if at first you don't succeed

For the past half-decade, I have been sending out manuscripts in the hopes of attracting a literary agent. There have been multiple projects, multiple versions of those projects, and multiple techniques. I sought advice from other writers, hired editors, magazine articles, and websites. And over the years, I have collected over 60 rejections from agents.

"This project isn't quite right for me."
"I don't think I have the right contacts for this."
"This doesn't fit my list at this time."
"It just didn't resonate with me."
"The market is tough right now."

I don't know what kept me going through all the rejection. Maybe it was sheer masochism, maybe it was naivete, maybe it was stupid optimism. Or maybe it was something else: a deep belief in my work and what I'm trying to do as a writer. Whatever the reason, I kept going. Kept writing, kept submitting.

And last week, I signed with Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. I'm thrilled to put my work into her hands and let it go out into the world. For the moment, I am living a happy ending. Even though it's only a beginning.

the blessing of teaching

Whenever I teach writing at the Loft Literary Center, I am always amazed by the dedication of the students, the quality of the writing (based on sometimes crazy prompts), the bravery of the writers in sharing their messy first drafts, and the intensity of the discussions. 

We have been told that the Twin Cities is one of the most literary metropolitan areas and, based on the people I see at the Loft, I can believe it.

Sometimes I get to see these writers again and hear how they're doing, and sometimes I send them off into their own notebooks and laptops. I hope that they all continue writing because they each have amazing and powerful stories to tell.

meanwhile, over on the Loft's blog...

My co-founder of Snapshot Stories Karlyn Coleman wrote a great blog post ("Preserving Memories") for the Loft Literary Center outlining the background of the class/program. She tells about her experience teaching seniors in Princeton, MN, and my experience with my grandfather. She says, "We saw how the sharing built community, created empathy, and helped the writers grow." This was the impetus for Snapshot Stories: to give people an outlet to write and share their stories.

We truly believe that stories are powerful. We're so excited to bring our energy and passion to people who want to tell theirs.

new year's resolutions

Art is not produced in a vacuum. First drafts, sketches, or melodies might be created in isolation, but at some point artists need external participation whether that means a piece of art hangs from a gallery wall, is heard at a concert, or is read on the page. I am working toward finding new external outlets for my writing every day and despite any setbacks am forging ahead.

While it's best to function on self-belief and internal motivation, a little external pressure never hurts. That's why it was so humbling to be mentioned in Laurie Hertzel's review of the Star Tribune's Artist of the Year, Lesley Nneka Arimah. I saw her read at her book launch for "When a Man Falls from the Sky" and was moved by both her words and her presence. The Strib's overview of her work and her place in both Minnesotan and American society was spot-on. And being mentioned alongside Arimah is truly a personal call-to-action for me and my goals for 2018.

Minnesota, a state that once was best known for white male writers such as Robert Bly, Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, was developing a strong community of female writers as well as writers of color. Some — Arimah, Marlon James, Danez Smith, Sun Yung Shin and Bao Phi, for instance — were getting national and international attention, and others — Su Hwang, Donte Collins, Anika Fajardo — were well on their way.

new and exciting!

My fellow writer/teacher Karlyn Coleman and I are launching a brand new class this spring. Partnering with the Loft Literary Center, we are offering the first session of Snapshot Stories, a writing class that will help students get their personal histories from anecdote to page. The 8-week class includes lots of personal attention and guidance and culminates in a professionally-edited, full-color book. 

This class is perfect for retirees, new parents, avid travelers, or people who have life stories to tell but aren't ready to write a whole memoir. We help participants curate their memories, stories, and family/travel photos, memorabilia, and more.

Class will be held at the Loft Literary Center on Tuesdays (10am-noon) March 6 to April 28. There will be a final reading on Sunday, May 20.

Spring registration opens soon!