Hello once again, Dear Readers!
If you have been on our mailing list during the last several months, then you know that we were recently at Bumbershoot '00 here in Seattle. We had a booth at the BookFair with all it's traditional trappings complete with a "Literary Soiree" at the fashionable Elliott Bay Bookstore here in Seattle. While some of this falderal was fun, most of it reminded me in a BIG way that the "traditional" world of publishing is nothing but a very confining box (a very uncomfortable, confining box!). Let me explain:
While at our booth, I saw a vibrant, energetic, young woman approach the press next to us. She had a huge smile and open expression. Everything about her voice and face said she was an eager writer who had a lot to say and was making her way in the world in a confident fashion! And then the most amazing exchange took place between her and the gentleman running the booth next to us.
He asked her if she was a writer. She said she was a poet majoring in a writing program at a local university and that she had written several volumes of poems. But then she added that she wasn't "really" a professional writer though. She went on to say, "You know how it is? To be a real writer, you have to get a professor to really like you and then have him recommend your stuff to his agent and publisher and other famous friends. So, you know, it's a slow process trying to break into being a real poet. You don't get published until you get the introductions."
How very SAD?!?! And disgusting!
Here was a perfectly motivated, energetic woman with all the power of poetry at her very own finger tips, and yet she had willingly handed over all the power of her career as a "real" writer to her professor!!!??? She placed all her dreams of being a "real" writer into the hands of a professor who she hoped would introduce her and her works to the "right" people!!!???
PEOPLE! Wake up here! This is the freaking year 2000!!!
Look, I grew up in a family of college educated people. I went to college. I worked my butt off at University and hold degrees that I got with honors. I used to believe that I wouldn't be a real writer until some White Knight of a Professor or Publisher would come along and say "You are a REAL writer now, here's your book contract, your million dollar advance, and your schedule for your international book signing tour!" I believed all that BECAUSE my professors told me that was how it worked for REAL writers. I believed that you couldn't be a REAL writer until you were "discovered." In the meantime, an "undiscovered" writer paid reading fees, sent SASEs, revised till she was blue in the face, sent out some more submissions, never never never considered self publishing, didn't even think about self promotion, and just wished and hoped that someday she would be "discovered" as a REAL writer.
You know what happened after all my years of waiting-writing? My son died. Suddenly I didn't want to wait for someone to "discover" my grief writings because I wanted to reach out to other grieving parents TODAY, not someday! So you know what I did? I self published! And guess what? It is hard freaking work! And guess what else? I AM A REAL WRITER! I stopped sending out my cash to writing contests that either required a monetary reading/entry fee up front OR required purchase of the book on the back end! I stopped revising my works when an editor rejected them. I stopped waiting and starting talking, publishing, actively working to make a career for myself! And guess what happened?
People as far away as Germany bought my books. I spent my cash on publishing and promoting my own work instead of sending in reading fees to subsidize the careers of the "winners" in those contests that professors love to promote. If I got a rejection letter from one editor, I didn't revise a single word! Instead, I sent it out to another editor and another and another until someone "got it" and published it!!! I started an online Journal to showcase other writers and feature more of my articles and offer reality chats with other poets.
I CONNECTED WITH OTHER GRIEVING PARENTS AND PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD! They found me because of my writings. We found healing in our connections. We discovered that whether they had lost a child, parent, sibling, or friend that the loss we suffered was a loss that was deeply wounding; a loss that needed lots of time and attention in order to heal. I came to terms with Life after the death of my son.
And you know what? Life after the death of my son is ACTIVE and doesn't require that I sit around like a passive, "good-little" student hoping for the proper introductions. I work harder at my writing now that I own it, now that I'm responsible for it. I am (and my writing is) stronger now that I am not (and my writing is not) prisoner to some random professor's whim. And the ACTIVE work-style influences my life-style in general. Not only do I work harder, but I play in much more active and meaningful ways now, too.
My message to that young woman and to you, dear readers, is this: You don't have to wait for something horrible to happen in order to wake up to reality. Get active today! And, Honey, if you are putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), YOU ARE A REAL WRITER, and it doesn't matter one damn bit what your professor does or doesn't do about it!
Miracles to you,
Kara L.C. Jones, Dakota's Mommy