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I can’t say I was ever very good at deadlines; I once wrote a paper on James Joyce’s Ulysses, and turned it in, oh, let’s say, two months late. My professor was not very happy, but he let it slide.
So, six weeks after the fact, here are some tidbits on the Serpentine Path talk at the Tattered Cover, back on June 20. Each panelist discussed the very different routes they followed in order to get their work in print:
The Take No Prisoners (While Risking Burning Some Bridges) Route:
Janis Hallowell, author of She Was and The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn related her story of calling a major editor in the middle of the night to ask: Why? Why didn’t you want my book?
(She got through; he actually picked up the phone and patiently answered her questions. He also gave her the name of an agent-friend. She called that person–during business hours–the next day. He ended up signing her. And selling her book.)
The Pay Your Money and Take Your Chance Method (But Please Be Sure to Not Include Your Name and Contact Info on the Manuscript):
Fiction wordsmith Steven Wingate approached the pub thing with a practical and reasoned eye: he entered contests. Eventually, this investment paid off when his short story collection, Wifeshopping, won the 2007 Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize for Fiction from the Bread Load Writers’ Conference.
The way he described it, the contest thing was kind of like making a diverse set of modest investments in the stock market, hedging that one would eventually hit it big (that’s before the recent stock market shenanigans, of course).
And big it was: Kirkus Reviews wrote that Wifeshopping was: “Strongly imagined, often deeply moving fiction from a gifted writer who seems to know us better than we know ourselves.”
Go It Alone, and Find a Rapt Audience Route:
Lois Hjelmsted survived breast cancer–and then wrote a touching memoir of her experience as a way of helping others through such trials. But she never bothered to find a publisher.
No matter–she published Fine Black Lines herself, and has taken her message on the road, speaking more than 530 times to a diverse population in all 50 states, England, and Canada, including patients, professionals, cancer support groups, women’s groups, and book clubs.
The Who Says Memoirs Don’t Sell? Route:
Kim Field signed with Denver agent Kristin Nelson after listening to Kristin at one of the Lighthouse Writers Buzz events several years ago, and hasn’t looked back since.
Her memoir, No Place Safe, received the Colorado Book Award for nonfiction in 2008. Currently, Kim is working on a novel–at 4:30 AM each and every morning. And then she goes to work at a full-time job. Now that sounds like dedication.
(And boy does that makes me feel like a lazybones….)
So, if there’s one thing to take away from these stories, it’s this: No matter how you find your way into print, you must do it with a tremendous amount of passion, focus, and energy.
And a deep belief in yourself.