Is All Published Work Really Created Equal? Or When Taking "Baby Steps" Aren’t Enough Anymore

Sorry for going dark again, but I had to think hard about what I wanted to do next, and I needed the write words to come to me, and they have.

At the outset of this blog, I said I was unpublished, and it’s true, but only in terms of being paid.

Last summer, my old critique heard about these anthologies that were looking for submissions, and they all suggested I submit to them as they did,

At first, I resisted. Why? Because I wasn’t getting paid to contribute, and it won’t count as a clip I can use, since I wasn’t paid and the anthologies weren’t from a well-known press.

So, why’d I submit anyway? One reason only-
I was tired of hearing “No” from agents I queried my books to.

They accepted nearly everything sent in, no fierce competition was nice, but it felt hollow to get published this way. The few short stories I’ve written are longer than most magazines are willing to consider, 500 word gems do not come easy to me, no matter how much I work them.

Another perk was these anthologies didn’t want “All rights” as most magazines do now, and I’ve yet to learn how to write things I know I won’t want to reuse the same world and characters but still have the level of quality and care put into it.

I thought if I’d be able to let go of my frustrations if I sent those anthologies my stories because I knew they wouldn’t say “No” unless I submitted too late and all spots were spoken for, but that didn’t happen.

Even now, nearly six months later, and despite all my efforts to do so, I don’t feel any different about this.

Everyone in my group and other writers I know preached to me it doesn’t matter and that I should be grateful I was published somewhere at all whether I was paid or not, but they don’t understand how I feel, because they have other things they’re good at, things people value and are paid for their hard work. Even if they never get published (Which would be a shame because I know how good they are) they do so many other things that make them feel needed and feel some sense of accomplishment, even if they hate the job.

I know there many writers who believe any non-scam published work means something, and yet many writers believe writers disserve to be paid for their hard work. I think both points are valid, but even though many writers don’t make a living solely through their words, it doesn’t mean we always want to give or work away for free. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being charitable and sharing what help I can offer to my fellow writers, we all need some kind of support, but I still want to be paid for some of my hard work, and I don’t think that’s shallow to feel that way.

I know these are frustrations I’ll always have to deal with, just like the writers before me, but I hope solace comes for me sooner rather than later.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you handle setbacks in your writing career? What helps you make peace with the waiting game we in the business always play?

Did writing stop being fun for you? Were there times you felt like you weren’t getting any better in spite of the months and years spent revising?

If you are interested in the anthologies where my work appears, click here, and search for the following titles.

Trunk Stories

Something in the Attic

Yarns for our Youth 2 (Not yet Available. Coming Soon!)

I might not update this weekend, as I’ve got a lot of reading and soul searching to do, but check back Tuesday, March 1st for an important update about ttheT.A.A. Prose and Poetry Slam.

Until Next Time, May the fantastical fauna be with you,


Career Themes and You!

Inspired the blog, “The Other Side of the Story” by Janice Hardy, author of The Healing Wars Trilogy.

Note: If you haven’t read it yet, click here to check it out before reading this further. 

I don’t follow a lot of blogs on a regular basis, but the ones I do are either extremely helpful to me as a writer, or they’re just plain fun, but nearly all of them are inspirational and deeply empathetic. 

In the case of writing blogs, one of the most helpful ones I discovered last year was The Other Side of the Story, by the author of the well loved Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy.

While I’ve never met her in person, both Janice, and her blog, have been integral to my meltdown recovery. Her blog is full of practical, useful advice, even if it’s not as easy to follow as it is to explain.

So many good writing blogs are hindered from being great because they usually (But not always) focus on the facts without taking personal feelings and setbacks into account. 

Recently she wrote a post about something I’ve never given great thought to before. Our career theme.

We all know most writing contains or address a specific theme, but did you know your writing career in and of itself can be theme oriented? I didn’t. At least not to extent in which Janice talked about  on her blog. 

When you really think about it, not all bakers, banks, and businessmen and women have the same ideas about what the job means to them, outside of making money or being a nonprofit charity. The same is definitely true of writers, even those who write the same genre or type of story.

Think about all those books about plucky redhead girls: Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables, and Judy Moody. (Judy might be a carrot-top, but I’m not sure, her color covers and doll’s hair looks reddish to me) All of these girls were written by different authors from different eras, connected only by their gender, and their heroine’s hair color, and their heroines are unique and distinctive in their own way.

All stories have a theme, or themes, of some sort, whether fiction or nonfiction. Every writer has their own career theme too, things you like to explore or talk about in your stories no matter what you write, be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

For example, not all love stories are straight romance, and not all romances are sex-driven, just like not all Women’s fiction involves dating or relationships. 

Now if only there were more books “For men” that don’t always involve crime-starved, perverted loners who drink and gamble to the umpteenth degree…

Anyway, back to the point, for Janice, her career theme is “Moral Grey Areas.” Stories that explore characters whose actions and choices are neither all good or all bad, and tough questions don’t always have a clear cut “Right and Wrong” answer. It’s bittersweet, open-ended, and arguably more true to “Real life.” Even if the world, people, and events are entirely made up.

This certainly doesn’t describe me or my writing at all, at least not at large. So what are my career themes?

First and foremost, most of my stories deal with friendship in some form, from making new friends, to keeping old ones, and honoring friends who are either dead or you’re no longer close to.

To me, friendship is vital for every person to experience, second only to family, and loving ourselves despite our flaws and quirks.

What makes friendship especially interesting to me is that unlike families we’re either born into or adopted by, we can choose our friends, and we can change them as we ourselves change throughout life. 

