This story gets the prize for Hardest Working Story I Ever Wrote. First, it got me into grad school at the University of Arizona. Next it was the first submission in my first-ever grad workshop. One of the other students in the class circled every single instance of “to be” verbs that I used on the first page of the manuscript, a mistake I never made again, and my first clear lesson on how valuable graduate school was going to be to me. This story then went on to win a student contest, which led to my first public reading (with Leslie Marmon Silko, a totally intimidating experience). My mother later sent me the notification of the Mademoiselle contest, so I sent the story there. Which led to my first publication, plus a thousand bucks. (Until I cashed the check, I was pretty sure they were going to change their minds.)
And also? I ended up marrying that student who’d taken an interest in my work, rough and young as it was. We just celebrated twenty-five years together. Thank you, One-Way Ticket.
Antonya Nelson is the author of three novels and six short story collections, most recently Nothing Right (2009). Line Breaks is a regular feature in which accomplished authors introduce and share their first published stories with the Fictionaut community. You can read “One-Way Ticket,” originally published in Mademoiselle in September 1984, on Fictionaut.