An Ode To Clarity

February 15, 2018 § 13 Comments

Members of the Brevity staff sporting their formal writing daywear

Some time ago, I wrote at The Review Review:

…when a magazine elides their lack of cash compensation or makes it hard to find, they insinuate it should not be the writer’s concern, or a criterion for submission. It becomes another subtle signpost to writers: Your work shouldn’t be for money. At its worst, not actively sharing the information says, you shouldn’t care, writer. You shouldn’t ask. As if it’s money-grubbing or disgraceful or besmirching the purity of the art.

It’s not.

It’s perfectly in keeping with being a writer—even a “literary” writer—to want to be paid.

Today, jet-lagged and still trying to track down payment info, I am moved to poetry. With apologies to Tennyson and Elizabeth Bishop–

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I sit and surf the internet
My list of brand-new journals set
There’s just one thing they oft forget
To tell me if they pay.

Their mission statement’s pure and strong
They’ve published memoir, poem and song
Their limit’s twenty pages long
Now tell me, do they pay?

I read through issues old and new
Decide that I admire you
One detail more I need to view–
To find out if you pay.

We’re literary citizens
Buying chapbooks by the tens
Sharing work from all our friends
No matter if we’re paid.

We’re told to have a long-term plan
Submit near-daily if we can
But our hearts turn pale and wan
From never getting paid.

I’m happy to publish for free
Or for an honorary fee
To choose a venue for prestige
And sometimes I want pay.

It’s not a crime to build on love
To work together for the cause
It’s just that I would like to choose
To sell my words for pay.

It’s not enough to think it’s clear no
stated fee means no pay here. Oh
don’t default to author=zero,
Own it! “We don’t pay.”

There’s lots of ways to sweetly say:
We pay in copies!
Old jalopies!
Just the fame–
We’ll make your name!
We’re all hard-working
No-one’s shirking
We’re not sad or even mad
If your rule is iron-clad
For newer rags we’ll join the bet
But please be clear, “no budget yet”
For big-deal pages we’re excited
Just the print makes us delighted
But let us please decide ourselves
Whether to donate or sell
And tell us journals, far and near
(we promise we’ll still hold you dear)
Just make the information clear
Please tell us if you pay.

____________________________________
Allison K Williams has been Brevity‘s Social Media editor since 2015. She promises to wait another three years before again committing poetry.

Of Fonts, and Fate, and Marcel’s Letters

February 12, 2018 § 3 Comments

CollageBy Heidi Fettig Parton

In 2002, Carolyn Porter, a graphic artist by trade, was shopping in the picturesque downtown of historic Stillwater in Minnesota. Nestled on the banks of the St. Croix River, Stillwater is a place where antique and up-cycled-vintage stores abound. It was at one of these stores where Porter discovered a bundle of vintage letters and postcards. She didn’t know it then, but these letters would alter the course of her life.

Back when Porter purchased the letters, she wasn’t thinking about writing a book. Instead, her trained eye recognized that Marcel’s beautiful handwriting was both aesthetically and numerically complete enough to serve as a model for a font design. Porter had never before designed a font, but she was eager to try her hand at this creative use of her design skills.

Porter purchased the letters and immediately began the work of designing a font during the stolen weekends and evenings not devoted to her clients’ projects. Porter worked off scans of the letters and kept the originals pressed flat between the pages of a book she put away in her closet, not to be looked at again until 2011, when Porter found herself struggling to get a particularly difficult letter right. That’s when Porter pulled out the original letters for inspiration. In doing so, she was reminded of their beauty.

“I’d been looking at them in black and white for so many years,” Porter told me, “I’d forgotten the stripes in the background and the beautiful buttery yellow color of the paper and how some of the ink was denim blue. I’d forgotten about the ‘letters’ themselves as physical objects because I’d been looking at the words only as characters in an alphabet.”

At that point, nine years after she’d first purchased the bundle of letters, Porter still only knew that the letters had been written by someone named Marcel and that they’d been postmarked, “Berlin, Germany.” Porter decided—on a whim—to have one of the letters translated. It was like opening a Pandora’s box.

IMG_1124-web.jpg

Heidi Fettig Parton

Marcel, it turned out, was a man who had written a disarmingly affectionate letter to his three young daughters. He’d asked one daughter if she’d fetched the milk for her mother while she was away in Paris, he’d cautioned another not to pick blossoms from the trees, but to pick violets in the woods, and he’d asked the smallest daughter if she was still sucking her thumb. This was not the letter Porter had expected. She began to wonder why Marcel had been in Berlin.

