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Sunday, December 7, 2008

How To Succeed In Writing When Spike Lee Doesn't Call...




In the last few years, I’ve found myself answering this one question countless times:

“So, how do I get published?”

Seriously, without exaggeration, I must have answered this same question for 6 or 7 hungry-starving-struggling-artist-writer-poet-type people just within the last week. In each instance, I’d take time out of a busy day to explain it, in detail. Then, it finally dawned on me that maybe I needed write it all down, save it, and simply go back to the file whenever that question was broached again.

So, without further ado…hereitgo:

** First and foremost: Mad, MAD PROPS to YOU for dreaming, for writing, for seeing a world, for penning and winning and sticking to your goal, and most of all: for finishing what you started! That alone dictates an inner fire and a Real Passion for what you do.

You need to know, everyone’s journey will be different and there are no surefire ways, only some tried and true ones from each writer’s personal experience.

My situation dates back to poetry. While in high school, an English teacher first noticed I had a gift for writing. She submitted a poem of mine to a National student magazine, & BAM! There I was, 17, and a published poet. That part was easy.

But, the following years were anything but easy. And maybe they weren’t supposed to be. Each of us gets tested in various ways. Maybe this is to separate the walkers from the talkers. In college, I had published and polished professors tell me that I had "a Voice," and that I should really "get published."

Cool-cool. How lovely. How flattering! But no one, not a soul would volunteer the needed info on HOW I was to get published, where I should go, or what I had to do to make that happen. Was this some State Secret? Would it have killed them if they’d TOLD me how to go about it? Or if they told me, would they then have to kill me?

So, I kept writing, poetry mostly. But sometimes I’d get inspired by some life event and I’d create plays and songs and rambling monologues. I just kept writing, not knowing if any of it would ever see the light of publication. I was doing it for me. I was doing it to purge, to unleash, and to let my soul sing. And like any muscle, the more you work and exercise it, the stronger and more vital it becomes.

A small turning point came when I picked up an Essence Magazine, read the work contained in their poetry section and thought… hmmm… I can do that. So, dammit! I tried, and a month later received a beige business-size envelope from the Poetry Editor. Inside, I found a terse rejection slip.

*Pipe in the BUZZER SOUND: Annnnnnt!*

Oh damn! It hurt my feelings. For real. But I'd grown accustomed to having my feelings hurt. So I just pressed on. I still wanted to get my work inside the glossy pages of Essence Magazine. Folks asked: why… when it only paid $25.00?

Well, it had a circulation of over a million people. If a percentage of those people read my work, I would become known. Maybe the famous person on the cover would read it, and I too would become mad famous, and hip and cool, if by association.

Ok. Foolish! Major mistake in thinking! HUGE, in fact! No one needs to be writing if their only goal is to become famous. That was stupid. But so was I… well, at the very least, ignorant. Again, I had no one telling me, pointing me, advising or guiding me.

So, I issued this challenge to myself: I will BE in Essence Magazine before the year is done. I went so far as to visualize my words, and more importantly my name in the same print and the same font as the other writers they featured. I stared at that page for the longest time until I could actually SEE it.

And then, I sent them four more poems.

One month later, another long business-sized beige envelope arrived. But this one felt different. It was slightly heavier than that previous one. I took a deep breath and I opened it.

A typewritten letter with my name in the heading was followed by the beautiful word: Congratulations!

I’d made it. My work was to appear in the shiny pages of Essence magazine! THANK YOU ANGELA KINAMORE, Poetry Editor!

I was hyped, yo. I was so mad happy. I was high. Dammit! I’d arrived, yo!

Spike Lee and his sister Joie graced the cover of the issue in which my work appeared. I received two copies and a check for 25 beans.

I was beside myself. I told most everyone I knew. It was my calling card. Even to perfect strangers, it became my M.O. to say: “Have you seen this month’s edition of Essence? Well, I’m in it.”

