My writing life has been punctuated by a series of exclamation events recently: I have been a featured poet in Blue Nib Literary journal, had six short stories published on-line and in paper over the Spring and Summer and won the Westport Poetry prize. I’ve been racing around doing readings, master classes in poetry, radio workshops, enjoying the wisdom of mentors as well as running my own literary evening, AT The Edge, Cavan and my own poetry and creative workshops. So, indeed, I have been enjoying the plot line, and characters of my life, but I’m wondering how this is going to finish. I’m just at that stage in the story where the reader is checking how many pages are left before the end. Where do I go from here? Having written a collection of short stories, two novels, and a second collection of poetry, what next? Is it time to try and find an agent or publisher?
Like most writers, I write because I love it. But I worry it is a self-indulgence. There is the world physically collapsing around me, flames licking the sky, the earth collapsing, people starving, and fleeing monsters and I am sucking the end of a pencil, wrapped in the comfort of my winter duvet, writing stories and ridiculous blogs reflecting on the ambiguities of life. It’s not exactly super hero stuff. On the other hand, I rationalise, I have no super hero powers. In fact, I have very little power. I am retired, unemployed, increasingly cynical, live in the middle of nowhere and so have little to offer in terms of making radical change and putting the world to rights. Writing is my distraction.
So, if I love writing, why worry about getting published? Because getting a poem or a story published makes me feel less hedonistic and guilty. Winning an award, makes me feel that I do have a value, a skill, that I am not wasting my time, and I am doing something that others appreciate. But really, I ask myself, really? Awards and publication is all about luck, and, of course, is subjective, based on the person judging. Still, it is validation. For, what is the point of writing if there are no readers? The readers make the writing – as is said at many a workshop.
I have been to a good few ‘how to get published’ events, received volumes of advice, written synopses, re-written synopses but still sending out material is a challenge. I have developed a thick skin when it comes to rejections from magazines, but I still feel a little sensitive when it comes to agents and/or publishers for I am submitting my ‘all’ not just an ‘amuse bouche’. Their rejection letters make me feel like I am the fraud I mentioned before, and also then lead to my writing “self-conscious, first person, micro narratives” like this blog to ameliorate my ‘hurt’. I quote Jonathon Franzen in The Guardian Review (4/11/17) discussing the increasing influence of the Karl Ove Knausgaard books where “the only authentic and politically defensible mode of narrative is autobiography.” Oh dear, I thought as he went on to talk about how the personal essay as developed by Montaigne, Emerson, Woolf and Baldwin (whom I love) are in eclipse. Now I am worrying that my written blogs serve only to contribute to the general slide into solipsistic analysis.
Publishers have a lot to answer for.