I’ve found that the general rule for submitting seasonal articles or stories is to send them at least six months in advance. Occasionally there will be exceptions; maybe a month for a newspaper or even up to a year ahead of time for some magazines. Editors get their story shopping done early so things can go to print and be on store shelves in time for the holiday.
Planning ahead with writing is not one of my better skills. The spirit of the season usually jolts my muse awake a week or two ahead of the holiday, and I discover dozens of story ideas floating around inside my head. I want to write them now, while the holiday still runs rampant around me. Then I get halfway through and realize that it’s too late to submit it for this year.
The story lingers for a while before dying on my hard drive. It’s forgotten during the year and never revised if it even gets finished. I rediscover old stories, reading over them while thinking this is such bad writing. I always feel like my old stories are too far gone for saving. But wait, I have an even better idea for this year.
And this happens every year without fail.
Take now for instance. My muse has already spit out ideas for Halloween and Thanksgiving stories. They aren’t fleshed out yet. A scene for each has played on a movie screen in my head. I’m starting to think that my muse is sitting on the playback button.
A yellow cab picks up a fare at the gate of an old, New Orleans style cemetery with the raised, marble tombs. The fare–a young man in a black suit–directs the cab driver to take him to an old house by the river. He requests the driver stay at the house as he will be back out. There is a noise that sounds like a gunshot from inside the house, and the young man walks out with an old man who has blood on his shirt. The driver, too afraid to say anything, drives the pair back to the cemetery. The young man pays the driver before revealing that’s he’s the grim reaper. The man was just murdered by his wife, and the grim reaper was bringing him to the cemetery.
A young woman sits at home on Thanksgiving, waiting for her husband–an attorney–to come home so that they can head to his parents’ house for dinner. She’s pacing the house as she tries to talk herself into being happy and thankful during the holiday. At the same time, she’s dreading dinner because she doesn’t want to face her in-laws and their sympathy, pity, and grief. Through her conversation with herself and her wanderings through the house, it’s revealed that she nearly died during a miscarriage. The tension she has felt with her husband is seen as well, especially when he comes home from work.
See how these have just enough sketched out to make my imagination grab the bit between its teeth and run? I’m worried the details will bog me down once I start writing. But at the same time, I don’t want to let these ideas rot. They could be great stories. I won’t know until I write them.
Do holidays give you seasonal inspiration? Have you ever submitted any holiday pieces for publication?