New Life for Old Work

by Barbara Beckwith
If you’re stuck at home during the too-slow waning of this pandemic, it can be a worthwhile project to look over stories, essays or poems you wrote years ago, and consider re-submitting them if publications once rejected them, or submitting them for the first time if they’ve been languishing in your “drafts” file.
You may assume years-old stories are outdated, but a good story is a good story. Like evergreen trees, their foliage stays fresh and green.
I’m an essay writer now, but decades ago I also wrote poetry. After submitting one poem (about a loon) that was rejected, I gave up. Since then I’ve developed a thick skin in the face of rejections, but back then I concluded that I wasn’t a poet, and I turned to other genres. Then three years ago, my writing buddy who’d read my old poems suggested that since Cape Ann is a bird-watching Mecca, Enduring Gloucester might consider “To An Unseen Loon” a good fit. I did submit it; it was accepted.
Essays in particular can be evergreens. So if you have an “old” place- or season-specific story sitting in your files, add a connection with what’s going on today, and send it out again.
In 2018, a fellow writer described a dramatic incident that took place back in 2002. Urged by her writing buddy (me) who thought her story both compelling and heartening, she submitted it and it was accepted. The editor suggested that she add a reflection, “without interrupting the flow of your story,” about why she was sharing this near-20-year-old experience now. It proved to be an evergreen AND relevant to the challenges we face today.
The moral is: a good story needn’t grow old if conveyed with a perspective that resonates with what’s happening today. So take another look at your “old” poems, stories, or personal essays — finished or not — and give them a new life.