Open Wounds

Can I Revise That Question as an Answer?

Back to the fifth question from the CW Post LIU reading last month. I got a similar question last week from an 8th grade student at MS161 but I’ll tell you that one in another post because it’s more business oriented and I answered better.

I want to get published. How do I go about it?

She was a young woman with a big smile and she asked the question with an earnestness that broke my heart. “I’ve always known I want to be published,” she said. “Always.” She stood in front of me, nervous, smiling, smiling, smiling.

“That’s great,” I said, smiling back. We both stared at each other for a few moments.  It felt a lot longer to me so, uncomfortable I forged ahead. I’d just had a conversation with a young man before her who wasn’t sure what he wanted to ask me and I’d had to investigate by getting some clarity from him about his needs. “Do you want others to look at your work? Do you want to be published?” I asked these questions because I know not everyone who is a writer wants to be published and I want to be respectful of that. Anybody who writes in any context is flexing an important creative muscle and should be encouraged to continue. Some people write just for themselves. Some for their friends and family. I’d asked him because I wanted to find out what his writing needs were. This woman with the big smile knew what she wanted, very similarly to myself when I was her age. I wanted others to read my work. I wanted to be published.

But I needed more information to be able to answer and she seemed stuck. So I asked, “Do you have finished work – a novel, or short story, or poetry?”


We stared at each other a little longer. I took a breath and nodded. “Then… you should finish your book, or short story, or poem and… send it out. That’s kind of how it works.”

She nodded and her smile (I didn’t think this was possible) got even bigger.

Then I realized what an idiot I was being.

“Okay,” I said. “I mean try not to stress over how to get published until you have something ready to publish. That’s what I really mean. You know what I mean?’ Yes, I know I was getting more eloquent as I went on. Right about now I wanted someone to get a hook out and take me off stage with a yank. Or a brick and hit me over the head with it. But there was no hook or brick and I went on anyway. “And when you’re ready you can go to The Writer’s Market and search out markets to send to, unless you already have them in mind for your work depending on what you’ve written.  But, as my grandfather used to say to me, ‘How you going to get something published if you don’t send it out?’ So if you are the kind of writer who wants to see their name in print then sooner or later you’re going to have to do some marketing and The Writer’s Market is as good a place as any to start.”

“Thank you,” she said and she walked away.

Fortunately there was one more person behind her on line so I had one more chance to redeem myself. I’ll tell you her question tomorrow.

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