Building a Plane While Flying


Ian Randall Wilson

Ian Randall Wilson discusses his history with the North American Review and how it demonstrates determination during his early career. His short story, "The Great Lermentov," appeared in our most recent issue, 300.3, summer 2015.  

justin perkins_The Great Lermentov"The Great Lermentov" marks my fifth appearance in the North American Review dating back to 1990. I've appreciated every acceptance, and I think the tale of how my first story, "Loose Connections," found its way into the Review is worth telling because it says something about perseverance at a time when the world seems to move very fast. Things don't seem to last.

In the late 1980s when I began submitting, there were no online submissions available. It was hard copies in envelopes mailed with an SASE and return postage. My first story languished — I think of no other way to describe it — at the Review for more than a year. Part of me wanted to give up on the piece. I invented all sorts of scenarios about editors reading it and tossing it away because it was terrible or worthless. We can be very self-punishing — or is it only me?

I finally decided I had to find out what had happened and I called, yes called, the offices, leaving a message asking if the piece was still under consideration. A few days later I had a call from then editor Robley Wilson who apologized profusely, told me that a graduate student doing the initial screening had let down on the job, and that I should send the piece to him directly at a post office box whose address he gave me.  I did so and within a week, the story was accepted.  I was over the moon because acceptance at NAR was no small thing. Two of my writing teachers at the time at UCLA Extension had been trying to get into the journal for 20 years and never succeeded.

I think you can't ever give up on your pieces. If a journal holds the piece for a long time, email them and find out if they're still considering it. If the piece comes back rejected, send it out again — and again — and again. That strategy has worked for me not only with the North American Review but with my novella, The Complex, which was originally written in 1995 and finally published in 2015. Once more this is a story of sending it out repeatedly until it found a home, winning the Colony Collapse Novella Prize.

Ian Randall Wilson is the author of Hunger and Other Stories (Hollyridge Press, 2000), the poetry chapbook, Theme of the Parabola, and the novella, The Complex (Colony Collapse Press, 2015). His fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals including the North American Review and The Gettysburg Review. He is on the writing faculty of the UCLA Extension. Find his collection of short stories at:

Illustrations by: Justin Perkins graduated from College for Creative Studies. A freelance illustrator and designer, he teaches art in Detriot. Justin’s first illustration for the North American Review appeared in issue 298.4, Fall 2013.