The adventure of becoming a "real" writer.

I know… long time  no see. But my busy, busy life keeps me away from blogging…

However, I have to brag about this: yesterday I received my first (personalized) rejection letter! And I’m thrilled.

Honestly, I have never expected to feel this way when I would receive the first rejection letter. I thought I would be disappointed and I would go to the corner and stay there in dark, biting my nails and summoning demons to make them help me breaking through. Of course, I was prepared for rejection, I did read the thousands articles telling about how J.K. Rowling has been rejected lots of time before finding a publisher for Harry Potter. But I also know how big my ego is and how I always need to be the first in everything I do.

But yesterday I received it and it made me smile. It  is addressed to me, not to the “author” and even if it’s short, the tone is warm and nice. It also makes me realize that the cover letter IS important.

I started to submit some of my children’s stories a while ago. I choose these stories for warming up because I’m more confident about the grammar in them and because… I love them. The cover letter was impersonal, simple and I must admit – not catchy at all.

 

Dear Submissions Editor,

Please find enclosed the manuscript of my picture book, intended for children from 6 to 9 years old.

“xxxxxx” is the story of xxxxx, a fairy princess who has it all… except the courage to fly.  When she realizes that people around her noticed she was afraid, she decided to learn to fly the very next day.

Bla bla  bla bla bla bla bla.

 

Never received any feedback to this message.

A few days ago I made and experiment. I sent the same story to the same publishers, only the cover letter was a bit different.

Dear Submissions Editor,

Have you ever dreamed to fly? Have you ever tried to actually do it? Of course not, you are (probably) human! But what if you were a fairy princess who has to fly everyday and  doesn’t have the courage to do it, just like xxxxx?

bla bla bla bla bla bla.

To this message I received a reply the very next day!

This means:

1. The cover letter caught the interest of the publisher.

2. The publisher read my story.

2. The publisher considered it good enough to deserve an answer.

Don’t you dare saying that my conclusions are not right! I will not believe you, anyway.

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Let’s see… Today is my third day off this month. Yes, it’s the 21st of April and since the beginning of the month I only had 3 days off from work.

Trust me, after ten days in a row at work (a challenging one!), the smartest thing your brain can do outside the working  hours is to be able to answer “2” when somebody asks how much is 1+1.

So, I’m tired and frustrated. I think I love to blog, I just can’t do it as often as I want to. I do it so rarely that I don’t even know if I really like it. I know it’s the oldest excuse in the book but I don’t have time! And I’m single. I can’t even imagine how hard would it be if I had a boyfriend! (well, it’s not going to happen very soon, I don’t even have time to check out men,  so no worries here).

Also, I’m sure I love to write. And I dont’ do it as often as I want to because – again – I don’t have time. Even if I have a couple of hours free, I couldn’t say that my muse  gives a damn about it. Noooo! My muse sleeps deeper than the Sleeping Beauty and thousands of princes could kiss her, she wouldn’t move. But hey! the muse is very alert in  moments when I just can’t pay attention to her, like when I have to solve three different problems now! My only advantage is that I (still) have an elephant memory and it helps me write down the ideas when I get home. Not all of them, but about half… and of course the most brilliant ones are gone for ever!

As it wasn’t enough, now I have this dilemma: when I find some free time, what should I do? Should I blog? Should I write? Should I try to do both (like today)? What is the most important: to write or to write about writing?

Hmmm… just now, after putting these questions down, the answer is obvious. So, see you next time… when I’ll have time! 🙂

Jealousy

Ok, I can’t stand the feeling anymore so I must admit: I’m jealous!

It’s true, the value of this confession is lowered because I’m doing it here, in my secret place, unknown by the people who know me in real life. But… it is a confession, it must worth something! Also, my perfect image in real life will not be affected in any way! 🙂

So, I entered that travel writing competition I was talking about. And I started to read the stories of the other competitors. Some of them are really good. But a big part of their greatness is due to the places and people they describe.

My story is… well, I don’t know how it is, but it’s not exotic. Sometimes I think it’s perfect, sometimes I hate it. Today I don’t like the beginning, the middle, the ending; the next day I think they are perfect. And so on… Well, in a month and a few days I will find out how it really is!

