This “fifty” was one of my earliest posts on Substack (November 2, 2020, to be exact), and the first story I ever had accepted for publication. A few of you — my earliest subscribers — have seen this before. But many of you have not.
Grandpa Al radioed coordinates during the Korean War.
He was quiet, loved his Yankees, and sipped O’Doul’s in the summertime.
He had a fake leg and owned a ukulele, too –
A sweet, beautiful instrument boxed up in his basement.
I can see him now.
He’s smiling. Sipping. Strumming and plucking.
I wrote “Grandpa Al” back in 2018 as a way to remember and honor my grandfather. Before writing the story, I remember finding some old songs he had written in a chest in my parents’ garage. I was floored. I had no idea he’d ever written lyrics or music. He had also written letters to different recording studios, asking them if they would give his music — give him — a chance.
Reading his letters fifty years later was a moment I’ll never forget. It felt like we were communicating together across time and space. Not even life and death could halt our conversation.
It only made sense that this story was my first publication. Perhaps he had even “pulled a few strings” for me.
It was around this time, 2018, that I fell in love with the fifty-word form.
The past month or so I’ve been thinking a lot about John Domont’s quote, “Appreciation for your work comes in small waves.” Since December, I’ve been contemplating self-publication, and trying to figure out the best path forward to make this dream a reality. I have a short story compilation project in the works, but I keep adding, removing, and rearranging stories, so it’s a bit of a mess at the moment.
It finally hit me the other day: maybe I just need to start small.
I often write tiny stories for fun. Why not create and compile a short collection of my “fifties” as my first self-publication project? It isn’t all that daunting, and I’ve done the leg work…so what’s stopping me from getting started?
So that’s where my self-publication journey will begin. I’ll create a book, a slim one, that showcases my love for short fiction, specifically fifty-word stories. At the moment I’m considering titling it Fifty Fifties or 50/50.
Which title sounds better to you?
I’m incredibly excited to compile these stories and ultimately hold my book in my hands. The goal is to finish this project at some point over the summer. Birdsong and Other Stories from Along the Hudson will be my “on-deck” project.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this idea and concept. And I’d love to hear about any projects you have going on outside of Substack. Are you working on any self-publications, fun collaborations, or creative side projects? Let us know below!
Thanks so much for being here at Along the Hudson. I’ll be back next Monday with a new speculative fiction story, as well as our next Fifties by the Fire prompt!
Take care and have a great week.
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Best wishes with the new project! Funny thing, though: when I read the title of this piece my brain originally interpreted it as "Grandpa A.I." so it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what this story was really about!
Sounds like a great project! Years ago, I used to be a book publisher. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions on publishing.