Last week I received a rejection email on my application for a grant from the Ohio Arts Council for my fiction writing. I was bummed out. My application was strong – some of my best writing – and it wasn’t good enough for them.
Right now we are packing up to move to Cleveland next weekend. The night after I received the rejection email, I was going through my drawer of writing to pack it up – files with old stories, drafts of new stories, five (!) screenplays, and three novels.
Reading through some of my old work (and we are talking 1997-1998 here) and newer stories made me feel proud. It also made me forget the Ohio Arts Council grant. It was just the opinion of another person(s). And for whatever reason, my work didn’t speak to them.
My work doesn’t speak to a lot of people. I have a bulging file of rejection letters to prove that. But that doesn’t mean my writing isn’t good or that there isn’t an audience for it. I just need a better medium for getting my writing into the hands of those who want to read it.
Last February I turned 39 and I was quite upset about it. When I finally drilled down to what was really bothering me, it was this: I had expected myself to publish a novel or my short story collection before I was 40. To be truly, vainly honest, I wanted to be one of those “40 under 40” superstars and it wasn’t going to happen.
It seemed so arbitrary and cruel that I had to depend on a random third-party publisher to get my work into the hands of people who wanted to read it. Why didn’t writers have something like YouTube and MySpace, where we could go directly to the fans?
Of course writers have that. We always have. It’s called self-publishing.
But the thought of self-publishing, forgive me, has always seems so desperate: someone cranking out hand-bound copies of bad poetry in their basement. But that is unfair, even if that is the way it used to be. At least they were dedicated enough, and secure enough, to put their work out there.
So, as I was turning 39 I decided that if I didn’t get an agent or publish a book by the age of 40, I will publish myself.
So here I am, a month away from 40 and time to take matters into my own hands.
A few days ago, I received an email from a former co-worker, Brett McNaught. We had spoken a few times about writing novels. His email was the announcement that he had published his novel through LuLu. Coincidence? More like serendipity.
With some free time coming up and a lot of motivation, in 2010 I will publish my short story collection “The Safest Person in the World.”
You’ve been warned!