Sure, I was living in France for 10 months and in Belgium for another five. I traveled in Germany, Austria and my beloved green wonderful Ireland.  I met amazing people and I’ve seen great places. But they are nothing compared to eating a traditional dish in Nepal, or to building a house somewhere in Africa, or to teaching in South America. My places are wonderful, their places are exotic, different, special.

Anyway, I’m jealous of them. That’s it, I can’t help it. I will never admit it in front of somebody I know in real life so… shhht! this will be our little secret!

Not just another story

I have a soft spot for fantasy and SF stories.

Yesterday I read a  story in Lightspeed magazine. I was thinking about it even after I finished reading it. I woke up today and I realized I was  still thinking about it. I liked it on Facebook and a lot of my friends liked it and shared it.

I guess this is how I want to write. Simple, yet profound. Meaningful, but not in an obvious way. I want to make people think about my stories, hours after they had finished reading them. I want to be able to write not just another stories, but Stories that stick with you, Stories that people enjoy and feel the need to share with their friends.

Well, it takes work, I know…

Until I’ll come with an amazing-fantastic-wonderful story of my own :)), take a look at “Beauty”.

http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/beauty/

Lately I read everything I could about a writer’s life. Inevitably, I read dozens of time the advice to join a critique group. It will improve your writing, they say; it will help find your writing strengths and overcome its flaws; feedback is essential for a writer. I guess it might work, for others. For me, joining a critique group about 16 years ago, turned into such a traumatic experience that it caused me (probably) the longest writer’s block in history: 10 years.

So, here is my story.

I used to be that student who couldn’t wait to receive the task to write an essay, a story, a composition. And my teacher always asked me to read it out loud in front of the class, because my writings were just so “beautiful” and I was so “gifted”.

One day, my history teacher – who was also a poet – asked me if I ever write something else. I told him that I do,  so he advised me to join his critique group – one of the two groups in my small town (his arguments were exactly the same I read today in articles about the advantages of joining a writers critique group). I was thrilled: a grown up is taking my writing seriously (I was only 14!), I’ll get the chance to see if I really have talent, I’ll talk with experienced writers, my stories will be published in their monthly literary magazine, I’ll become famous! (again, I was only 14 years old!)

Of course, they didn’t take me seriously at the beginning. I was a child writing childish things, while they were serious, profound, mature writers. They accepted me probably because they saw me as an exotic touch on their writing group. I didn’t care. I carefully stored in my head every advice, every opinion, every joke, every single word said about my stories.

I got interested in the process of publishing the magazine and I offered my help. I learned to typewrite (yes, on a typewriter!) and I started to typewrite the handwritten poems, the stories, the essays of my “colleagues” so that the printing-house could publish them in the magazine with no mistakes.

Soon, my life got very busy. But I was happy. My parents were also thrilled (and proud!) that I found such a “safe” hobby, keeping me away from boys, clubs and bad entourages.

And soon they had to take me seriously, because my stories were not childish at all. Moreover, when published writers from other cities visited us (to launch a book, to have a speech, to share their experiences), they always showed genuine interest in me and in my stories.

I thought my colleagues were happy for me. I thought their smiles and kind words were real. It was not the case, and what happened next took me by surprise and defenseless.

Oh, yes, I became famous in my little town! Not for being a gifted and promising writer, but for having a dirty affair with the leader of the critique group (also the director of the “House of Culture” in my town – an establishment where all the cultural activities in the town are organized). I found out about this rumor in the hard way: I was 16 years old  and crazy in love with one of my classmates; one day he broke up with me for being “the slut who sleeps with old men for money”. When I asked for an explanation, he told me that everybody in town knew I was sleeping with the director of the House of Culture (older than my father!) for money. He didn’t know about it until recently… well, boyfriends always are the last to find out about these things!

And so, my reputation was ruined even before I knew what a reputation is.

Then… an avalanche of absurd events crushed me from all over. A “fellow writer” (later I found out that she was behind all these) stopped my mother  on the street and complained about my indecent behaviour and my lack of good manners. She went to the principal of my highschool with the same complaint. She told him about my promiscuous “affair”. Then, the wife of the director went to highschool, complaining that I was ruining her marriage (!!!!), that I was sending her mean anonymous letters (?????) and asking for my expulsion from high school for inappropriate behaviour. People in the town were gossiping about me all the time.

