I have returned!

My last post (nearly two months ago) should have clued everyone in as to why I haven’t updated.  Things have improved and I feel energized after my school’s spring break.  The bitter cold and snow of this year’s unusually severe winter has finally subsided to the warmth of spring.

To fill you in, I had submitted a piece to the literary publication called Glimmer Train.  Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything yet.  I don’t feel that my submitted work was anywhere near my best, but I wanted to submit something.  Perhaps I’ll fine tune it and try submitting to a different publication.  What they don’t tell you about professionally writing is that you could go months before getting an offer for your work or, more likely, a rejection letter.  What to do for money in the meantime?

FREELANCE.

I’m going to try out a website called odesk.  It contains listings for small jobs as simple as creating a Powerpoint presentation for a company to large projects like ghostwriting a novel.  It’s something to do until I can improve my creative writing and, hopefully, starting my novel.

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Having the time

So, it appears I have hit the obstacle that many writers, both new and old, have to deal with on a constant basis.  Time.

Teaching is a full-time gig that far extends past the hours that children are physically inside the building.  I wake up around 5:00 am. and must leave the house by 6:00 a.m. on the dot, or face the possibility of being late.  My job begins when students arrive to homeroom at 7:30 a.m. and finishes at 4:00 p.m. (students should be officially dismissed by 3:45 p.m.)  Prep periods are spent cleaning up the room, making sure I have enough copies for the next few classes, grading, re-working aspects of lessons that didn’t go so well so that the others go more smoothly, etc.  An hour and a half drive awaits me at the end of the school day.  By the time I get home my body and spirit feel shot and a half hour relax period before dinner is nowhere near enough.  It’s 7:30 by the time dinner wraps up.  I have two and half hours finish what I need to before I get to my self-imposed bedtime at 10, but I never get to bed before 11.  After five or so hours of sleep I wake up to do it all over again.  

Saturdays are the only days my wife and I can do anything together.  Sunday is my rest and recoup day, with the evening filled with lesson planning for the school week about to begin as well as more grading.  Although I do my best during this routine to accomplish as much as I can, I’m still behind in posting grades in my school’s online grade book and I sometimes don’t finalize my lesson plans until Monday (yes, I at least make Monday’s plan by Sunday night).

Despite all that, I still love being a teacher.  Finding the time to write around the schedule my profession demands has been challenging.  Luckily the Glimmer Train contest for short stories from new writers has a one week grace period.  My story revolves around a father and young daughter coping with the mother’s early death.  I’m passionate about this story and how the characters grow from the beginning to the end, trying to wrestle with the eternal question of why we are mortal.

Wish me luck.

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Contests

Two contests are ending February 28th.

The Ledge Magazine – Short Story Award
– $1,000 for first prize, plus publication
– Submissions are to be up to 7,500 words

Glimmer Train Press – Short Story Award for New Writers
-$1,500 for first prize, plus publication
-Submissions are to be between 1,200 and 12,000 words
– Only writers that have never had their writing published in a publication with a circulation over 5,000
– Probably my best shot at an initial award since published authors can’t enter

There are contests going on all the time, but I’m going to tackle these two first and see how it goes.  If you’re interested in finding more contests there are many posted on Poets and Writers

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Establishing a Platform

Several sources have given the same word of advice to new writers, build a platform.  That means get your name out there, establish your presence among the masses, and continue to build fans.  The advice goes on to suggest that new writers need to start building a platform immediately, even before you start writing a novel (if novel writing is your goal… which it is).

Publishers look at the marketability of you and your writing, but they also look at how much of an effort you put into marketing yourself.  Publishers don’t want to do all the leg work or work with a writer that isn’t a team player.  This means publishers are going to likely choose a mediocre manuscript from a writer with an excellent ability to promote his work over a guy that submits a brilliant manuscript that is completely unknown and unwilling to sell himself.

Boy, if that’s the case then I have a long way to go before a publisher even glances at any of my work.  So how do I even start to establish my platform as a writer?  Here are the suggested ways:

1.  Online Social Networking

Set up a blog that’s updated daily.  Include useful information as well as updates on any progress on literary works.  Contests and give-a-ways were suggested in many of the sources I researched (we’ll see what I can come up with, guys).  Twitter and other forms communication are encouraged to get word out to as many people as possible.

