by Julie Tollefson
Recently, a local nonprofit organization invited me to speak to their group about writing and, although the talk isn’t until February, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what I want to tell them about my publishing journey so far.
In 2011, I took a huge, scary chance and submitted to Fish Nets, the second anthology produced by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The chapter conceived of its anthology series as an opportunity for unpublished writers to get some experience.
The story I submitted, “Keeping Up Appearances,” was the first piece of fiction I finished writing (big).
It was the first piece of fiction I submitted for other people to read (bigger).
It was the first piece of my fiction accepted for publication (HUGE).
The process of taking a short story from idea to publication turned out to be an incredible learning experience, too, beginning with the super helpful selection exercise in which every writer who submitted an entry also read and rated three other stories. Reviewing other writers helped me see what worked and what didn’t. The responses I received from those who reviewed my manuscript were enlightening and ranged from a lukewarm “it’s OK but needs work” to an enthusiastic “include it in the anthology now.” One of the reviews, a more middle-of-the-road take, gave thoughtful feedback, especially on character development, that continues to help me in my writing.
In June 2012, after Wildside Press agreed to publish the anthology, I volunteered to take the lead on communication between the authors and the publisher. That turned out to be a truly smart decision, because I came to see the anthology and the publishing decisions associated with it as bigger than just getting my story in print. Contracts. Deadlines. Proofreading. Wrangling responses from 22 busy writers. I had the pleasure of sending notes like “Wildside will be sending the contract soon…Hooray!” and also “I haven’t heard from you yet. Have you had a chance to review the proof of your story?” Nudge, nudge.
I came away from that experience newly confident in my ability to produce fiction, fiction, that other people would want to read and perhaps with an unrealistic expectation of how easy it would be to publish more short fiction in the future. I mean, the first time was super easy, right? Oh, boy, did I have a few publishing lessons still to learn!
Fish Nets came out in 2013, and since then I’ve written a dozen or so short stories (as well as longer projects and nonfiction). About a third of the short stories have been published or will be soon.
So I guess part of my message to the nonprofit group will be this: I took a big scary leap with that first short story, and it turned out to be the best thing I could have done for myself and for my writing career.
Have you ever done something that scared you and that later turned out to be extraordinarily rewarding, either personally or professionally?
When you listen to authors talk about themselves, what do you like to hear? Do you want to hear personal stories? Inspirational stories? How-to stories?
Please contact E. B. Davis at email@example.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. October Interviews 10/6 Joan Garcia 10/13 M. E. Browning 10/20 Lori Lewis Ham 10/27 Krista Davis 10/31 Veronica Bond Guest Blogs 10/2 Kathy Manos Penn 10/16 Kate Lansing 10/30 Jule Selbo -----------------------------------------------------------------------------