19 July 2009

What Have I Done So Far?

It's the dreaded question for most up and coming writers: "What have you done so far? Have you been published yet?"

The question strikes fear in our hearts, which pound so loudly that we're positive everyone else can hear it. We're not blindly dreaming, stupidly supposing that some magical fairies will come along, kiss our foreheads with blessing, and poof, here's our first book deal. We're trying, I promise! We're doing the best we can. And while we dream of the Big One--the book contract--we're not so dense as to focus solely on that. We're writing more than just books.

Still, it feels like a catch-22, that you need to be published in order to be published. It's easy to cry--or at least think it loudly deep inside--that it isn't fair, that we wish we could have lived in an era where entire manuscripts were assessed before the word "query" ever evoked fear and trembling in a creative wanderer's heart. Then again, as a female, my odds of being published in that era were possibly even more slim than they are now.

But alas, we live in a day where the written word is as easily accessible as Michael Jackson's secret video vault. Where so many people want to be an author simply because they wrote a book, clamor for that contract and start mentally designing their Hollywood mansions because it's obviously the quickest way to get rich in this troubling economy, and honestly, make it even harder for those of us who are actually serious about this. Those of us who feel like they'd lose the most precious part of themselves if they ever were to stop writing. It'd be so much easier for us if those people just got out of the way.

But then again, not everything that is easy is worth it.

Only an idiot would choose to do this if they didn't have to. The odds are stacked against us. The economy is down, agents have more material coming at them than ever, and the author's job is becoming more and more involved. We have to market ourselves, not only to find an agent, but now every step of the way. We can't just hide in our dens and weave marvelous plots, we actually have to meet people, talk about ourselves (or at least our books), and keep building our presence in the publishing world. We have to work on our "brand", which is funny because we don't make enough money to even eat off-brand food. And we get to do it while people look at us with that judgmental gleam in their eyes, the gleam that says we should have gotten a real job and just done what everyone else did.

But still, we dream.

I've written five books over the course of my lifetime. Three of them will never see the light of day. They were for me to learn on, nothing more. But books four and five, I believe in. I started querying the last one in the spring only to learn something truly disconcerting: that for some reason, the rest of the known world was also busy querying books. Here I was, after more than a decade of writing and polishing, finally taking that big step, only to find thousands were doing the same thing. Many theorized it was because of the failing economy, because when people started to feel the financial pinch they went to the "fall back" plan of publishing. This wasn't the case for me, but it was a very inopportune coincidence nonetheless.

Perhaps it was just a false start, but I learned a lot. I definitely made some mistakes and have since learned how to correct them. And in the past few months, have truly begun to understand the difference between being a writer and having a writing career. It's a great divide, actually. Now, I'm taking a break from querying. I'm writing, most definitely. I'm editing my manuscripts. But mostly, I'm building my brand. Marketing my name. Growing that resume.

Speaking of, here it is. As more happens and it changes, I'll edit/update this entry so that it will always stay current. For now, this blog (and the entries listed below) are where you can find me.
But one day, I'll also be on the bookshelves!

1. 1998: Devo'Zine-- Poems "Your Eyes" and "Who Am I?"

2. 2005:

a. Brio Magazine-- Purchased the rights to the short story "Set Me Free"

b. Cygnet, (University Literature Publication for Clayton College and State University)-- two poems, "Snow Globe" and "Road Trip". "Snow Globe" won second place for poetry.

c. The Bent Tree (University Newspaper for Clayton College and State University)--printed five articles in the Spring/Summer of 2005

d. Kudzu Life (local magazine for metro-Atlanta) --freelance reporter for fall 2005

3. 2006:

a. The Talon (University newspaper for Toccoa Falls College)-- reporter for the Fall

b. English Paper of the Year Award for Toccoa Falls College-- "The Dark Other", a paper describing the use of Orientalism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

4. 2007: English Paper of the Year Award for Toccoa Falls College--"Embalmed, Entombed, and Exposed," a paper comparing the elements of sin and grace in Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables

b. Bachelor of Arts from Toccoa Falls College

5. 2009:

a. "Beauty in the Shadow of a Volcano", a five part installment about a two week Guatemala trip with the Ambassador program of Adventures in Missions. It can be read at http://09gu0630yi.myadventures.org/

---------------------COMING SOON--------------------

b. "The Face of Anxiety", a nonfiction article to be published by Susie Magazine

c. "Set Me Free", a short story to be published on Susie's website

d. Rustic Magazine- co-creator, writer, and editor, a monthly webzine coming Fall 2009

11 comments:

  1. I almost laughed out loud when I read "only an idiot would choose this profession if they didn't have to"! It's so true! I've talked with so many people who (even if they don't say it) seem to think writing is easy and anyone can do it. Or, at the worst, it's not a real job and writer's shouldn't make all the money they do when they sell a book. Argh.
    Anyways, kudos to you on your writing resume. It's very impressive, considering mine has....nothing on it. Unless you count the few articles I did for the retirement home I worked for and my blogs!

    ~Jen

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