Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Out Of My Hands

I sold a story to a small magazine published in Canada several weeks ago. My copy and check arrived in yesterday's mail. When I received the acceptance message from the editor, he told me how much he liked the story. Of course, I was happy to hear that.

I thumbed through the magazine to find "The Long Night" which is a story I wrote for teens that also has some adult appeal, which is why the editor bought it. It's historical fiction about a coal mine cave-in in a small town in Iowa. The protagonist is a young teen who had argued with his dad one morning, went off to school and then had to face the possibility later in the day that he might never have a chance to see his father and make things right again.

I chose the title The Long Night because of the eternity it must have felt like as the boy and his mother waited with the other townspeople for a rescue. So imagine my surprise when I found the story on page 4 with the title in two fonts. The editor changed the title to "The Night My Dad Was Buried." The last two words (Was Buried) was in a much larger font, so caught the eye immediately. Shock value? Probably. A hook to pull readers in? Most likely. Necessary? I doubt it.

To me, the new title is misleading, because the first thought would be that this is a story about someone whose father died and was buried in a cemetery. But the title does tell the truth about this story since the father was 'buried' in the mine cave-in. The reality is that the cave-in blocked the way out for the miners and the boy is the one who can squeeze through and help the rescue team in clearing it. The miners were not 'buried' in debris.

It all boils down to the fact that I was not happy about the title change, but in the writing world the editor has final say. It was out of my hands as soon as I accepted the offer to purchase. I know that and I accept it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

I'll post the story tomorrow for those who might like to read it.

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