Publishing a book is a little like following that famed “Yellow Brick Road.” Look out for witches and flying monkeys. Both seem to abound in this business. But just like Dorothy, determined writers push on. Diane Bonavist is one.
Diane’s new novel Purged By Fire came into print after years of near misses and disappointing rejection–making Diane a true survivor in very good company. Please welcome her to Write Despite.
I wanted to write a novel, but after three years of trying on my own, I felt it was time to find other writers who also wanted to figure out how it is done. At an adult ed course I met my future writing group. We were honest but kind and most important we produced our first novels.
In 1994, the group and I decided my Medieval fiction was ready for submission. I was thrilled when I quickly found an enthusiastic agent who boosted my confidence; unfortunately she couldn’t conjure a publisher for my book.
Six years later my novel found another remarkable New York agent who also loved it. With changes that he suggested, the next version hit the publishing world and sadly was again declined. Some years later, more of the same—rewrite, new agent, title, rejection.
During this time, I wrote many technical manuals, two more novels, short stories, and became editor of Tiferet Journal. I continued to write, yet the unease of unfinished business never left me. And though I was happy to spend time in the new pieces I wrote, they didn’t mean to me what my 13th century novel did; it was the book of my heart.
To evoke the stamina and resilience it takes to write, I’ve got to love my characters to death and delirium. The thought of my Medieval people never telling their story, never going out into the world, made me bereft.
A few years ago I decided to do one more revision and instead of an agent, I queried small presses where they usually deal directly with the author. I looked for publishers who knew my subject and found Bagwyn Books, the fiction division of The Arizona Center for Renaissance and Medieval Studies. And there I finally found a publisher who ‘got’ my story and was pleased to publish it.
Yes, it’s a cliché to say ‘never give up,’ but I’m so glad I didn’t. My path to publication is testament to listening instead to the voice inside that says, ‘Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to write.’
We’re giving our heartiest congratulations to first-time novelist Magdalena Waz whose novel, Return on Investment, won the Fiction Attic Press Debut Novel Contest this year. Fiction Attic, headed by founder Michelle Richmond, is publishing some of the most interesting new fiction out there today.
Magdalena’s smart new novel is a great example. Magdalena’s work has also appeared in Threadcount, The Collagist, and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. She is currently the Features Editor at Bushwick Daily.
Here, she discussed the uncertain journey to publication and the stuff you learn along the way.
Please welcome Magdalena to Write Despite.
Every manuscript has a different path to publication, and every writer has a slightly different battle to fight when it comes to choosing one or choosing to take any at all. Writing Return on Investment was far easier than coming to terms with the fact that it was getting published. This was the first novel attempt I had actually completed and the first time I had committed to some kind of story arc for more than 20 pages.
Some of these chapters are three and a half years old; some are two years old. Some of them have been edited four to five times and drastically; others have been tweaked in small ways that likely only matter to me. I could have lived in that limbo-y “it’s not quite done yet” stage for years.
But I was done with grad school, working odd jobs, having trouble focusing on new and old projects alike. The only logical solution at the time was to submit any writing and fill those free hours with something that felt like action.
Of course, anyone who has submitted stories, poems, or manuscripts to contests or journals knows how little action there really is. I was addicted to those short moments of exhilaration: the moment when I hit submit, and the moment when I saw an email notification from Submittable.
I had sent in my manuscript to Fiction Attic’s contest on a whim one summer soon after signing up for a weekly newsletter called “Sapling” which curates a short selection of submission opportunities, contests, and interviews with editors and publishers (I highly recommend it).
I found out over Thanksgiving weekend. I was admiring my mom’s new dining room table when I got the notification, and I read the email multiple times before I shared it. And then for months I did not believe it was real. There were whole days where the limbo voice woke up somewhere in me and insisted I was rushing, that I hadn’t sat on the manuscript for long enough, that I hadn’t written the whole story.
