How Writing a Screenplay with My Best Friend Led to Our First Story Publication

Wooden camping table on fire at night; photo by Claus Grünstäudl on Unsplash

What makes a boy grow up to become an arsonist? My first co-written short story, “sparkbirth,” is now published in Down & Out: The Magazine. Here are the opening lines:


When I turned eleven, Mom forgot to buy more birthday candles. So instead of eleven little sticks, I got two. She pretended 1 + 1 made 11, but I knew when I was getting the finger. Funny, she never forgot to buy scented candles that littered our apartment. And I never forgot what a lit candle does to a dark room when I should’ve been asleep.

Read more in Down & Out: The Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 2

My efforts for “sparkbirth”:

  • ~1,800 words
  • 3 drafts
  • 1 co-author
  • 1 submission
  • no rejections or withdrawals before publication

I had an excellent time working with Rick Ollerman on my 2018 story “A Damn Fine Town.” After Rick published my story in Down & Out, it went on to be included in The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. He encouraged me to submit another story for Down & Out. This was the first piece I’ve written that fit the bill—it wasn’t purely literary or science fiction.

Read on about my process.

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