This Japanese proverb links well with the recent arrival of Iron Horse Literary Review. In 2012, I started writing an essay about a Japanese boy in my life—age twelve at the time, though I’d known him since he was six years old.
His obsessions with origami and vicious shooter video games intrigued me, and I wanted to explore on the page how they connected to how he coped with bullying at school and his parents’ divorce.
Instead of “fall seven times and stand up eight,” as the proverb declares, my numbers were higher: “Fall fifteen times and stand up sixteen.”
Between 2012 and 2020, I wrote, rewrote, revised and submitted “Guns and Origami” (later called “Katsu”) to literary journals fifteen times. Though I received supportive comments from editors and even revision requests, the story wasn’t complete.
It needed more time. The boy needed to grow up, and I needed to refine how I told his story. After eight years of rewriting and submitting the essay, I received an email with the subject line “Acceptance” in which the editor of Iron Horse Literary Review kindly said, “We don’t want to lose it to another journal” and “We will be thrilled to publish it if it’s still available.”
The boy I started writing about when he was twelve years old is now twenty, a college student in Tokyo.
My sixteenth submission was accepted, and this week I received print copies of it. It’s being considered for Best American Essays 2021, so there’s a slight chance my story about the story may continue. I’ve learned to be patient.
I’ve started and given up on several projects over the years, but that one I wasn’t willing to let go of.
Sunday Journal Prompt
What goal or project do you want to rededicate yourself to—to not give up on?