Guest Speaking / Becoming a Writer

This past Wednesday I had the great pleasure of speaking at Prof. Juárez’s creative writing class here in New Mexico. While the length of my publication history is pretty minimal, I have been around long enough, on both sides of publication, to know a fair amount of the process. We talked about a lot of the fundamentals – read a great deal, write regularly, don’t let yourself be crippled by doubt, how to format your work, etc., as well as some warnings about vanity presses and the friendly nature of the short story market – as well as some of the more modern aspects of writing, like utilizing a good online resource such as Duotrope or Grinder to find places to submit to and track your submissions. The world online has so dramatically changed publishing, it’s fascinating how now we’re talking about building your online presence to attract fans and impress an agent, if you’re heading in that direction, and the importance of your online reputation. And entirely aside from that, there are so many wonderful blogs to read!

The class was delightful and I was faced with a lot of interesting questions, as well as a chance to talk about how the Superstars Writing Conference had been such a help to me, but probably the one that caught my attention most was, “How can I avoid writing clichés?” Besides mentioning Strange Horizon’s delightful list of stories to avoid in my follow-up notes to the class, I could only offer the usual sage advice: know your enemy, so read, read, read, and if you can, offer to slush somewhere (become a pre-reader at a magazine, handling the first round of submissions). It’s such a fundamental question we face every day as writers – is this old? has someone done this? is this creative enough?! – that for a moment, I just wanted the hug the young woman and say, prayer and good luck!