Luckily for me, my parents trusted me. And so did my teachers: after all, I always was the first on my class and I never had any problems at school. But they told me to give up on my critique group. It was the only way to be left alone. At least until I finish school.

I knew I didn’t have another choice. I was too shocked about everything that happened, too young, too unexperienced to fight back. Nobody in the critique group said anything to help me – with two exceptions. I didn’t understand why all these happened. I never bothered anybody, I was always respectful, I never did anything inappropriate, I always tried to help everybody.

Why all these lies, why me?

And this question kept me away from writing for 10 years.

So, I’ll never join again a critique group. God himself can guarantee for their good intentions, I’ll never believe they exist in a critique group when you start to be seen as competition by the other writers.

I always thought that travel writers have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I deeply, sincerely envy them and I feel I have every right to do it. After all, they are the fortunate ones whose job is to travel all over the world and write about it! A bit of envy won’t hurt them!

I was day dreaming a few days ago about how would it be if I were a travel writer. I imagined all the amazing places I’d see, all the extraordinary people I’d meet, all the exotic thing I’d do, all the inspiration for hundreds of stories I’d find.

Today I was surfing on the Internet and coincidentally arrived on the Funds for Writers website.

I coincidentally read the latest newsletter. And I coincidentally read the announce for a travel writing scholarship to Southeast Asia.

I know, the coincidence is a poor starting point or resolution of a conflict in a story. But in real life isn’t it just cool? A couple of days after thinking about it to bump into such an opportunity?

Well, I decided to apply. I don’t know if I’ll win. But I know I’ll do my best.

(day dreaming break: oh, if I win! I don’t care if they will not give me days off from work: honestly, if it happens, I’ll be able to resign without any remorse. I don’t care if I will have little money with me: I’d rather not eat for a week than not go at all; I don’t care if my family and my friends will say I’m crazy: I will prove them that I am!)

Wish me luck. I need it!

I have no idea. But I do have an idea about what a serious writer never ever writes!

1. Romance: Cheesy. Same old story over and over again: two persons love each other and something gets in their way. Love conquers all. Yeah, right! Like this would ever happen in real life! Who needs love stories? What is love? (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…) Definitely, serious writers don’t write romance.

2. Erotica: Blush, blush, blush. Blush. Blush, blush, blush, blush, blush. Erotica? Never heard, never read. Blush. A serious writer doesn’t even think to write erotica.

3. Fantasy: Oh, c’mon! Real world has enough problems, who wants to read about the invented issues of an invented world? Who believes in wizards, fairies, vampires, witches, magic, ghosts? No, not serious.

4. Sci-fi: Pseudoscience combined with fantasy. Terrible! What serious, normal person would ever want to read something like that? (happened to me recently. I quoted to somebody the fear mantra from Dune. “Is this quote from Dune? Really?”, “Yeah, why?”, “It sounds interesting, maybe I’ll read it…”, “What? You didn’t read Dune?”, “No…”, “Why?”, “It’s long and… you know… it’s science-fiction… Serious people don’t read sci-fi…”)Not a serious genre.

5. Horror: Disturbed people read it, disturbed people like it, disturbed people write it. Period.

6. Children’s: Anybody can write it! You are not a real writer if you wrote a fairy-tale. It’s easy to write for children! A serious writer doesn’t even consider to write for children. It’s so… not important. (actually, it’s easier to write an ultra-mega-extra-avangardist crap than a 500 words good story for children!)

7. Mystery: Ah, that’s not serious reading. You read mystery during a long trip or when you’re bored and have nothing else to do. If it’s not serious reading, it’s not serious writing.

And I could keep on doing this for every known genre and sub-genre. These are common phrases, heard and over-heard. No matter if you are the reader or the writer, no matter what you read or write, at some point somebody will tell you that what you read/write is not serious.

I love to read as much as I love to write. Maybe even more. And I read all the genres. And I have a piece of advice for all the “serious” readers and writers out there: just learn to enjoy a good story!

A good story is a good story, who cares about the genre?

Ah! And I guess I’ll never know what a “serious” writer is writing about and what genre. Superficial me!