That’s why friendships that last throughout most of your life are very special to me when I read about them, I never got that, so those of you who have a friend or two you’ve known most of your conscious life, treasure them for those of us who have to live much longer to form similar bonds.

But like families (Either by birth or adoption) we hurt when our friends are hurting, and we they die, the feeling of grievance and loss is no different than losing a blood or adoptive relative or family pet.

One of the biggest advantages of having friends, especially friends closer to your actual age, is you can be equals, whereas with  friends older than ourselves or older kids or adults in our family, there’s a distinct, normal, and yet semi-annoying sense of respect and restraint you must have.

Of course you must respect your friends as well, but it’s not the kind of respect you’d give your teachers. sports coaches , and your parents and/or parental figures.

I’ve only recently discovered my second career theme, which for now I’ll call The Reverse Peter Pan Syndrome, or the T.R.P.P. Syndrome for short (Acronyms are fun, if not always easy to say)

One of the hallmarks with Peter Pan is kids never having to grow up. The reverse of this is wanting to grow up, but here’s the twist, you constantly feel frustrated and fearful of how long it’s taking to “Grow up,” at least in the ways we want most.

For me, it’s how long it takes to be more Independent, to not be so dependent on my family for money and transportation, and being so behind an burnt out on education.

I have to admit, there are times I feel I’d be better off as a kid than the depressed, undereducated, temperamental 20 something I am now. But I soon remember the flip side, for all the pain and downright sadness associated with the many milestones and mishaps of adulthood, I learned wonderful and meaningful things about myself that my younger self couldn’t do, or simply not understand. 

I got smarter. I learned to care about others and not just myself, and while I’m not 100% temper tantrum free, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as when I was five since I have better (Mostly)  self-control, and hey, even the uber mature folk slip up sometimes.

While I haven’t written much about this myself yet as I’ve just discovered it, anyone who’s read books by memoirst Kelly Corrigan and about the “Quarterlife Crisis” us 20 somethings go through, you’ll get a general idea of what I mean. Stories, both true and fictional, about feeling like a child trapped in an adult body, and not yet knowing how to make peace with onself, and feeling good about where you are now, versus when you were a kid, and loving yourself in the present as opposed to what you hope to be in the future.

I definitely have problem in this department. It can be hard to “Love the present you” when the thinks you can’t stand about yourself cause you and those around you, and live with, to be miserable.

Now I’m not trying to go all “Hippie Psychoanalyst” on you, but  feelings play more of a part to both the writer’s craft and career, than a lot of Type A by-the-book folks like to admit.

Unless your natural inclination is to see things in a highly pragmatical manner to begin with, trying too hard to be analytical takes all the fun and adventure out of the writing process, believe me, I speak from painful experience. Past and Present.

Often I think writers confuse the word “practical” with “paranoia.” There’s a not-always-fine-line between the two, and leaning too far to either side only brings frustration and heartbreak to the writer, and maybe even greater chaos than they already deal with.

So take some time today to think about your career theme(s). Just remember, these themes don’t just describe a paticular book or story, they describe you as a writer, and what you most value, fear, and/or respect the most about life and the human condition.

With that, here’s a quote by me that I hope I’ll be known for one day-

“Even when the story’s not about us, it’s still about what we, the writers are about, mixed with the blessings of our imagination.”

Hope to hear some feedback from you!

Until Tomorrow,
May the Fantastic Fauna Be With You!


P.S. I’ll update the Future Headlines tomorrow as I return to my typical posts on craft.

The Healing Continues…

I’ll do my best to have a regular post tomorrow, but for now, I thought I’d share some videos I found on YouTube that best describe the rollar coster ride my heart’s taken lately. Enjoy!

Sadness shouldn’t rob you of joy forever, but it’s OKAY to acknowledge it.

In the End, I’m NOT a quitter!

Thanks for those of you who reached out to me! You know who you are…

#1: This Literary Rat’s in Transition!

Dear T.A.A. Readers,

I know I’ve been a flake lately, mostly because I haven’t been living up to my promise of semi-regular updates on this blog, and just as bad, failed at adopting my new writer’s schedule.The goals I made for 2011 are harder than I thought and hoped they’d be to execute. 
There are many reasons to this, but it all boils down to this, despite my efforts to avoid it, I simply burned out.
I spent most of last year in denial about this fact until I finally snapped from the pressure and frustration I felt. In the eight years I’ve devoted to improving my writer’s craft, the last three, 2008-2010, was where I pushed the hardest I’d ever pushed for anything, and I do mean ANYTHING.
Though I’d be lying if I said I made no progress at all, (I honestly did) but even though I was more productive in some ways, in others I was more or less at a standstill, and I didn’t like it one bit.
So what was the setback that led to the standstill I’ve been in since 2011 started? 
As I said at the outset, this meltdown happened in stages, many of which will be the basis of future features here at T.A.A. For now though, I’ll focus on the biggest  one that effects my blog and non-blog writing: I stopped having fun.
In the last few weeks, I’ve started to heal the writer in me, he never died, but he was on severe life support, and I’m now slowly helping him fight back. 

I appreciate those in my former critique group, and my new e-pen pals for understanding my pain, and did their best to be a listening ear during the critical points of my meltdown.

I’m still not at 100%, but I’m certainly out of the fatal zone, so I hope to update the blog more regularly now. I still have big plans for this blog, so please bear with me as I continue to complete my recovery.

As always,
May the fantastic fauna be with you!

Love your Overemotional Editor,
Taurean Watkins