Jul 21

Keep Up Your Confidence

27 February 2009

Read this: "How Successful Writers Keep Up Their Confidence." Wise words from a book editor. Link acquired through Tricia Grissom's writer's blog Coffee and Critique.
Jul 21

Litmags Don't Live Here Anymore

26 February 2009

The library here used to carry a score of literary journals. Today on my lunch hour I found only five. Where did they go? I hadn’t time to ask a librarian because I had to go buy an envelope. But thereby I found out where the journals went. They’re sold single-copy in the bookstore: Boulevard, New Letters, Tin House, Pleiades, Southern Poetry Review – about 10 titles in all.

The library chucked its subscriptions because it knows no one reads these things, except maybe for Poetry and Creative Nonfiction, and those just as bellwethers. Last time I read through the latest issues of literary journals at the library – noting on index cards their names and contents, and what percentage was fiction, what percentage nonfiction, etc. (so I can discuss them in classes) -- in THREE litmags I found poems about Persephone. Whoa. To be fair, about 10 to 20 percent of the published material took my breath. But on the same round I noted two essays, in separate journals, beginning with the words “My father,” and acres of bad fiction – full of neon signs, breasts, tragic foreigners, and petty quarrels.

Some journals make impressive publishing credits if you want to rub shoulders with laureates and academics – who won’t actually read what you published. So beyond impressing each other with our publication credits, what are these journals for? I had never seriously questioned their value. Do they serve as some sort of – standard? For us? Me? Time for self-examination. And figuring out that if they're not important anymore, what is?
Jul 21

What Your Cr. Wrt. Prof. is Thinking

24 February 2009

-Wish I'd written that.
-This is freaking amazing.
-I just won't tell the class that no experienced writer would ever even TRY to write four essays (or a portfolio of poems) in 16 weeks.
-Man, the difference between the first draft and the third, like night and day!
-You're showing your depths and I really like that.
-I bow to your greater experience.
-I'm really sorry that you had to suffer _________. But it may help to write about it.
-LOL
-I know of something you've just got to read!
-I know where this might be published!
Jul 21

Future for the Nonfiction Freelancer

8 February 2009

No longer able to pay for things with my good looks, I now barter, performing interpretive dances in the Best Buy in exchange for the multimedia equipment I will absolutely need if I want to sell freelance nonfiction. Nowadays.

Because the future for the nonfiction freelancer is tech. Writers hoping to make money must present editors not only with text but with a package including supplementary digital photographs, video, and recordings (podcasts), all of professional quality. Those are for the online version of the publication. The writer buys this digital equipment & must learn to use it, preferably at a community college. There you can learn techno-speak cheaply and there are labs for editing your digital stuff.

So said veteran journalist Harry Jackson Jr. to the St. Louis Writers Guild yesterday. His talk was fascinating, informative, and discouraging -- JUST LIKE ANY TALK about surviving as a writer. Jackson has survived 40 years in daily journalism by keeping up with technology, working his tail off, and by loving what he does. "If you don't love it," he said, "stay away."

Furthermore: Get a Mac, because it's better for multimedia. Have a specialty such as -- Mr. Jackson's example: "monitoring pharmaceutical companies." And keep up with all the news in this field, research it constantly (do more than google), and treat freelancing as your full-time job.

I attended "The Future for the Nonfiction Freelancer: The Yellow Pad and Pen Won't Cut It Anymore," because I wanted to get my head out of the sand. Well, I put it right back in, and man, is that ever a comfort to me. The only thing I liked hearing was that good writing/good storytelling will trump technology any day.
Jun 27

Tally for 2008

Completed: About 23 poems. Drafted This Year: 18 poems, 0 essays. Submitted: 14 poems. Rejected: 11 poems. Poetry Readings: 2; Prose Readings: 1; Anthologies Appeared In: 1. Contests Entered: 2; Prizes Won: 0. Workshops/Seminars Attended: 18. Poetry Readings Attended: 9; Submissions of Book Manuscript: 2; Rejections of Book Manuscript: 1. New Books Purchased: About 20. New Friends Made: 15 to 20 (a really great year). Friends Self-Publishing First Books: 6; Friends Publishing First Books: 5; Friends Publishing Second Books: 1; Friends Making a Living at Writing: 1. I don't make a living. However, as you can see, my life is fabulously rich.
Jun 27

The Instant Leper

Small mental-health tip: Never offer the information that you are a writer.

I have learned to tell strangers at bus stops or family parties that I am a webmaster, or, if I really want to hear them talk, I say I’m a teacher (not a professor). “Teacher” elicits all sorts of commentary and memories, plus the “Guess What I Teach” game. Everyone always guesses right: I’m an English teacher. I fail to see what is wrong with looking like one.

