Tag Archives: seeking publication

Friday Links for Writers 03.08.13

maximo

Maximo, saltwater croc at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Yes, he’s real. c. Elissa Field

Chomp. Something must have eaten the first week of my March calendar, as this post is overdue.

In fact, two writing distractions have kept me away: one was preoccupation with following posts from AWP 2013 (check hashtag #awp2013 to find lingering conversations from the conference weekend). The other was application deadlines for May and summer conferences.

To that end, I ran a special post last week featuring major writers’ conferences: 2013 Writing Conferences & Workshops.

CastilloSanMarcosAt the same time, I headed north to St. Augustine to tour historic sites in America’s oldest European-settled city on the eve of Florida’s 500th anniversary. Yes, there’s more to Florida than bikinis and snowbirds. From early colonial settlements to the fort to the gilded age to listening to alligators roar… my brain is on overload.

But, lucky for you, this week’s reading yielded some fabulous links. A theme could be “debates” as links below take on topics from writing for free to PR scams to bullying, in addition to writing advice.

As always, let me know what you found inspiring in these or what topics you’d like to see more of.

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Lucrative Work-for-Free Opportunity

Atlantic Senior Editor Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the debate of professional writers being expected to write “for exposure” in lieu of pay. In particular, Coates considers the ruckus raised when writer Nate Thayer very publicly rejected a request that he write a piece for the Atlantic for free (his spicy email is included), by reflecting on Coates’ and other writers’ common history of having published for free at various times in their careers. It’s a debate worth considering at a time when it is more easy to publish ideas than in the past, yet often more difficult to earn a living.

The Bad PR Hangover (and How to Avoid It)

In this post at Writer Unboxed, Sharon Bially addresses the services a writer should expect when contracting with a reputable PR agent. She begins with a frank rant about ineffective and even unethical PR approaches that make her “blood boil,” which leads to her “laundry list of must-haves in determining whether the firm you hire to publicize your book is up to par, and in understanding whether it’s doing (or will do) what it should for you.” A great resource, especially for those with a first book coming out.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Research 

When is research part of the hard work of writing, and when is it a time-sucking distraction? Bethanne Patrick offers thought-provoking insight on preventing research from leading a writer “down the rabbit hole” of fascinating tangents that eat away at writing time. Patrick’s own interesting insights are supported by reflections from published writers on whether they research before writing, while drafting, or not until completing a first draft, and more.

How to Stop the Bullies 

This article in The Atlantic caught my eye as it addresses the ubiquitous (and never-ending) conversation of bullying, cyber-bullying and bully-prevention. It is a fascinating read if you are a parent, educator or YA writer — but also for anyone involved in social media, as the writer traces the path of a complaint through Facebook and discusses the developments being attempted in writing algorithms to predict an abusive post.

The Rejection Generator Project 

Friday Links on February 1st shared the endearing Written Kitten. This isn’t that. No, in fact, it’s a bit more like hair of the dog that bit ya. Why wait for that painful rejection on the litmag submission that’s been pending for more than twice their stated response time? Generate your own brass knuckle reply with Stoneslide Corrective’s Rejection Generator Project. Like walking on briars to toughen your feet, you give it your email address and it shoots you a fireball of a rejection. All in fun, of course.

Tweet Spotlight: 2 Agents on Querying

Agent Pam van Hylckama tweeted to a YA writer: “If you just write a good query letter and follow sub guidelines, you are ALREADY in the top 10% of queries” (@BookaliciousPam, Mar. 9). Along the same line, Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary Agency tweeted: “Why it’s important to follow submission guidelines: honoring such a basic request shows a willingness to work as a team w/ agent. #pubtips” (@RedSofaLiterary, Mar. 6).

What did you find in these links that is useful to you? Let me know if you want more on a particular subject, or share your own best finds.

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Shared by the Library of Congress, this poster is from a Chicago promotion 1936-1941. No known copyright restrictions.Did you see my Winter 2013 Reading List? As the list shows, there is clearly no shortage of great new fiction to keep our reading hours full.

But what of books that linger from one list to the next — or even from one decade to the next — and never get read?

It’s nearly time for me to post the March Reading Challenge: inspired by this vintage public service announcement from 1939-41, it’s time to “read the books you’ve always meant to read.”

If you have a minute, please click here if you’d like to share the kinds of books on your 2013 Reading List — including any you’ve always meant to read yet never gotten around to.

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Filed under Friday Links, Seeking Publication

Running on the Grass

I’ve been happy to say I had a short story accepted for publication, coming out later this month.  Not only was it accepted, but it was accepted by an editor whose accomplishments and taste I admire.  Short of quoting his actual email, I can say I could not have asked for higher praise in the words he used to express pride in publishing the story.

