Joel Arnold: My First Attempt at Writing

Sure, we all have writing assignments in school, creative and otherwise, and maybe some of us kept a journal while growing up – I did – but the first time that I wrote something with hopes of publication happened in the ninth grade. I was already a horror fan by that time; I’d fallen in love with Stephen King’s writing, had a subscription to Twilight Zone Magazine, and had seen my first slasher film – the original My Bloody Valentine. So for someone who dreamed of becoming a writer, horror seemed the way to go.

The story I wrote that year was called ‘An Altered Image or Two’ and was about a guy whose image in the rearview mirror of his car comes to life. This evil reflection followed him, appearing on reflective surfaces until the main character was driven insane. Or something like that. I can’t remember exactly how it ended, but I did have the audacity (or naiveté) to submit it to Twilight Zone Magazine; I followed the submission guidelines very carefully, making sure the copy I sent was as error free as could be. You can bet I checked the mail every darn day after that for months, hoping to get that official letter of acceptance. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I received my postage paid 9×12 manila envelope back. Inside were my paper-clipped submission and – a form letter rejection. I’m sure there was some disappointment involved, but if I remember correctly, I was also pretty excited that someone from that magazine had actually read my story (at least I believed so at the time – there’s that 15-yr old naiveté again!)

I’m not sure if the story itself has survived after all these years, but there’s an old shoebox somewhere in a storage room in our basement that still contains that piece of paper, that first rejection letter that wasn’t really a rejection at all. It was rather my first confirmation that I was on my way to becoming a real writer.

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