Porter decided, at some expense, to have the other letters translated into English. The other letters were written to Marcel’s wife, although some included affectionate paragraphs to his daughters. Porter, however, still didn’t know why Marcel was in Berlin. An inquisitive person, she began looking for answers. Each discovery seemed to lead to another; the deeper Porter plowed, the more she felt a sense of responsibility for a story that seems to have found her.

Meanwhile, Porter continued her work on the font and in 2014, completed the design of the beautiful script font, “Marcel,” now licensed through a firm called P22. About a year after that completion, Porter was walking through a bookstore and spied her font—in the wild—on the cover of Anna Quindlen’s book, Miller’s Valley. When asked if she had any doubt whether the font was Marcel, Porter told me, “No. It’s like seeing your own child. I know every nook and cranny of those letters.”

Porter never set out to be a writer, but in 2017, Porter followed up her awarding winning font design by publishing the book, Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate. In Marcel’s Letters, recently nominated for a Minnesota Book Award, Porter tells both the story of her incredible search and, ultimately, the story she would piece together about Marcel’s past. The quest led Porter on a transnational journey, looking for answers. Those answers unfold gradually, layered throughout this book in a way that mirrors Porter’s own work to excavate the man behind these beautiful letters.

When Porter and I met for brunch to discuss her experience writing Marcel’s Letters. Porter brought along a few photos. One showed Marcel and his wife on their wedding day. Marcel’s bride was dressed in black because the couple was mourning Marcel’s mother’s death. In spite of the black dress, this photo shows a hopeful young couple, ignorant of the trials that stood before them.

Before setting the photo on the table for me to see, Porter held it to her chest and ran her hand across it a few times, as if smoothing out imaginary creases. Porter’s reverence for this photo was obvious. I could see something akin to love in Porter’s eyes, like the love shining in the eyes of a mother, proudly showing off a photo of her child. Porter’s eyes remained on the photo a few moments before she looked up to take in my reaction to seeing this photo. She would have seen tears moistening my eyes. I was moved, and not just by the photo; I believe it was the sincerity of Porter’s quest that filled my heart that day. Porter had been entrusted with a unique responsibility and she said yes.

When asked about her experience with Marcel’s letters, Porter told me, “The world is bigger now; I know more about history or, I should say, feel connected to history in a way I’ve never been before. I see how people are touched by this story.” None of this, however, would have happened without Porter’s remarkable ability to embrace curiosity and act boldly.

It’s entirely possible that the letters found Porter every bit as much as she found these letters. Through her tenacity and dedication, Marcel’s beautiful handwriting has been memorialized and his incredible story has been brought to light.

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Heidi Fettig Parton holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University. Her work can be found on Assay Journal, Angels Flight, literary west (AFLW), Agate Magazine, Grown and Flown, The Manifest-Station, Topology Magazine and others. Currently, Heidi is submerged in the risky business of memoir making and often forgets to make dinner. She wishes someone would invent the equivalent of cat food for young humans: an easy meal delivered from bag to bowl, deliciously providing all the nutrients children need (no, it’s not cereal). Follow her on Instragram @heidi_fettig, where you can see way too many pictures of her writing companion, Bilbo—the almost cat.

The Jet Set Life of a Real Writer

February 5, 2018 § 13 Comments

That Pulitzer’s not going to win itself

Oh the glamorous literary life—last week Dubai, yesterday New York, today Shreveport! I’m writing this in the back of a Lyft on the way to the airport, after a week of parties and book-signings, retweeting Shonda Rhimes’ compliments and brainstorming article ideas for major national publications, la la la.

Except it’s not for me. Sure, I live in Dubai (husband already worked there when I met him), but the last five days in New York have been focused on a client. A lovely author whose book comes out this week and who yes, was listed in Shondaland. I’m the writing coach. My work is literary-adjacent: support my client at a bookstore event, spelling names correctly on post-its for the signing table. Introduce her at the release party. Talk through ideas for articles. Work next to her at the kitchen table, updating my website while she answers questions for a blog about writers and their dogs.

There’s a persistent myth that “real writers” just write. Over at Lithub, Rosalie Knecht tells us how that got started:

It’s easy to forget that Hemingway and the rest went to Paris because it was cheaper than staying at home, and that it was cheaper because a catastrophic war had just laid waste to the continent. These writers produced so much material about each other, in fiction and in letters, that they accidentally crystallized a specific time and place in the American imagination as the essence of what a creative life looks like. This was not only a setting: it was a particular economy. Not only was rent cheap, but print was still the king of mass media. It was possible, for a brief moment in time, to make a living selling pieces to magazines. As a result, the image of the writing life created in this period includes no non-writing day jobs whatsoever.

