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Re: Your Short-Story Collection

Story by Camille Verzal (Read author interview) December 20, 2021

Art by Jolene Casko

Dear Mother Goose,

I ran through the first draft of your short story collection. Great rhyme and riveting action! As with any book we publish, we want it to be as polished as possible. I’ve tracked questions, notes, and suggestions in your manuscript (attached) to help guide you through revisions. If it’s helpful, I’ve also summarized my major recommendations and places where I stumbled below:

  • What if the dish ran away with the water goblet instead, and the spoon cried and cried for days over her loss and went through the five stages of grief only to come to acceptance and have the dish come running back, saying he’d made a miserable mistake? Flesh this out a bit more — I see potential here.
  • What if Jill didn’t come tumbling after but instead launched her own dentistry practice so she could grow rich off men who were always tripping and busting their crowns? Kind of a rags-to-riches story, but for the ladies.
  • What if Baa Baa Black Sheep reduced the number to two bags full, just to hasten the pacing, move the story along? However, that would mean someone would be left holding a third empty bag. My money says it’d be the little boy who lives down the lane. But when I ran this by Madison, our VP of Marketing, as I passed her in the hall, she shook her head and said, “It’d be the dame — it’s always the dame who gets screwed.”
  • What if they did put Humpty Dumpty back together again? My assistant editor Keith sees promise here. I’m torn. Love the positivity of this, the happy ending. But would you still want to hang out with HD after that? All cracked up with yolk oozing out like pus? Personally, it would turn my stomach, but some folks are down with that and are drawn to the grotesque.
  • Speaking of grotesque, what if Mary had a little piranha? It couldn’t possibly follow her wherever she went, having gills and all. But if she dropped him in a fishbowl and brought him to school one day (and kept a cover on it, of course), I think the kids would still laugh and play, laugh and play, laugh and play, which, although against the rules, helps the reader quickly discern that Mary is quirky, perhaps a dangerous misfit. A lamb will just endear her to everyone, and there really isn’t much conflict in that, is there?
  • What if the Old Woman lived in a bus station waiting room? One thing’s for sure — if it were me, I’d know what to do with all those children. Put them on the Megabus to Milwaukee for $29.99 each and pray for their souls! But seriously, try and weave that storyline in — could be fodder for your next book, where we learn what happened to each of those kids.
  • What if Fuzzy Wuzzy did have hair? Wouldn’t that make more sense?
  • What if Old MacDonald had some Tasmanian devils? What might that sound like? With a blood curdling screech here and a blood curdling screech there, here a blood curdling screech, there a blood curdling screech, everywhere a blood curdling screech-screech. Old MacDonald had a farm. Ai yi yi yi yi. LOL! I kid. Yet don’t entirely discount this suggestion.
  • What if Little Bo Peep had done a better job of project management? She’d know where to find those sheep if she had a process and an Excel spreadsheet and a teensy bit more accountability. I didn’t have too much of a problem with her, but the women in the office I showed it to? Hoo boy! Not a fan of Ms. Peep.
  • Why does Old Mother Hubbard keep bones in her cupboard? I like that it’s creepy. But whose bones were they? Did she murder some neighbors? Or Old Man Hubbard? Or maybe some of the Old Woman’s kids when they got off the Megabus in a seedy hood in Milwaukee? Lots to unpack here.
  • What if we got rid of the cutesy “market” reference and all just agreed that the big toe went to the slaughterhouse?
  • Hear me out on this one: What if the five little monkeys were jumping on a cliff’s edge?

Hope these are helpful, MG. I know it’s no fun to kill your darlings, but with some deft cuts and changes here and there, I have no doubt we’ll get this collection perfected and out to your many fans by late next year! — Whit


This piece was a winner in The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021 competition. 

About the Author

Camille Verzal lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has had work accepted into Water-Stone Review, Revolver and The St. Paul Almanac. She loves to snap photos, which you can view on Instagram @cverzal..

About the Artist

Jolene Casko is a digital collage artist from Pennsylvania. She has been doing freelance art & design since 2015. You can find more of her art on instagram: @jolenecasko

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Four

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