When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
For a long time, I believed that a traditionally published novel or story collection was the endgame. I worked hard to make that happen. I submitted to innumerable journals, participated in writing and critique groups, took formal classes, and constantly sought to elevate my fiction writing, while slowly making connections with agents and others with the power to open the gate.
In the meantime, I kept my passions for food, health, and service separate and apart from my writing. When an opportunity to write about food and publish that writing appeared in my life, I could easily have missed it. My focus was trained so sharply on fiction, I hadn’t left room for this something else that was just as important to me. Had a dear friend not encouraged me to be open-minded, I wouldn’t missed my first traditional publishing opportunity. I’m in the process of writing a cookbook with Top Chef finalist Antonia Lofaso. Penguin will publish it next year. Traditional publishing is happening for me, but not in any way I would’ve anticipated.
Fiction is a harder sell. You have to complete the work before anyone will even look at the idea, and short story collections are considered throwaways by many agents. They’ll take them on, but only if you have a novel to sell as well. Novellas are practically unsaleable, right up there with chapbooks by unknown poets. I have a novel-in-progress, but the characters in my novella demanded their turn on the page, and I gave it to them.
In the past, I might’ve tried to stretch the novella into a full-length novel, because that’s what traditional publishing demands. Instead, I’ll digitally publish it. I’ll also comb through my short stories and pull together a collection to self-publish. I’m skipping the rejection letters from agents and editors, who don’t know what to do with such works. Although many of my writing colleagues still see any form of self-publishing as the kiss of death, I’ll find my readers on Nook, Kindle, and other e-readers, just as I’m finding them for my indie published raw food book.
It’s easy for me to focus on a goal and drive toward it. It’s more difficult to catch the side roads in my peripheral vision and know which ones to take.I may not always choose the best path, but at least the journey is my own.
Go write something.