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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turning Points

Margaret Fisk did a lovely interview with me specifically on the value of small presses. She's posted it on two blogs. If you're an LJ fan, you can go here. If you prefer Blogger, go here.

It's a short interview that expresses my take on small presses, along with its pros and cons. Feel free to leave a comment or email me if you have a specific question I didn't answer.

I should also be blogging at Samhain this afternoon at 3pm CST. I'll update this blog when that happens.


I took the day off today since Greg decided to surprise me and spend a couple of days with me. Originally, we had not planned to see each other for the whole month of June.

This bi-city relationship is difficult at the best of times, but it won't be long before we can live together again.

Greg's coworkers tell him it must be great to have such a setup. He smiles broadly and tells them it's wonderful. It's just like being a bachelor, except he's not allowed to date.

It would be bad for his health. :o)

This arrangement isn't all bad though. My writing career started because of it.

I moved into my house and spent four years redecorating, remodeling and gussying up the place. When that was all over, I thought, great, now I can do what I want to do. Ordinarily that meant I would feel free to start another painting, but instead I wrote an essay about my father. He had died not long before and I needed some way to express my feelings.

It made me cry as I wrote it and when I sent it to my family, it made them cry too. I had touched on the core of the man.

I never intended it for publication so I put it aside. But the writing juices were still flowing so I wrote a short story next; my version of Genesis. As I reread it, it occurred to me it might be good. But I couldn’t be sure. After all, I knew nothing about publishing at the time.

I found OWW and Critters and joined both. In the meantime, I sent the essay about my father to the Writer's Digest contest and it beat out 18,000+ entries to final. That bolstered my confidence, so I subbed my SF short story to my new crit groups and got some good advice. I polished it and sent it off to Writers of the Future. It too, went to finals.

That seemed to be the first turning point for me. I was hooked on writing.

My second turning point came two years later. I felt I had gotten all the mileage I could from my crit forums and decided to expand my horizons. I took online classes, live workshops, and formed a very select group of peers into a critique circle. Between all three of these, I noticed my writing was getting sharper and more entertaining.

This might sound weird, but I can pinpoint when my turning points occurred. I know the exact moment when I had risen to that next level.

I was at a writers' workshop, feeling particularly antisocial because I was trying to work the kinks out of my wip. Whenever I'm trying to solve a problem, I generally go off by myself. That night I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. I got up, pulled out my laptop and wrote a new short story in a couple of hours.

As if my brain were relieved of a burden, I was then able to drop off to sleep. The next morning I read it and there was something about the writing that seemed different. It was raw, but there was an unmistakable voice to it. It had a fingerprint that was mine alone.

I subbed it at one of my crit forums and was surprised with the response. My usual critters wouldn't touch it. Instead, I got a response from published authors. I was now "worthy" of being in their company. It felt both scary and liberating at the same time.

How about you guys? Could you tell when you were getting better at your craft? Did someone have to tell you or did you just know? Do you know when you turned the corner on your career?