I was living the dream, bay-bay! For a whole month, I was living, gloating and just-a floating on Cloud Nine. Besides, all that… maybe, just maybe SPIKE would see it, read it, and dammit, maybe we’d be like riffin' and dialoguing, spitting and co-hittin' , and maybe even co-writing screenplays for his joints together.

Hey. I mighta been published, but I remained very much an ignorant Brotha.

Spike never called, yo.

Time passed, and Essence would later accept yet another piece. Coolness! Cha-Ching! Another 25! Now I could finally buy that island in Tahiti!

But in between, it was a very dry season. I mean drrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiier than the Gobi desert in my writing life. No one else was biting.

It was with the help of a WRITERS MARKET, and then POETS MARKET, NOVEL & SHORT STORY MARKET reference books that I found other places actively seeking the kind of work I offered. I submitted to those places, and was lucky & Blessed enough to have a lot of it accepted. BUT even though my work has appeared in over 200 places, I must have submitted to over a THOUSAND more places where it was NOT accepted. The lesson there is to never stop at rejection and to just keep plugging. Let rejection FEED you… NOT fade you!

So, if you want to get your name out there, start out small... make baby steps, like poetry and short stories or excerpts from your novels or works-in-progress, simply because publishers like shorter work, as it saves them time and, yes, money.

HOWEVER, if you get yourself a NOVEL/ SHORT STORY MARKET, you'll save so much time and needless frustration. That book is the Bible for any budding novelist. WHY? Well because it lists thousands of people, places, publications, addresses, editors, when and how to submit, and how NOT to submit, what they’re looking for, when to expect a reply, and what they pay. It also has sections for each kind of writing under the sun: childrens, black, feminist, romance, sci-fi, gay, lesbian, mystery, adventure, technical, erotica, comedy, experimental, etc. So you can find a niche and discover the many places that seek exactly what you have to offer. Feel me?

You can find the books at most public libraries. But your best bet would be to invest the 30 bucks, and purchase the mofo, so you'll have it at your reach. It would truly behoove you to check it out, because it’s also full of valuable ideas, help tips on sharpening your ms.... and making it more salable. There are even agents, resources and contests, oh my!

The story of how I got published is simply one of diligence, hard work, and never giving up. I kept submitting EVERYWHERE. Finally, it paid off.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone's journey is different. But the one thing most people have in common is a love for what they do.

So, if YOU have a need to do it, possess a passion that doesn't die with rejection slips, if you’re not doing it to get rich and famous but have a purpose, something REAL and important to say, and if you possess the Balls and Bravery it takes to SUBMIT your work, you WILL eventually get published. It's your fate.

The rest is finding the RIGHT place, the right fit, & the right hands to place your work into.

So, GET the Writers Market Book, whether for POETRY, SCREENWRITING, or NOVELS & SHORT STORIES. Study those mofos! Find your markets, & then dammit submit your work!

That's it.

Unlike so many other selfish, insecure, spirit-poor writers, I actually WANT to see YOU succeed! If writing and getting published is really your dream, your passion, then by all means, go for it! Talent helps, but determination and *support* provides a Giant push forward.

When one of us wins, we ALL win!

Feel me?

I wish you many Blessings in your endeavors.

Keep Writing! Keep Fighting!

One.

Lin

15 comments:

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Thanks for sharing this, Lin. It helps aspiring artists to read what others have gone thru on their often arduous path to "making it." so, "NOVEL/ SHORT STORY MARKET," eh? I'll have to check that out.

I remember I was soooooooooo ecstatic when my second book, Owen Fiddler was accepted for pub by a small "traditional" pub house. by that I mean I didn't have to PAY to have it pubbed (like with a POD, which I had to use for my first book) - nope, they paid ME for the rights to pub it! Know what my first ever advance was? TEN WHOLE SCHLAMOLAS!!!

Felt like a millions buck.

Hey I like the new mug shot on the blog too!

Cactus Annie said...

Wow I didn't realize all this stuff about you! Just started frequenting your blog, guess I should check out all the stuff not just the posts. I think it's nice when people who have had some success in their careers share with others who are still trying how to figure out how to get over.

