My earliest memory of taking an active interest in creative writing goes back to the sixth grade. It was my social studies class. We were supposed to take some sort of creative approach to writing about an historical event. I chose to write about the journey of the explorer Marco Polo in the form of a newspaper article. Actually, I went all out and turned the project into a period-specific newspaper, or more appropriately, a newsletter. I remember having quite a bit of fun putting the whole thing together, and I would have gotten a perfect grade on it, except for one thing: I misspelled the word “business”, repeatedly.
Writing and visual art have been the two biggest outlets for my imagination for most of my life. The problem has always been in deciding between the two. What has happened is that instead of choosing, I’ve bounced back and forth, and while this act hasn’t completely satisfied me, it has kept me going creatively which, I suppose, is what matters most. I studied visual art for eight years, aspiring to be a commercial illustrator before getting bit by the comics bug in college, which led to a number of professionally published and self-published works throughout the 1990s. This, in turn, led to some journalistic writing in the 2000s, including a brief stint as an editor at a short-lived pop culture magazine and my first, tentative steps at blogging.
One would think making comics would satisfy both my interests simultaneously. For a time, it did – but then I got restless again. I needed to get away from comics after being immersed in the industry for so long. Plus, I had returned to New York after living in the Midwest for what I had thought would be a permanent basis, and I was feeling out of sorts. I needed a new start in something creative again, and blogging – about movies, in my case – reawakened my interest in prose writing. So I switched tracks.
Then, in 2013, came a turning point. I forget where I first heard about National Novel Writing Month – probably somewhere online – but the idea of writing a 50,000-word first draft of a novel in 30 days kept coming back to me in my mind. It sounded crazy, but at the same time, it struck me as exactly the sort of challenge I could chomp my molars into. I solicited advice on the endeavor from friends who had tried it in the past, did a little reading on it, and after a great deal of vacillating, gave it a shot.
I hit the 50,000-word mark with a few days to spare, and afterwards, I wondered, well, what now? I certainly didn’t want to put this draft, which I had agonized over for the preceding month, into a drawer and forget that it existed. I knew it wasn’t anywhere near as polished as I had perhaps hoped it would be, but the act of writing it, plus being around others who were in the same boat, taught me a great deal more about writing than I could have imagined. So I got to thinking… how much further could this new knowledge take me?
Could I actually take this draft and turn it into a for-real, sold-in-bookstores novel?
Henry Fonda’s still deliberating with the rest of the jury on that one. I’ve spent the subsequent year and a half attempting to turn that draft into a novel and I’ve got some ways to go before it’ll be done. However, I have taken my renewed passion for writing to a new level as a result. If you’re reading this, you may be aware that I contributed a short story to a recent issue of Newtown Literary. I’ve continued putting together short stories and shopping them around. I’ve joined one writers group that has been of tremendous value in helping me with the novel, and another that’s been of good use for my short stories. And I’m still movie blogging, if that 12 Angry Men reference didn’t make it obvious. I don’t know where any of this will take me – but I’ll tell you one thing for nothing:
I guarantee I won’t misspell “business” again.
Readers, mark your calendars:
- The Queens Young Authors and Poets Contest needs your support! QYAP is the biggest writing contest in the borough, inviting kids in grades 3 through 12 to submit poetry or prose. The winners get published in an upcoming issue of Newtown Literary. Between now and September 30, you can support the contest at our IndieGoGo page, where you can learn more about the contest and the great perks we have for donors!
- Will you be at the 2015 Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference on October 3 at The New School? If you are, be sure to look for our own founder, Tim Fredrick, as he leads a panel on getting published in mainstream literary journals.
- On October 4 at 5:00 p.m., come to the Astoria Bookshop for Poetry and Coffee’s discussion of Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad by Alice Oswald. Tickets are free but required.
- Boundless Tales is accepting submissions for its current reading series! Submissions are considered on a rolling basis; the next reading will be October 8.
- Want to give your writing a kick in the pants? Heightening Stories presents the Jumpstart Your Writing online workshop with a session starting starting November 1. Sign up by October 22 to save $25.
- Delve deep into your personal writing as Heightening Stories presents the Creative Nonfiction/Autobiographical Fiction workshop. Enrollment is open until November 4.
- Work on your development and revision skills! Heightening Stories presents the Community Writing Exercise Workshop. Enrollment is open until November 10.