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.

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