Nice post!

Somebodies Friend said...

I feel you!

When one of us wins we all win!

We need to stick together, and to hell with all those selfish, insecure, spirit poor writers that try and pull us down.

It is nice to have the support of my blog friends to keep my writing sharp, at least the determination.

What ol' Marv did in your comments above is maybe an option. I hadn't even thought of it, pay for the first one, the first publication, I'll look into it tomorrow.

As long as the 'pub house' isn't sleezy, and I can get the 'exposure' that I desire, why not look into it. Money is a little tight right now, but it never hurts to keep all options open.

Lovebabz said...

Keeping the faith.

Thanks.

PuertoVallartaGirl said...

I've got the writers handbook. and somehow I am procrastinating. But this is exactly what I needed to hear. Exactly. Thanks so much. Serendepity. and god. and you.

Kin'shar said...

Thanks for that...my little girl wants to write her own cook book..Named fourth graders can cook too. Didnt know that you write...nice!

Breathless said...

Thanks for sharing, Nothing good comes easy!

Mizrepresent said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! See, this is one of the reasons i love my Blog FAM, because i have chosen you amongst the many for your spirit, your giving nature and your wonderful talent. I have always had just a few goals where writing was concerned. First was, like you to get something into Essence (well Hallujuah and Hurray - 1 quote November 2008 issue...it happened). Now of course i'm shooting for an article or more. Also on my list, to write something for Oprah's mag. But, what is most important to me on this writing journey is to write that novel, that book that the world really gets. To turn that book into a screenplay, that surprises the masses. I've got some original ideas, but it will take passion, aggression, dedication, and maybe a little pain to birth this baby...Thanks for the inspiration Lin!

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. It does my heart good to know there's yet another generous spirit out here spreading good karma. :)

QH said...

This really touched me, as a writet myself. For me, it is about bringing attention to the music artists and their craft through my words, I'm just trying to find that damn platform.

The market books you discussed, would those have a section for music or music commentation and/or writers?

For me though, my integrity is at the forefront, I'd never just write about an act because they were "it" or "vintage cool," it has to be someone that moves me, and that I know would move others.

But thank you for this.-QH

Keith said...

Your Story is our story brother, all of us..I had given up on writing altogether and hadn't written anything but a poem here and there for a few years when my wife discovered blogs and told me that I should start writing again.
I was resistant..but she kept after me and we set up "Keith's Space"...but that wasn't enough..she knew I liked to write Fiction and Poetry so she helped me set up "Escapades" this summer.
I have never been happier..and like Miz said..I have met so many talented and wonderful people such as yourself since I started blogging..This opened up a whole new world to me.

I'm now working on what might be my first novel..Maybe I'll get it
published..Maybe I won't..but the real joy for me is in the creating.

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Yo dawg - time to post something - I miss your pontifications - need another dose of ONE! (smile)

a.digs said...

Thanks for sharing that info! I really needed to hear that. I am struggling right now myself to break into the world of journalism. I can recall writing, well, since I could read. My mother was a Language Arts teacher, and I've always been a reader.

I've been literally writing since I was about 7 or 8 years old and have won state competitions in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. I never stuck with it because of influences from family members who never supported it. I was told to stop dreaming and prepare myself for college. I went on and did just that, and after 15 years, I have found myself back to square one. I got severly hurt on the job in 2003 in a freak accident, and was subsequently released from the most successful job I had in my life. Now is the time to believe myself, and your post has helped me to refocus. Thanks to moanerplicity for being real!!!

Anna Renee said...

Dammit man! You up in Essence?
*on my way to the library's bound periodicals section*

Moanerplicity said...

@ Anna

Yes... My work was in Essence Magazine, twice. The 1st copy had Spike & Joie Lee on the cover & the poem is called "Art Groupie in Exile." The 2nd time, featured Jody Watley on the cover & the poem was called "History Lesson?"
Yes, with a question mark.

G'awn get your search awn, gurl. (smiles)


One.