The Three Princes of Serendip


ser·en·dip·i·ty |ˌserənˈdipitē| noun the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities. ORIGIN 1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

co·in·ci·dence |kōˈinsədəns, -ˌdens|noun1 a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection

In the submission-wait-rejection-submission-wait-rejection-submission-wait-rejection cycle, an acceptance is a rare triumph, or as a more accomplished friend once said, it’s a “tiny starpoint of success” to be celebrated. Seven months after I wrote a list in the tradition of 10th century Japanese writer and courtesan Sei Shanagon, for a nonfiction workshop, I submitted it.

The list was deeply personal to me, so I didn’t jet it out to every journal. I carefully selected two or three journals I trusted to handle it with care. Two months later I heard from the editor of Emprise Review, and two weeks after that, it was published. (2013 update: Emprise Review has gone dark, but the piece can be read here.)

Wacky: within a two-week period last summer, I find out the list is accepted for publication, it is published almost immediately, and it coincides with the work-related publication of this.

What started as a creative nonfiction workshop assignment to write a list á la Shonagon’s “Hateful Things” I read in The Art of the Personal Essay resulted in a cathartic ode to my dad’s final days. Coincidence? Serendpity? I don’t know, but it would appear that some energy is working to connect my father, God rest his soul, and my mother (Happy Birthday, Mom) in cyberspace.

Published by Beth Bates

writer, encourager, book editor, connector, mom, wife, and lover of fresh air, grass, trees, birds, waves, sand, mountains, stories, and travel

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