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Archive for the ‘Getting published’ Category

I recently was interviewed by Katharine Hansen’s excellent blog, A Storied Career, on the transformative power of our stories, making a living through the language arts, and how Transformative Language Arts has helped people create careers doing work they love and helping their communities find and share stories. Check the interview out, and read other interviews, articles and amazing insights on this site, which explores the intersection of various aspects of storytelling, including writing, blogging, and speaking stories for individuals, organizations, communities, careers and callings.

Kathy Hansen’s Blog to explore traditional and postmodern forms/uses of storytelling.

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pubphoto11About a year ago, I had a writer’s version of the dark night of the soul, which, in my case, manifested in a Fedex truck spining its wheels in the mud of my yard. That truck was delivering back to me the manuscript of a novel I’ve been trying to publish since my teenager was in preschool, and it was being returned to me by yet another agent who, at first, loved it, and then, after a year of me doing all she asked in terms of revisions, found it boring.

When I saw the truck in the mud, driver ignoring my pleas to stop hitting the gas, I thought, “There I am!”¬† I also realized I needed a tractor to pull me out.

The tractor came in the form of a simply sentence my therapist said. I was lamenting to her about how my childhood dream wasn’t going true. I had thought, since I first started writing at age 14, that one day, a great publishing house would point its god-like finger at me, and say, “I choose you!” From then on, I would get published easily, my books would be read by millions, and my biggest problem would be deciding what to wear on Oprah. After years, decades actually, of paying my dues — helping and mentoring other writers, publishing newsletters and journals, organizing reading series and writing groups, and tossing out piles of rejection slips with an “Oh, well!” — no one was choosing me.

“What if the most powerful way of being chosen is choosing yourself?” my wise therapist asked.

Since that time, I’ve let that question work its way into how I see myself as a writer. After scouring off some of the superficial reasons for wanting to get published (fame! money! cocktail parties in penthouses!), I realized I wanted to truly share my gifts as a writer with people who would benefit from what I wrote. So I started sending my work out to smaller publishers, looking for ways to get poetry and fiction out locally, and tossing myself out there more as a writer instead of a person who does five million things, and oh, yes, also writes.

It’s amazing what a year, a lot of therapy sessions, several months of low-grade depression, two journals full of questioning, lots of talks with friends over hazelnut coffee, and some research on the internet and through other writers can do. In the past few months, my memoir on cancer, community and the earth was accepted by a small Midwestern publisher; my next poetry collection is coming out from a small, hometown press; I placed a few articles and poems; an anthology of writing about living with serious illness — that I’m editing — is being published by a not-for-profit organization, and I was recently named the next Poet Laureate of Kansas. Really! Okay, maybe this was a very good year, yet everything that’s happening feels clean and good.

The old dream dissolved into a new one: simply believing in my work enough to choose myself. And I find that whenever I share this story with others — writers, artists, academics, mothers, office workers or students — they tend to pause and stare hard at me. “Choose myself?” Then, just like I did, they smile and let that essential notion land in their lives.

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