No press releases

Courtesy of Balderdash @ Wilfrid Laurier

Recently, it's felt like every writer that I know either has a publicist that announces their incremental movements, or, they personally blast their social media with proclamations of success. Personally, I find this weird.

Yes, we need to know about your next book, or when you're doing a public reading, but that's where my interest begins and ends.

Perhaps, I'm the one in the wrong here. Perhaps, I should announce everything that I do. It's tough seeking balance in an environment where, as writers, we're forced to have public personas, but writing is an extremely private and intimate pursuit.

Happy 2018! So far, I've spent this year judging a poetry competition as a secret judge, recruiting authors for an anthology that I'm editing, editing my next poetry collection, building a relationship with a kids' publisher through a rejected YA manuscript, getting a few arts grants, public readings and workshops. No fanfare, no press releases, just my daily grind.

My most powerful experience was/is judging a poetry competition, as a second unannounced judge. It's been a humbling experience. To be frank, as a person who writes poetry, I take writing poetry for granted. The poets in my personal orbit are all good. Even many of my friends who would never publish their writing, are competent at writing poetry.

Being surrounded by so many talented people makes you complacent. You assume that you're the only one struggling to write. Then you read 40 submissions and only 3-5 entries standout. Maybe 14 entries understand what poetry is. Few write from a unique perspective. Less care about their audience. The reality of how difficult this is humbles you.

Last year at IFOA, multiple authors on panels proclaimed that once you write a book, the work is no longer yours -- it belongs to the reader. At the time, I thought that was stupid. In retrospect, they were right. As soon as you write something for public consumption, your writing is no longer yours alone. With that in mind, we need to respect our readers intelligence. Write from a sharing perspective. And create a world that a reader would care about.

Writing isn't something you can do where you showoff how clever you are, and use fancy techniques without first giving the reader a reason to give a damn. It's one thing for the reader to hate the world the writer creates but continue to read and another for them to feel disrespected by a naively stuck up writer.

Another thing that bugged me was the brown-nosing and line stepping. Golly, I don't care who your friends are, or how great a press you think "XYZ" is. Does your writing suck? Also, if we ask for X number of poems, and you send Y number, are you telling us that we should have asked for more? Do you understand how this works? People, please follow instructions. Also, if we don't ask for a bio, don't send a bio.

Which leads to my last point -- post grad degrees are not an indicator of talent. Talent is an indicator of talent. I'm often the only person in the room who doesn't have a post grad degree when I'm with friends. This may have been the first time, that when I saw PhD, MA, or MFA in a bio I cringed. So many years of education. So much flawed, selfish writing.

If you've read this far, and you consider yourself a talented writer, do not blindly feel proud that I'm not talking about you. Feel humbled that you follow a pursuit that is filled with failure. Even the most talented, get manuscripts rejected. This is not easy. Spending the best years in your life in school does not guarantee success. And if you do succeed, sometimes the only acknowledgement you get is when you toot your own horn.

Peace and respect

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