Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Q & A -- As Promised
Hi W,R. As a regular reader of your blog and a curious person by nature, I found myself thinking up some questions I'd like to ask you. If this kind of thing interests you, maybe you could use some of these questions for a Q&A post on your blog? I know you are anonymous (and third-gendered) but I imagine these questions could be answered without giving anything away.
This was just a thought, for fun. No need to be creeped out. Seriously! :)
How did your short story collection publication come about? Did you win a contest or just submit to small presses? Back in the stone ages, you could get an editor interested in your work. I had a few stories written and an idea for a collection. The editor took an interest and offered edits as I developed the book. I wonder if that ever happens any more.
Was the experience of having a book published what you expected? Why or why not? It was both better and worse than I thought it would be. I was relatively young and believed that my life would change after the book came out, but I still woke up the next morning with all the same problems I'd had the night before. On the other hand having accomplished a major life goal at the age of 29 was pretty amazing. I kept saying to myself, "I'm a writer. I really am." It changed something deep down inside, which in the end is probably the most important change a person can experience.
Are you in any writing groups? Do you have writing buddies or beta readers? I'm a huge believer in writing groups. I've probably had 10-15 different writing groups through out my adult life. I have one or two groups going at any given time. I also have certain trusted readers, including my former editor (and friend), the old spouse, and 4 or 5 close friends who consume a lot of fiction in their daily lives.
What is your writing routine? I work professionally as a writer, so I am constantly putting words down on pages. In some way, I find the professional stuff to have helped my creative work, and vice versa. Basically, a story is a story, and practicing writing one (even if it's on the most God-awful boring of topics) helps hone the craft. When I am deep into a creative project, I definitely write every day; sometimes I don't get to it until late at night when the work deadlines are done, but I always crack it open and do a little something. On light work days, I will spend hours writing and revising. When I'm working on a novel (or an active short story or essay), I have to touch the thing in some way every day to keep it alive.
Have you ever considered getting an MFA? Why or why not? Before my book came out, I had a job that paid employees to get related professional graduate degrees, so I grabbed that opportunity. I didn't have the money or the confidence to get an MFA, but I would have liked to have gotten one. I've taught writing here and there because I published a short story collection, which used to be kind of equivalent to getting an actual degree in creative writing.
In your opinion, what is the "best" (or favorite) lit mag your work as appeared in? As you know, I've been rejected by the best: The New Yorker, Atlantic, Paris Review, Ploughshares, etc. I've been published in some very fine journals that take their name from the state in which they are produced.
What was your most heartbreaking rejection, and why? Rejections where I've come closest to success have dashed me the most. Once an editor at one of the big publishing houses wanted to publish my work; we even spoke on the phone and discussed it, but in the end her big bosses turned it down. Later that year, the publishing company downsized and fired the editor despite the fact that she'd worked there for many, many years and was very successful. That was in 2001. Then, most recently, a few people associated with a very elegant, smaller mainstream press got excited about my novel, but ultimately the last reader squashed the whole thing, and they decided to pass. In those exciting moments, I let myself imagine the sweetness of having a publisher champion my book. It can be more devastating than a regular out-right "no thanks."
How many journals/markets has your writing appeared in? Over what time period? Probably 8 or 10 in the last 6 or 7 years.
Are you totally done with stories now, and have moved on to creative nonfiction entirely, or are you doing both? I'm not totally done with anything. I just started a story the other day for the first time in a long time. I have a whole collection of stories that has gone unpublished as a book, though, which is a little discouraging. So I guess I've opted for writing creative nonfiction lately, though, of course, I have a whole collection of essays that has also gone unpublished as a book. So, maybe the form of the story just hasn't spoken to me as much as it used to. I also have a couple of novel seeds that have been germinating over the past few years. I never really know what will stick and become the next project, but that's the exciting part. Something always manages to be the one I need to write next.
Have you read the book AFTER THE WORKSHOP, which seems to include a pretty strong reference to your blog? If so, what did you think? Haven't read it. Do they credit the blog by name, or just refer to it anonymously? I guess the latter would serve me right.
Do you have any regrets over something you did/didn't do in your writing career thus far? I have both zero regrets and a million regrets. You can't get caught up in second guessing your past decisions, though. It's better to keep moving forward and trying to learn the game as you go, mistakes and all.
Do a lot of people in the lit mag/publishing world know your "real" identity, or are you that good at being anonymous? A few people in the business know who Writer, Rejected really is, but everyone so far seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. Otherwise, I'm not really sure how good I am at being anonymous. I think mostly I'm not anybody very important, so it probably doesn't much matter who I am.
Are you working on another novel? What's your next big project? I have two or three things that I rotate in and out until I know which one is next. I work on a bunch of things until something makes itself clear to me. Sort of mysterious, really.
If you and Jacob Appel got together for a beer, what would go down? A very polite arm wrestling match...that I would win.
Do you have any idea what happened to Rosemary Ahearn? Has she ever contacted you about your good-natured "obsession" with her? I'm so obsessed with Rosemary Ahern! I believe she is working as a freelance editor, so all you peeps out there who need someone to give your manuscript a good working over should contact her immediately. She's a great editor, I understand. You can find her on the professional networking site Linked-In. I believe she is someone who knows who I am and who thinks the whole thing is kind of funny, if not a little creepy.
What is the one piece of advice you'd like to give LROD readers? Write only if you have to write; otherwise go into data processing and get paid to move your fingers across the keys.