When people ask me what I do, I say “I’m a writer. And I edit other people’s work.” Yes, I get paid to write, already a huge step, but I wrote a lot for free before I started getting paid, and I still write for free for venues I’m invested in as a literary citizen (hello, Brevity readers!). Even my client with the brand-new book is still writing for free—those blog interviews don’t write themselves, and even authors whose publishers pay for the book tour must write for publicity. Signing books is not “writing” time. Midlist authors—that group a publisher needs for bread and butter, but who don’t get press releases sent to Shondaland—mostly have day jobs, or spouses with day jobs. Small-press authors are often teaching full-time.

Most of my “writing” days look like this:

  • 6AM-7AM: Squint at Twitter in bed
  • 7AM-9AM: Morning routine, commute
  • 9AM-10:30AM: Coffee, breakfast, social media, that thing where I cross a bunch of easy stuff off my list instead of tackling the most important thing first
  • 10:30AM-12PM: Write novel (OK, sometimes it’s only an hour)
  • 12PM-4PM: Editing other people’s work, website updates, planning the India retreat for writers mid-book, the Brevity blog and podcast, punctuated by email and social media
  • 4PM-6:30PM: Commute, cook dinner
  • 6:30PM-10PM: Spend time with husband, email, social media, editing

Notice there’s 90 minutes of actual, writing-the-project-I-love time. Max. On a good day. And on a good day, that’s plenty. I’m writing hard, emotionally involving stuff right now, and there’s only so much time I can spend crying and snotting.

What works for me, what feels “real,” is making it to the chair five days out of seven. Writing on a me-project most of those days. That may not be what works for you—maybe you get 10 minutes a day, or chunks of weekend, or early mornings, or three days a month, or summer vacation. Your schedule reflects your life in an economy where rent is a much larger percentage of income than it was in 1948, and where most health insurance is tied to working full time. Many of us have kids, spouses, even friends we like to spend time with. On the up side, we’re much less likely to drink or cough ourselves to death, or be brutally satirized by Truman Capote.

When I taught theatre, I told a lot of worried parents, “Everyone thinks ‘Hollywood star!’ is every actor’s goal. But most actors I know make a living in regional theatre and summer Shakespeare festivals, teaching, recording audio books and guesting on Law&Order. Fame does not equal success. Success does not equal fame. Your kid can be happy and make a living doing something they love and are good at.”

Famous writers are doing more than writing what they love. Successful writers may never be household names. Art is not somehow purer if we do nothing else. Do what you love and are good at. Do it often enough to get better. Do it when and where you can. That’s real. That’s enough.

 

Rosalie Knecht’s article at Lithub is well worth a full read.

__________________________________

Allison K Williams is Brevity‘s Social Media Editor. This summer, she’s leading Rebirth Your Book in Kerala, India.