But this process has been very informative. This particular manuscript’s path to publication taught me that I am happiest when I am sharing what I write. Giving my writing a public life is what motivates me to write more. Without feedback in a workshop, I would have never finished the manuscript in the first place, and without taking the plunge and submitting, I would have never figured out what I need to do in order to keep writing.
As we gear up for a new year, Tara Laskowski, author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons (Matter Press 2012) and the forthcoming Bystanders (Santa Fe Writers Project 2016) is kindly sharing some suggestions that will benefit your craft, as well as your karma.
Happy Writing in the New Year. Make 2016 your most productive—and more importantly, most fulfilling—yet.
Please welcome Tara to Write Despite.
Yep, it’s that time—to commit to something (or several somethings) that you’ll accomplish over the next year. To change the ways that you’re less proud of. To start over, reset, renew.
Only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving New Years resolutions. Perhaps this is because we dream too big and set ourselves up for failure? Whatever the case, I’m presenting to you some resolutions that I’ve tried in the past or would like to try this year. Some are bigger, and some are tiny—and achievable—I swear! I hope they spark some ideas for you and make your 2016 full of happy reading and successful writing.
Re-read a book you love. If you’re at all like me, you’ve got a stack of books somewhere that you want to get to, but can’t ever seem to. You can’t really imagine taking the time to go back and read something you’ve already read, even if you love it.
Well, give yourself permission to do it. For every two or three new books you read, re-read something you love. I have started re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis again, and it is giving me such pleasure to revisit these characters. Also on my list—Mrs. Dalloway, the Harry Potter series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Secret History.
Subscribe to a literary journal. Lit magazines are struggling. They get more submitters than subscribers in many cases. Find one that you love, and buy an annual subscription. Then read it. If you find a story you really love, email the writer and let him or her know.
Swap favorite books with a writer friend. Ask your friend to name two books that changed her life (that you haven’t read yet.) Then give her two books that you adore that she hasn’t read. Read them. Discuss over drinks and sweets. Consider your life changed and enriched.
Write something outside your genre, just for fun. Normally write novels? Try flash fiction. Are you a poet, always a poet? Why not write a crime fiction story? Instead of science fiction, ground yourself in reality for a time. Pulling out of your comfort zone can get your brain thinking in different ways. A bonus: it also takes the pressure off and gives you the freedom to just explore for a while.
Several of the stories in my new collection exist only because of this experimentation. The story “The Monitor” was my attempt to write something with supernatural elements in it—a woman who starts to see a ghost in her baby monitor. The story ended up getting taken by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Another story, “Every Now and Then,” was the result of me messing around with writing modular stories—a form I’ve grown to love. If I hadn’t tried to break out of my writing comfort zone, these stories wouldn’t exist.
Review books on Amazon. This is a really easy and cheap way to show love to the writers you know and adore. There are many articles out there about why and how Amazon reviews are good for the writer. Take five minutes and write a thoughtful, honest review of a recent book you read and post it on Amazon—and Goodreads, too! I promise you that you will make that writer’s day.
Finish that one project that’s lurking behind you. Maybe it’s the novel you’ve been writing for seven years, or the story where the concept is great but you can’t get the ending right. Or the collection of short stories that needs three or four more to flesh it out. Whatever the writing project, make 2016 the year to tackle it. And then go for it. You can do it. I’m cheering you on!
Tara Laskowski grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and now navigates traffic in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. She is the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons (Matter Press 2012) and the forthcoming Bystanders (Santa Fe Writers Project 2016). Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. She and her husband, writer Art Taylor, write the column Long Story Short at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Tara earned a BA in English with a minor in writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University.
If you find yourself in the metro D.C. area next weekend, please stop by for my reading at the Fall for the Book Festival. It’s a week-long fest hosted by my MFA alma mater, George Mason University. I’m reading at 1:30 on Saturday, Oct. 3, with two fellow alumni. All details on the Festival’s site.
Cathy, also a GMU alum, will be on hand. We were roommates for two-and-a-half years, and now we’re both hoping to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones.
Check out this stellar lineup of participants.
Hope to see you there!