June 27th, 2012 • Posted by Mary Rosenblum • Permalink
I'm back from teaching the first week of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. What a fabulous and grueling week. I was accepted into this workshop, back in 1988, as a newbie writer. Wrote 60,000 words in six weeks. Sold my first story -- to Asimov's Magazine. Was exhausted. When I came back as an instructor, I figured it would be so much easier. One week.
Ha. If I did six weeks of this, I'd be dead! Dunno why exactly it's harder -- you're reading the same stuff the students are, I guess it's the need to draw teaching moments from each piece, identify strengths, show how the weaknesses can be handled, integrate the responses of the other students into what you want to say about the piece, about prose, and craft, and career, and all that. Think on your feet. Nonstop for five 5:30 AM to 11 PM days.
But ohmygosh, rewarding. This is why I do what I do -- to be part of that start, to share that potential for a brief while, to tweak it if I can, try to deflect that writer's trajectory a little closer to the bulls-eye he or she has aimed at. I LOVE it.
One of the things that was most exciting about this week was the career potential these aspiring professionals have. I asked each student to write his/her ultimate 'success' on a card for me, anonymously. I received many cards where success was defined as 'support myself as a writer'. And you know what? That is SO much more doable now.
When I was supporting myself and my kids with my words, I had to think seriously about whether something I wanted to write was something that NY wanted to publish. Back then, if they rejected a novel -- and they rejected some -- it meant months of my time that now had earned me zip. Maybe readers would have loved those books. They were well written, they simply did not suit the publisher's marketing niche. (And yes, I am going to bring them back as ebooks). However, at the time, my own creativity was limited by the necessity to think about whether that book could get through the gatekeeper of NY. I needed to pay bills.
Now, not only are new writers freer to experiment to find their voices, if the book is not what NY wants to publish right now, they are free to take the books directly to the readers.
Promoting your words is work. There is no getting around that. But what day job is not work? I love my day job. I would do it anyway, even if I wasn't getting paid for it, but since I'd starve that way, the money is important. But money is not the main reason I do what I do .
We readers are the real winners in this new world of publishing. Yes, we need new entities to help us find the way to cool new stuff in that sea of words on the internet -- there's a huge open niche for good review sites -- but we are no longer limited to what a small handful of marketing people think we want to read. And a lot of new writers have a much greater chance of supporting themselves as writers.