Interesting topic

On a writing list I’m on, someone asked how a person manages to do the writing that sells when it’s not the kind of writing that she wants to do.

Good question.

When my son was two, I began my writing career with plans to write creative non-fiction — essays about life as a mother — and occasional articles to illuminate the populace. Really. I pitched crazy stuff to Parenting, subjects they would never touch with a ten-foot pole, because I thought I was there to educate their readers.

As I kept plugging away, pocketing rejection slips as I went, I learned some basic truths:

1) Every writing mother out there is writing about her unique experience of mothering. Sadly, there’s not enough room for all of us to make a decent living at it so most of us will eventually have to expand our repetoire;

2) Parenting doesn’t publish crazy stuff because their audience doesn’t want to read it. Obvious, right? But realizing that helped me see that very often my role as writer would be to entertain informatively not bludgeon people with an extreme point of view.

I also realized some other things:

1) I enjoy the skill of writing a well-turned phrase enough to exercise that skill on writing about pretty boring subjects;

2) I like getting paid for my work;

3) Publishing credits beget freedom.

Honestly, I would rather be Louise Erdich or Anne Lamott but since those two lives are already taken, I’ve decided to have fun being me.

Writing advice

directions-insideHere is my advice on getting your work published:

Show up.

Yes, that’s it. Show up. Send your stuff out. Send it out again. Send it out some more. Get better and better at querying; get better and better at producing. The difference between a published person and an unpublished person is not necessarily talent; it’s determination. It’s hard to get up the nerve to get rejected but you have to remember that people get turned down for reasons that have nothing to do with their writing. We get turned down because the subject has been covered or because the editor disagrees with our point of view; we get turned down because the issue where the piece would work is already full or because the editor promised her friend that slot. The point is, rejection is part of the deal so steel yourself and move on.

There aren’t really any other secrets to getting published. There are query techniques but once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll figure out what works best for you and for the markets you’re querying. As you gain clips, it’s easier to get editors to look at you and as you keep writing you’ll make friends with people who can help get your work out there. But those things can’t happen until you show up.

You can do this. Seriously. Get on out there.

How cool is this?!?

index2I got a note from one of my Brain, Child editors today. She said an editor of a magazine in the Netherlands was interested in reprinting my “You’re Not the Boss of Me” article! I went and looked up the magazine and saw it mentioned as “an influential Dutch alternative newsmagazine” and “the Dutch incarnation of the Utne Reader.” I am so psyched!

I knew that Brain, Child was an excellent clip to have because they have a great rep in the publishing world so I was thrilled about getting them on my resume. Now if this deal goes through I can refer to myself as “an internationally published author.” Not that I would, of course. I mean, not out loud. Just to myself. On bad days I’ll go look into the mirror and whisper cinematically, “Chin up, Dawn, you’re an internationally published author!”

That is, if they take it. If they don’t, I’ll resort to saying, “Don’t let it get you down, Dawn, remember you were very nearly an internationally published author!” See, I’ll take the strokes where I can get ’em.

p.s. This is the magazine. I don’t read Dutch but it looks kinda nifty, eh?