Story of the Story: Baby’s Breaths

Will this interest anyone? I don’t know. Writers get asked where the ideas for stories come from and seem not to like it, but we mostly hear from the writers who probably get asked that ten times a day. Hard for me to imagine getting annoyed fielding that question.

I was sorry not to hear what the story made other people think of but I realize people can like something and not know what to say or not like something and not want to say. I’m not that green. Also people see the link and intend to go back to it but don’t. Facebook makes returning to find anything rather difficult.

The story is here, if you’d prefer to read it before I give anything away: http://tclj.toasted-cheese.com/2016/16-2/babys-breaths-by-greg-metcalf/

“Baby’s Breaths” was a case of found money. I came across it in an old notebook under an entry dated June 2010. I wrote it after work when I wasn’t in the middle of anything, which means I sat to write with no plan. Usually when I do this I meander for a page and end up with nothing but a writing lesson and the enjoyment of the time, because after you learn to stop fearing filling a blank page it really does become enjoyable.

I was preparing to start the “parents raising children novel” I recently finished. I had my dad character but not my mom, so that half explains why I spent that page exploring the mother infant bond. But only half because I’d written a few random lines and had probably been people watching as I went, and I saw a baby tug on her mom’s shirt and expose her bra strap.

So I wrote the opening line of the story and, except for minor changes, only added the story’s last line when I prepared it last spring to submit to Toasted Cheese.

What I would ask people who read it is Who is the narrator?

It’s fair to say me, but I slipped into a kind of character as I wrote it and by rereading it years later I was able to come close to experiencing it as a reader. So I guess I can give my answer. I think, or I like to think, of the narrator as some manifestation of the transcendent. An angel of death. This entity is curious about what this mother might be feeling, doesn’t quite “get” why the mother cares so much about the infant, but finds it sweet.

The title, “Baby’s Breaths,” was meant to land somewhere between the sweetness of a baby’s breath and the panic that would come from thinking about that next breath coming.

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“Baby’s Breaths” at Toasted Cheese

Toasted Cheese is a literary journal and forum for writers. Everything at the site is free and they accept no advertising, which means they get paid in gladness that comes through clicks to their site and activity. Here is their mission statement page: http://www.toasted-cheese.com/snarkers/

If you’re a writer interested in receiving feedback on your work, they have a forum where your work can be downloaded and other writers will offer feedback. This isn’t a public forum, because that might exclude your work from being considered for publication at some places, but it’s all free, you just have to make an account. I plan on getting involved there. They only request that you give as much as you receive in terms of feedback, which is only fair. Plus, in my experience, you learn as much by offering feedback on the work of others as you do receiving feedback on your own work, I would even say probably far more. A link to that forum is here: http://forums.toasted-cheese.com/

The June 2016 issue, which includes “Baby’s Breaths” can be found here: http://tclj.toasted-cheese.com/

I’ve submitted a few pieces to Toasted Cheese over the last few years. I like their system. Even though they don’t accept simultaneous submissions, they respond quickly if your work is eliminated from consideration on the first reading, which happened to me at least twice. Then if your work is “short-listed” you receive notice, which can be encouraging even if you end up with a rejection a month or so later, which happened to me twice, but “Baby’s Breaths” was my third time charm.

Toasted Cheese’s Submission Guidelines can be found here: http://tclj.toasted-cheese.com/submission-guidelines/

Pieces are accepted either as features or as an editor’s pick. An editor’s pick doesn’t mean your piece was an editor’s favorite; it means that piece didn’t get in by majority vote but got in on the strength of one editor rooting for it, which is pretty cool, too. “Baby’s Breaths” was Theryn “Beaver” Fleming’s pick.

If you feel like jumping ahead to “Baby’s Breaths,” this link should take you straight to it:

Baby’s Breaths

Thank you for reading and feel free to share a comment!