You must understand the relative isolation and uncertainty in which most writers work.  The accepted story was written in parts over a period of nearly ten years.  It is a story of singular intensity — a story I initially wrote in response to the challenge: “Write something that scares you to put on paper.  Write something one would not say out loud.”  I did.  I wrote something that scared me.  And I did it in a way that was unapologetic in not hiding behind any narrative artifice — no gentle introductions, no fluffy segues. (Inspiration for story mentioned here.) It came together as an act of artistry and bravery, but also as a piece that would not fit the needs of all editors as they allocated the limited space in their literary journals.  In its first forays out for publication, it drew praise and near misses, but also confusion over a hurdle I could not at that time see the solution to.

I was a young parent by then.  My husband spent three years slashing his way into a higher paying job in order to support our little family so I could stay home most hours with our son.  Babies take more hours than one might think.  By the second son, I’d given up a freelance gig because of its unpredictable demands.

After years of telling myself that being a professional writer required my willingness to make sacrifices to dedicate myself to my work, I was suddenly feeling guilty over the time and expense the writing had cost — and still no bestseller on the shelf.  This fierce story brought home a near miss from Paris Review and The Sun, praise from Esquire.  But most readers have no idea the number of submissions a work might take to find the right editor, the right publication, at the right time.  The numbers game can become wearying.

At a point, I chastised myself over the near misses.  I assumed those close to me were wearying as well, and began to say: “If I were a football player, no matter how close I’d gotten to the end zone, at a certain point, if I’d never crossed the goal line, it was just a lot of running around on grass.”

Sharing this the other day, a writing colleague said that if they’d had near misses at publications like Paris Review, they couldn’t imagine doubting their abilities.  But it felt like time for some professional humility.  If I sold TVs, my shop would not be in business if sets never left the store with paying customers.  I was willing to consider maybe I was more suited to novel length, and just not a short story writer.   No question, it was a little personal trash talk.  The Army goads, “Go big or go home.”  I goaded myself to either be a writer who crosses that endzone, or own up that I might be just running on grass.

My aunt had a national champion quarter horse when I was young.  Gorgeous, gorgeous mare.  As her trophies mounted, they chose to breed her with an equally gorgeous and accomplished stallion, named Robert Redford.  The filly born was a spectacular, glowing chestnut with a perfect star on her forehead.  Next to her chocolate bay mother, she drew gasps.  She would be a star.  Yet, as time came for her to be saddle-trained, turned out there was something off in her fore-cannons (shins, for non-horsefolk).  They’d work her and fail, and have to take a break, a few months off, then try again.  Try and try again.  My aunt stood beside her, this gorgeous horse she couldn’t ride, and struggled with frustration.

Solution?  Turn the filly to pasture, let her legs strengthen.  Turn her out to run on the grass.

In writing communities, how often we run into young writers seeking advice because they are so desperate to have success now — today, on the day and time they scheduled it, within a framework their questioning families can accept.

But it’s sometimes like that filly.

I was thrilled the day it clicked in my head: the ironic parallel between the football metaphor I used to insult my efforts and the memory of that filly out kicking her heels in the thick grass of a Michigan hillside.

Sometimes writing is all about running on the grass.

We schedule our hours to work.  We hone our skills.  We read and write with professional determination.  We push ourselves to reach that completed draft, then whip ourselves all over again through the real work of revision.  We force ourselves to be humble and brave, at once.  But, in the end, as with life itself, a-ha’s and true insight and seeing the forest despite the trees don’t always arrive on a schedule.

I ran on the grass for three or four years while raising tiny babies, steeping in the mortal life’s experience that parenthood is, without scheduling time to write about it.  And one morning woke up with a full novel spilling out so voraciously that I could type fourteen hours a day and still take months to get it down.  A second novel came nearly as easily.  And one day, a short story.

It reminded me I like writing short stories and I went back to them — no longer with the drudgery of one fatigued by unmet expectations, but with the liveliness of one fresh from a wild gallop in the grass.

I understood clear as day, for the first time, why I had named a character Nixon and how a certain meaning I’d always felt about this one story had never made it onto the page.  I rewrote it.  I sent it out.  Acceptance came in a phone message I received while standing in a circle of my writing students, unable at first to explain my sudden emotion.

So publication this month comes with its own double reward.  This story crossed the end zone, but with the refreshed appreciation that there is something to be said for running on the grass.  There would be no game without it and — whether a running back, a red filly or a writer — that time on the grass is when so much of the thrill and accomplishment take place.

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Filed under Novel Writing, Seeking Publication, Time Management for Writers, Writing Life, Writing Mother