In Praise of Submission Fees

February 2, 2018 § 9 Comments

zz Nik book fest high resBy Nicole Walker

There is among controversies, a controversy that can divide liberal from progressive, intelligentsia from academic, diversity embracers from intersectionality champions. It is the great issue of of Submission fees, especially via Submittable. And I am here to claim my stake on the wrong side of this story because I just spent three hours sending three submissions to three different journals. First, I googled the magazines and saw, to my distress, that they wanted me to send them via mail. But instead of saying no no no no no, I said, OK. I have half an hour before I pick Max up. I can do this. So I looked at the guidelines. I had to back into the document because some of the journals needed page numbers on the upper right hand corner and some wanted my address and my email and some wanted blind and that was just three so I said, OK, no more than three. I fixed the documents. I pushed print. I went upstairs to my printer. Forty-eight pages of different documents covered the carpet. Thank god the submission guidelines had called for page numbers. I collected the pages into their constituent essay and put a staple into each of them. And then I thought, I should check the pages to make sure I have them all. So I checked the number of pages and their order and page 12 was missing on one and page 5 was between 9 and 10 so I unstapled and went back upstairs to find page 12. I found page 12. Resorted. Restapled. Then I remembered, I have to write cover letters. So I went back to the websites to find the addresses and opened some cover letters I wrote in 2015 the last time I tried this experiment. Then, I printed each cover letter and went upstairs to get the cover letters. I came back downstairs and remembered I needed Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes and where do I keep envelopes? Upstairs. I addressed those envelopes and then looked around for some big envelopes for the big essays and cover letters and SASE’s but couldn’t find any so I said, that’ll do and I went pick Max up from school to take him to a haircut and while we waited our turn we went into the crappiest Family Dollar that ever existed and wandered and wandered until I found 6 big envelopes for, guess how much, one dollar. Max got Cheetos (Flaming hot. I tried not to look) that cost $1.50. Then we went to the car to address the envelopes and stuff the envelopes. I put one cover letter in the wrong envelope so I had to unstick it and pull out the wrong cover letter and restuff that one and restick the other one and also use the little claspy thing for safety. Then we went in to get Max’s haircut which took an hour because Great Clips is apparently the new Aveda and the woman cut each of Max’s hairs one at a time so we were late to get Zoe and she had been waiting in the cold and was frozen and I felt bad but we still had to go to the post office. Max and Zoe waited in the car and I just walked in right after some guy with nine envelopes headed straight for the self service machine, and even if you are expert with the machine you have to answer 19 questions for each envelope to certify no you are not a terrorist and I waited and waited and kept checking the nice-people-will-serve-you-but-you-might-die-waiting line and realized I was going to die either way and the woman inside did not care nearly as much about what I was mailing as the machine did and she said that will be $4.03 cents and now it was almost five o’clock and traffic was bad and I had to call everyone who was driving a jerk which my kids hate because it just makes me look like the jerk but I am here to say please, poetry gods, please allow me to pay you $3.00 a submission for the rest of my life from the comfort of my chair and with the click of two buttons.
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Nicole Walker is the author of two forthcoming books, Sustainability: A Love Story and A Survival Guide for Life in the Ruins. Her previous books include Where the Tiny Things Are, EggMicrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg (only every third book has the word “egg” in its title)She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.

After the Summer Writing Workshop: Back to The Real World

January 22, 2018 § 5 Comments

fastBy Melissa Fast

I noticed the moseying around the quiet little town of Gambier, Ohio—stop by the Amish basket maker, peek in the bookstore one more time, grab a bite to eat at the Village Inn (Ohhh, the tater tots).  Suitcases were already packed and most of the writing workshop participants had boarded shuttles to the airport or loaded up the car and left. The few of us who remained didn’t want to leave. The spell would be broken.

I know I’m not the only one who thought it. Once home, I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter feeds and saw the same kind of sentiment—magical, fantastic, unbelievable. Status updates tried to encase the week-long experience of The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, perhaps to hang on just a bit longer.

I more than willingly entered this other world. For an entire week, I was spellbound in words. I dis-remembered contrary business partners and less-than-desirable job duties, while I also dreamed about what transition may await in the real world if only I could collect enough courage to leap upon return.

Last summer I imagined going home with containers full of new seedlings that I would nurture and trim and watch grow. Perhaps, one would rise so sturdy, I would climb to the top to reach great riches. The generative workshop was especially important last year. Having nearly finished a project that has haunted me for more years than I care to admit, I was afraid if left alone, I might stop writing.

During the week, my writing sprouts surprised me. I’d expected certain themes to surface that I’d been stamping down for years, but all it took was a supportive community (and a few nights of sleep deprivation) to start thinking on the page about dusty secrets.

When I wasn’t hunched over a composition book or my laptop, I was sitting with my kindred talking about favorite mechanical pencils and the pros and cons of ballpoint pens versus fountain pens. And is writing with an old-school, quill pen charming or pricey (new definition thanks to one of my classmates)?

Conversations with people from around the world or just around the state, newbies or those I’ve idolized, revealed not only that we are all serious about the craft of writing, but that in most cases we’re full-on nut jobs—all worrying if we are good enough, smart enough or have enough cheek to get words on a page in a way that others may read.

As I meandered through the bookstore one last time Saturday morning, I ran into one of the fellows from another class. We were talking about which souvenirs we should take home, and I said something like, “Well, we gotta get back to the real world sometime.”

She smiled and said she had said something like this to her instructor, to which the sage replied, “What if this is the real world?”

I felt the heat of renegade tears coming and excused myself. Standing outside in the sun, I tried to convince myself I was simply tired from one long, exhausting week, and goodbyes were always hard.

Admittedly, it was great to be back in my own bed after a week of sleeping on a dorm mattress that felt like it was stuffed with plastic coat hangers. Nonetheless, my dreams fitful—part of me here and part of me still at Kenyon.

Tears were still with me when I awoke.

