Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Yes, Baby "Life Ain't No Crystal Stair"(R) and Neither is the Writing Life

I'm often asked the question why I don't I seek publication, and then, the questioner is surprised when I answer that I am indeed published. Then they ask "Where?" and, earlier, I would say which small press/independent publisher's I appeared. And THEN, the next question: "Why don't you go for the big publishers/better-known presses?"
I would become frustrated.

Nowadays, I simply tell people I appear in titles they may not be interested in.
Wait! Before you shriek at me that I am supposed to advertise myself, give my work good word-of-mouth, hear me out.

It is a continuing struggle for a writer of every genre to work consistently. Often, many of us struggle not only with personal obstacles but also the professional. Other writing peers have complained of trying to find their groove, a routine that would revitalize their writing life in tremendous ways.
For those of us that always sought publication (and I'm not knocking my peers that wish ONLY to engage the muse and simply write for their well-being and peace of mind. I see writing as a form of spiritual fulfillment. We all pray/worship/meditate/engage within ourselves in our own way, and I see the same with writing), but the road to publication is a tricky road. Like the poem "Life Ain't No Crystal Stair", 'there will be tacks in' the ground as well as cracks'!

I am going on a tangent, but I learned that when folks tell me to go for the "glossies", and in almost accusatory tones, this is their way of saying I am selling myself short by sticking to small presses.
Upon further investigation, these questioners are often not readers per se, but a misguided few that believe writing is a piece of cake. How hard can it be? They ask. Just write and submit. They have absolutely no idea about how markets differ. They often know nothing about SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. They will insist that you, the writer, aren't fulfilling your destiny and have become a parody of the 'starving artist'.
Well, I am here to tell you that SMALL PRESSES ROCK. If it weren't for independent publishers, my *butt* would not be bragging that I'm an AUTHOR.

Experiences has taught that even when other writers use the 'not being published by the big names', it is an excuse not to stick with their craft.
They will downplay your accomplishments by saying that you belittle your art by submitting to small press.

This is nonsense.

Years ago, when I attended community college, my creative writing professor told our class to look into the markets that speak to us.

'Make sure you're a good fit for the publication and that they are a good fit for you.'
"READ your submission guidelines"' she would chant as a mantra.
She wanted us to know that when you submit willy-nilly, it can be the kiss-of-death to the aspiring writer. By not following the simple guidelines, you will most CERTAINLY get rejected!
Also, she taught us that no matter what we wrote, there were markets for it!

We just had to research and sweat to find them.

Our professor also decried vanity presses, telling us that if a market asks you to submit for a reading fee, or they wouldn't consider publishing your piece, run as far as possible from this press!
Now, our professor also explained contests were different: many DO require reading fees and PLEASE DO submit to these when you can.

Now, does all this mean many of my classmates listened? I can only speak of the ones that didn't. One even happened to be a good friend at the time.
Imagine my horror when she showed me the fat volume she spent money on to showcase one of her poems! "Didn't the professor tell you NOT to submit to vanity presses?" I yelled. She simply shrugged and mumbled incoherently.

And herein lies the crux: It is assumed that I am unpublished.

There is a pervading idea that I do all this as a hobby. But when I show my writing 'street cred', I'm immediately deluged with 'advice' of what I could be doing differently with my career. I am not telling others HOW to do their writing life. We are all travelers on different paths, shuttling towards different destinies.

What I've done, I got here on good advice and support from folks that took my writing and drawing seriously. They also didn't pat me on the head or hold my hand and tell me "It'll all be okay, baby." What I did was follow good advice, and advice that worked. For me. I discarded what didn't, or then  passed on to others that WOULD use it. And I kept on going. And didn't look back.

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