publishing


I have a good friend who has recently hit a publishing wall. She’s a great writer, with a published book that was nominated for a major award. Her writing inspires me. Now she has a second book out on submission and the process is killing her confidence in the unique way that only the publishing industry can. What she describes feeling is common among writers, even the successful ones. We all simultaneously think we’re something really special…and nothing at all. It doesn’t make sense, but that seems to be the way of the creative mind. If you are a writer, here’s what I think you need to spend at least a little bit of time thinking about: What does “success” look like to you? I’m talking about in your heart-of-hearts, what does success look like? When you have that warm vision of you as a successful writer, where are you? What are you doing? In my daydream of success, I’m standing at a lectern, reading and answering questions and I have a large audience. So, that’s “success” for me, it turns out, and that tells me that I am more interested in reaching people, in having an audience, and connecting with readers. Now for another writer, he might envision success as walking on stage and accepting a big award, or getting an excellent critical review of his work, or making the canon. Another writer might just see success as being able to find the time to write, alone, for long stretches. If you know what success looks like to you subconsciously, you can make changes in your work to push it in that direction. You have limitations, you say? All writers have limitations, even the great ones. And most creative people are working through the same themes for the bulk of their lives. I just read John Irving’s most recent book, and thirty-plus years later he is still rehashing the same themes–absent women, dastardly dogs, death of a child, and oral sex (usually taking place in a car) that goes horribly wrong. Every one of his books seems to have one or more of these issues creep in–but he’s JOHN IRVING…and he’s a writer with limitations. When the negative responses start to come in, we can parse them for similarities. Do any of the publisher’s responses ring true in terms of specific criticisms? Are there common complaints that can be addressed before the next round of submissions? I’m always amazed by the ways that small adjustments can make a huge difference to readers. (And help the writer to feel proactive instead of reactive.) Alternatively–and this is a scary question,...

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I’ve passed a good couple of weeks as a writer. The writing life (at least for me) most often involves alternating periods of boom-bust, feast-famine, mania-depression…choose your metaphor, but the fact is we writers often go through long periods of working away quietly at the desk with nothing from the outside world, followed by intense bursts of activity, publicity, and scrutiny. Summer was basically my “fallow” period and now things are ratcheting back up. I like both states, but I’ve had enough of being fallow for a while so the activity suits me. At the beginning of October, my co-author Andrew Bienkowski and I had a great book club meeting in Niagara Falls. Great food, great discussion, and some really engaged and astute readers. We also sold a lot of books, which always amazes me at book club events, because all the people attending have already purchased and read the book. So it means they liked it enough to buy copies to share with others. Truly, we are blessed to have such supportive and generous readers. Later that week I was on a panel at the Erie County Library discussing the influence of Poe on popular culture. Poe’s work influenced me a great deal, so it was wonderful to have a chance to talk about the man and his work. Oh, and we even received an honorarium from the library. A very nice surprise, that. I had to order more books this week, always a good sign. 🙂 A piece of historical fiction of mine (about a devastating forest fire in the Adirondacks in 1903) just went live at Lacuna: A Day for Burying. My short story Christmas in Phuket which Literary mama published earlier this year was nominated for Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2011, an honor, for sure. And especially heartening as it’s part of the marine ecology themed collection that I’m hoping to find a publisher for soon. I attended an amazing lecture by Her Deepness, Sylvia Earle, Ocean Ambassador. What a generous, expansive, clear-eyed speaker. And she spoke completely without notes. When I grow up, I want to be her. Okay, a cross between Margaret Atwood and her. That’s my plan, anyway. I had a story accepted for an ocean anthology, the proceeds of which will go to help fund the ocean studies of SCRIPPS–excellent, that. But amid all of these positive accomplishments, I find that I still have negative scripts perpetually running in the background of my brain. It’s all too easy to highlight the rejections and downplay the acceptances, the affirmations. And McKenna Donovan talks about this very tendency in a series of...

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I’m thrilled and honored to have a new story up at Literary Mama, one of my very favorite ezines.

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The current issue is all flash fiction, guest edited by Kim Chinquee. Some excellent work, and I’m proud to have my work rubbing elbows with all the talent in this issue. Mississippi Review Online

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Thrilled to have my short story “Bones of an Inland Sea” published in the December issue of Storyglossia just out!

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