I expected re-entry to be tough. This was not my first journey to never-never land. From pencils to syntax to craft, I have always loved the complete immersion into all things writing, and yet, I knew my day-job woes would still be there when I returned.

The only difference is that I think my people at Kenyon helped me see that my two worlds may need to be one, and once upon a time may be now.
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Melissa Fast is a nonfiction writer from the Midwest. She spins words during the day as a public relations professional in the nonprofit world. In her free time, she slugs large quantities of French-press coffee as she plays with words in hopes of making sense of the world around her. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and was selected as one of the winners in the 2017 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards from the South Carolina Writers Association. Her work has also appeared in Minerva’s Rising and Bluestem Magazine.
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** Registration is open for the 2018 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.

 

 

That’s Not How Any of This Works

January 16, 2018 § 11 Comments

Vintage black and white photo of man and woman in Victorian dress on penny farthing bicycle with square wheels.

Pedal harder, I think we’re going somewhere!

What do we mean by “literary citizenship”? At Salon, Becky Tuch sums it up nicely:

…most agree that good Literary Citizenship entails buying from local bookstores, attending readings, subscribing to literary magazines, interviewing writers, reviewing books, reading a friend’s manuscript, blurbing books, and so on.

And while Tuch (and I) agree with the spirit of these activities, she questions their hidden purpose. Why must we be literary citizens? Because publishers barely market mid-list and literary authors. Because Amazon has radically changed the bookstore and Wattpad has disrupted the publishing pipeline. But as Tuch points out,

the burden to ameliorate the negative effects of these industry changes falls not upon those responsible for said changes, but upon writers.

We must market. We must build platform. We must generate enough profit that the publisher will ask us to make more money for them. Writers are urged to spend hard cash on publicity and countless hours making deposits into the bank of goodwill so they can withdraw favors when the time comes. Or we can self-publish, working even harder but keeping the profit–if there is any.

Literary citizenship works when it builds community. When it feeds the writer, and contributes to, as Jane Friedman writes,

…an abundance mindset. It’s not about competition, but collaboration. If I’m doing well, that’s going to help you, too, in the long term. We’re not playing a zero-sum game where we hoard resources and attention. There’s plenty to go around.

I enjoy the abundance mindset, and I feel good helping others. Not just virtuous, or morally superior, but genuinely good.

I didn’t always feel that way. You know that sharp sting of envy when a writer you know gets a prize or a publication, and a little part of your heart yells, “Hey! That should have been mine!”? I get that too. But after deliberately practicing feeling positive about other people’s success, the sting is shorter. An unsung benefit of literary citizenship is when envy is drowned by pride:

I helped with that draft.

I told her about that residency.

I encouraged him to submit that essay.

So when I found in my inbox [subjects changed to protect the ignorant]: “I finished my history of barrel-making and a book of lyric poetry about mysticism. Do you know any agents or publishers I could send them to?” my reaction surprised me.

Um, no.

I remonstrated: Come on, Allison, this is a perfectly nice person you met at a party. You’ve passed on recommendations to lots of other writers you barely know. Why not this one?

Because that’s not how any of this works.

  1. Do your own damn homework. Basic googling brings up lists of agents. Manuscript Wishlist gets even more specific. Ask writer friends about particular matches. It’s the difference between “I’m naked, tell me what clothes I can buy” and “Red shirt or green blouse with these pants?”
  2. Seriously, do the homework. Two different genres, two different subjects–pick one for now. When you’re famous and well-published, then bring out your wildly different book. Agents want debut authors focused on one topic or genre.
  3. I’ve never read this person’s work. Useful recommendations come from knowing your work and the craft level you’ve reached. Classes, workshops and conferences are great places to get professionals to read your work, and you can buy that benefit with tuition. Local writing groups (try Meetup) get you fellow readers for free.
  4. Be part of the community you want favors from. This author has never read my work (that I know of), bought my book, retweeted something I linked, written a review of the Brevity Podcast or even commented on a personal Facebook status. I do not feel connected in a favor-asking way. 4/5 of those ways to connect are free of charge.
  5. Know how big the ask is. Personally recommending an agent or a publisher is a fairly big deal. If you don’t have a close connection, join a Facebook group for authors in your genre, spend some time being helpful in the group, then ask for recommendations in a post. Plenty of people will weigh in with information also benefiting the whole group. On a personal level, my friend of twenty years recommended me to his agent…after reading my whole manuscript and concluding he wouldn’t be embarrassed. If a teacher mentions they’ll connect you with their agent, take an honest look at whether the agent is a good match, then send your best draft, hopefully making your teacher look like a gifted talent-spotter.

