Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A path through the wilderness of literary publication

Blake Kimzey felt a strange sense of homecoming when he addressed this month’s meeting of the Dallas chapter of Mystery Writers of America on “Writing Out of the Wilderness: Surviving Rejection & Forging a Path to Publication.” Yes, he was a writer speaking to other writers, but the feeling also stemmed from the meeting’s location – an Olive Garden restaurant – a Texas twin of the one in Iowa where he honed his writing skills while working as a waiter.

“I would write stories in the wait station,” he told his audience, while observing his customers.
He came to know the regulars, in many cases, “well, there’s not really a nice way to say this – meth heads –” while dishing out their favorite order, minestrone soup, “because it was all they could afford and all many of them could eat,” given the toll their drug habits had taken on their teeth.

Some of them would inspire his stories.
Sure, Kimzey would go on to take creative writing classes, earn an MFA, see scores of his short stories published, and founded Writing Workshops Dallas  – among other literary accomplishments. But he was standing in front of a group of writers and would-be writers to tell us that if he could practice writing as a chain-restaurant worker, we too could find our way through the writing wilderness. 
 “I think there’s far too much pessimism when it comes to writing and publication,” he said, attempting to demystify the process of publication with “practical steps you can take in the face of insurmountable rejection.” 
image: pixabay
Yes, rejections will come, but the good news is there’s a way through them, and “you can start this journey sitting in the chairs you’re in right now!”
How? Just as when we write, our characters must have both an overall goal and lower-order goals, so must we as writers. 
“It’s a mystifying process to go from dreaming about being in Barnes & Noble to actually getting there, but that was my goal when I realized I wanted to be a writer,” Kimzey said. (And admitted, “I’m still trying to get there.”)
So, the overall goal is being published in a major brick and mortar bookstore, but the lower-order goals are simpler:
·       Read diversely
“Reading out of your genre shows you so many ways to do it.” (Although Kimzey recommends “more novels and less how-to books, for examples of craft he teaches Benjamin Percy's volume Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction.)
·       Write regularly

His daily goal is a modest 250 words – approximately one page. “By the time I get there, I can blow past that!”

·       Study the process

“Who is your favorite author? What publisher would be best for your work? Check your favorite authors websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages What replicable steps have you identified? Apply them before you’re ready for publication.” Make yourself “findable” via your own website and social media accounts. “Twitter is a living resume. If you’re not using it that way, you doing it wrong.”

·       Reach out to other people trying to do the same thing
And, oh yeah:
·       Welcome rejection

“Rejection slips are your receipts,” proof that you’re trying. “Everybody’s goal should be to get 100 rejections over a year.”

And how to collect those rejection receipts (as well as some acceptance receipts)? 

Check out the possibilities, he advised. Publications such as New Pages and The Review Review, which can review stories you do manage to publish, as well as Duotrope  and agent listings in Publishers Marketplace and Poets & Writers

***
As always when I post about wonderful writing seminars and workshops, this is only the barest dip into Kimzey’s discussion. For more, consider signing up for some of the many workshops he directs at Writing Workshops Dallas. Or ask your writing group’s program leader to bring him onboard for smaller group presentations.