2.  Become a known writer

Wait, isn’t that what I’m trying to accomplish?  Well, publishers will want to know about the work you have done prior to submitting your novel manuscript.  Writing for a periodical, newspaper, or local publication around town can help establish your credibility as a writer and put some cash in your pocket.  There are more markets out there for a writer than you might realize.  Every word that you see printed anywhere was likely paid work.  Literary periodicals that publish short stories, like Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction pay between 7 and 9 cents a word for stories up to 7,500 words (about 25 pages).  So a 7,000 word story could, if published, net between $490 and $630.  However, while browsing through the latest issue of each magazine at my local Barnes and Noble I noticed a lot of the published stories were written by authors that had already been recognized for winning several awards.  So before I can expect to get short stories published there’s another way to both become known and make money…

3.  Enter writing contests

There are many writing contests looking for all types of literary work, from novels to poems.  For reading fees ranging from $5 to $35, you can have a shot at winning between $1,000 to $5,000 (depending on the type of contest, it could be more).  I’m going to narrow my search down to fictional short stories.  I’ll check around and see which ones I can enter soon and post my findings tomorrow, so stay tuned!

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Action-packed art by Jason Heuser

Action-packed art by Jason Heuser

Artist Jason Heuser has made a bunch of illustrations of American presidents doing some pretty bad-ass things. These images inspire a lot of fan-fiction (historical fiction?). My particular favorite is Teddy Roosevelt fighting Bigfoot.

Click the image to see more of his work.

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February 18, 2014 · 12:43 am

Buying some tools

I’ve been unsure of what kind of resources I would need to get started as a writer, but I decided to grab the Writer’s Market Guide to Getting Published, as well as the 2014 Writer’s Handbook Magazine from Writer’s Digest. I nearly bought a guidebook on writing a stellar first 50 pages to sell a novel, but thought it might be handy to have a guidebook that encompasses the big picture of publishing. The magazine just seemed like something neat and up-to-date that discusses recent literary news, contests, helpful new websites for writers, as well as a listing of a few markets to submit work (as well as how to submit to them).

The magazine has been pretty helpful, but I haven’t cracked open the guidebook. However, while checking out at the front counter the woman at the register looked at what I was purchasing and asked if I knew about duotrope.com

“Umm… no, I never heard of it.” I said, bending my mind around the name to figure out what it could possibly be.

“Oh, well it’s great. I totally recommend it.” She gleefully started to write down the web address on a scrap piece of paper behind the counter. Then she paused and slowly peered up through her bangs at me, looking like a kid that had bad news to deliver to her mother. “Well… it used to be free but… now there’s this subscription fee. It’s not a lot but… I still think it’s useful.”

“I see.” I acknowledged, still not understanding what the heck she was talking about. I took the bag with my newly purchased loot and the woman handed me the scrap of paper with the web address. “Thanks a bunch.”

“Good luck!” She called out as I stepped towards the door. I smiled. I was genuinely thrilled to not only gain new resources for my budding writing career but also to receive help from someone who apparently found a little success as a writer while still maintaining a day-job. That’s good news for me and my students!

After returning home I immediately looked into duotrope.com. For those who don’t know, it’s a website that helps you track your submissions and assists you with finding someone to submit your work to with a sizable database of known markets. From what I understand, the database is very extensive and even provides estimated wait times for responses to submitted work. It’s $5 a month, or a discounted $50 a year to subscribe.

I think once I actually have work to submit I’ll look into investing into duotrope. For now, I’m going to write.

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And the journey begins…

Hi.  I’m a middle school history teacher in the state of New Jersey.  I love what I do but ever since I was young I’ve loved creative writing.  I never pursued that passion.  I was very ignorant of the world of publishing and didn’t see much opportunity.  Now that I am older and wiser (though I am only 27 years old) I think there are many opportunities to flex my literary muscles.

My whole family inherited some form of artistic ability.  My mother was in fashion, my father does ads for pharmaceutical companies, my brother does CG art for a company that makes casino games, and my sister can make intricate culinary masterpieces.  Me?  Well, I love to doodle but I would never make it as a graphic artist.  I don’t have the patience or the passion to make food any more complex than I would need to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Creating and writing stories is where I think I fit into this family.

So here I am.  I’m determined to somehow find a way to break into professional writing.  I’m overflowing with ideas for short stories and novels, I even have outlines for a trilogy of young adult novels.  But every journey has that first step into the scary unknown.

I know what I want to accomplish, but only a general sense of how to get there.  This blog is designed to fill you in on every step and misstep along the way.

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