(My most-recommended source for a good grounding in basic publishing info and etiquette is literary agent Janet Reid’s blog. Start with the links halfway down on the right headed Rules For Writers.)

It’s not fair that writers are obliged to labor considerably more than they used to to generate sales, or that “self-publicist” is practically a full-time job. But it’s reality. So learn how it works, do it slow, and do it right.

__________________________________________

Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor, and not usually this cranky.

 

Ready, Set, Residency

January 11, 2018 § 13 Comments

How can I say “my children are driving me nuts,” but artistically?

Maybe you’ve got a dream residency. Or you’ve never been to an artist retreat, but it sounds like a great idea. There are residencies around the world at all prices, lengths, and amounts of coddling. Some feel like a new family, eating communal meals and hanging out at the swimming hole. Others are truly retreats, one writer in their own space with no-one to talk to (bliss!). I–and plenty of other writers–have self-made residencies, shacking up in hotels, religious centers, or remote cabins. One of my most productive “residencies” was four days in a small-town AirBnB after attending a writing workshop. Rather than rush back into my day-to-day, I could apply the revisions my teacher suggested, and write from ideas generated in class.

Even if you don’t have a place in mind, prepping for an imagined future residency is useful for your writing career. Updating your resume makes you ready for sudden opportunities. Devising an “artist statement” can help set writing intentions for the months to come. It’s worth it to:

Update Your CV. Make a writing-focused resume, emphasizing aspects of your other jobs that make you a perfect teacher/writer-in-residence/candidate for something cool, and a separate “publication list” where you list everything you have ever written that has gone public. Don’t list personal blog posts–but mention the blog and say what you write about. Save the big version for reference, then pare it to 2-5 pages of the most relevant experience and best publications. (Pro Tip: organize your published work by genre if your best credit is farther down the list by date.) Then joyfully slash it to a paragraph on your overall career development, a shortlist of writing-related jobs, and your 5-10 top publications. Some applications ask for one page, so agonize now instead of at 10PM before a midnight deadline.

Write an Artist Statement. It sounds intimidating, but an Artist Statement is basically, “This is the kind of work I do, because I want to have this effect on that community. I’ve already explored these subjects and topics, and now I’m pushing my boundaries in this medium/style/venue/genre.” Writing this down helps you remember why you’re writing, and what you want to achieve. Here’s a great guide to writing an Artist Statement. Make a 500-word version, one that fits on a page, and one that’s a paragraph. Now you’re ready to copy-paste that information into a grant application, or next year’s holiday card. (I guarantee none of your relatives will suggest you write teen vampire novels after that.)

Write a Cover Letter. Again, agonize now, not at the last minute. Ask a pal who’s gotten into a residency to share their cover letter and Mad-Libs that sucker until it’s your own. When the time comes to apply, fill in the relevant dates and information, and you’re ready to go.

Choose Your Best Pages. Put together a packet of 25 pages and one of 10 pages (the numbers commonly asked for). If you’re a novelist or memoirist, go for a complete scene or chapter. If you’re an essayist, lead with your strongest essay. Have a version with your name in the header of every page, and a version that can be read blind. At ElectricLit, author Sandra Beasley recommends:

Submit the strongest possible work sample for two-thirds of the allotted pages. If your strongest work is completely different from the work you’re setting out to do, make sure that other third represents relevant material.

Dream Up a Plan. What would you do with three weeks of someone else feeding you and no housework or papers to grade? How would you spend your time? What project deserves your focused energy? Sketch out 100-500 words apiece on two or three things you’d be thrilled to have space to work on.

By having these documents prepped, you can spend your valuable application time polishing and tweaking instead of choosing and worrying. You have time to have a friend proofread. To update your publications instead of making a list from scratch. When you find out about a great opportunity the day of the deadline, you have an hour of customization on your hands instead of 8 hours of drafting new material. And more importantly, you have a clear picture of where you are right now as a writer–and where you want to be.

What’s the Deal With Writing Residencies, a great interview with Sandra Beasley at Electric Lit, breaks down the residency process from application to departure.

On the Brevity blog, we discussed Glendaliz Camacho’s terrific post about reading applications as a residency juror, and how to write a great application.

The Res Artis database is a great place to check out residencies by date or location.

If you’re a woman or non-binary writer, feel free to friend me on Facebook and I’ll add you to a group that discusses artist residencies. For people of all genders, check out the Artist Residencies Info Share Facebook group.

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Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor. Her favorite residency is Atlantic Center for the Arts.

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