others. Andrea Gambill, of course, knew this was much more complicated – hence my mid-afternoon phone call. Since this incident, I’ve seen parents re-write poems for their own use, I’ve seen family members pass along writing – and never really claiming that they wrote it – but not denying that they hadn’t. When I was doing grief newsletters, a mom gave me a poem written by her sister-in-law. I had to tell her that, unless her sister-in-law was a turn-of-the-century priest at St. Paul’s in London, she did not write that piece. Very few people do this maliciously; most are just trying to help.
So there is the true story of how I was first published. I’d like to say it’s a fluke, a one-off, but nearly ten years later it happened again to my writing partner. We had a good laugh and now I keep his magazine in the drawer right next to mine.