But when you tell a stranger, “I’m a writer,” you'll get frosted or flummoxed by one of these:

  • “A writer, eh? Ya know, my life could be a book. Whoo-ee! I’ll tell it to you and you can write it.”
  • “What do you write?” (Disappointment or disapproval will follow regardless of your answer)
  • “Have you ever heard of this book called (Dune, Twilight, The Lovely Bones, Ball Four)?”
  • “Have you published anywhere I might have read it?”
  • “So you get to sit home all day and write.”
  • “My daughter writes poetry. It helps so much with her depression.”
I once told a talented but unschooled writer (think Chuck Palahniuk), unemployed for two years, that Human Resources staffs were likely giving him the bum’s rush because he just had to say in his cover letter, “But what I really am is a writer.” Might as well say, “I’m a leper.”
Jun 27

Dont' Be Modest

The most overrated virtue in a writer: modesty. Especially when opportunity doesn't just knock -- it clubs you upside the head.

Last time I sent my latest book ms. out was February; the rejection (fourth) came in August. I sighed and let the manuscript rot. This past week I had lunch with a publisher. We weren't there to talk about my books, but the publisher described books the press was looking for, saying, "But who has a book like that?"

"I do," I boldly ventured for the first time in my life, "and it's finished, about 35,000 words; it has this, and this. . ." Mmmm, let me see it, said the publisher. I hate to think I almost said nothing -- out of misplaced modesty. It needed only to be printed out (pat myself on the back). Off it went into the mail today.
Jun 27

Chapbook or Magazine Publication? Which is Best?

Real life-question: Poet has a sheaf of excellent poems, all unpublished. Should she skip ahead & enter them as a manuscript in a chapbook competition -- or first try to print individual poems in journals, and THEN do the chapbook thing?

Answer: No journal wants to publish poems that appeared first in a chapbook. I'd try first to publish individual poems in as many local print journals as possible, setting a deadline of one year; then -- no matter what the result -- I would make a chapbook ms. Local journals will further your work much faster than will national publications. How so? See next blog entry. Send to 'em all. Don't enter contests, just send the poems. And send simultaneously!

Think you have some good poems? Get a bunch of them out to your local journals by Dec. 15!
Jun 27

How I Changed My Luck Some More

So, last year I put some sample poems online at poemhunter.com, and recently a photographer, a stranger, found the poem called "Blue Chicory," and requested permission to reprint it on her blog, alongside her artistic photo of a blue chicory blossom. And I said yes of course yes.

Without the Net, Ms. Dyer would never have read the poem. Without poemhunter.com it wouldn't have been posted. With poemhunter.com the author was easily traceable so that permission could be requested and granted.

Put a few of your own favorite poems on poemhunter.com, preferably if they've already been published and rights have reverted to you. If unpublished, they count as published when you post them, so think twice. It's a good place to post poems YOU love that no editor seems to like. Yes, a lot of stuff on poemhunter.com is dross, but certainly not yours, and you open up a chance for good things to happen. Even a small good thing. Every little bit builds confidence.
Jun 21

I Could Vacation on This Money, Or I Could Print a Book

I signed the contract, wrote the check, and mailed it at the P.O. today. Asked the clerk for a pretty stamp. For good luck. I'm in high-risk territory here. If I do this wrong, if I'm deceiving myself. . . But if I do this right . . .

This is a self-publishing project: an illustrated little inspirational book for women. The fantastic drawings by Sheila Kennedy will make the book of work of art. This project has long roots. At a printery I'd seen adorable little books, like children's books, except they were for adults; loved the shape and size. Then in my files I found the list, 31 lines, that would become the text. I'd written it to restore myself after a rough patch. Re-reading it I was surprised it was still "alive." I thought, this could help somebody else. My Inner Critic had a field day:

*who will read this? *you, writing inspirational stuff? *you want to kill your reputation this will do it! *you really want to embarrass yourself! *it will cost seeerious money! *where will you find an illustrator? *what qualifies you to try to inspire people? *why isn't it a book of poems? *you are crazy!

But I shut up my Critic (he looks and sounds like Christopher Hitchens). It wasn't easy. It was like the Puritans in old Plimoth: If somebody in town went nuts or on a bender, they dragged him to his house, tossed him in and then nailed the door shut, to let him cool off. Just in the last two weeks I first spoke of the idea to other writers. I explained the concept or brought them the text, nervously asking, am I crazy?

Finding the illustrator was easy; I was led to her. I didn't seek design and printing estimates; knowing its likely price and what I wanted, I asked for it and signed. My publishing experience, all of it, came in very handy. (I'm the kind who'll park the car in the first empty space and walk, rather than keep circling to find one closer to the entrance.) And, gritting my teeth, sent the check today.

Several streams had run together: the business course that said manifesting "crazy" ideas was the sanest thing to do. My editing of faith-based book manuscripts, which I found strangely moving although I am not religious. Karmic issues I won't go into. The "now or never" bit. The "leap and the net will appear"/"walk by faith, not by sight" bit. (Did it before, risking much more than I am now.) The "better to regret what you did do than what you didn't do." The "dare you dare you, double-dog dare you." The "I could vacation on this money or I could make this book. I'll make the book."

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