Am I a Writer?

FRIENDS, THAT IS NOT my butt in the image above. It is one more famous than mine will ever be. It belongs to a writer who, like me, prefers to write standing up.

He is a writer – no dispute there.

In my case – it is more fudgy. See…when people ask what I do, I SOMETIMES say *it*. That is, I reply, “I’m a writer.” But I tend to say it quietly. With dissonant caveats – “Not making a damn cent doin’ it tho’, har-har…”. You know. Kinda sneakin’ up on it. Like when someone says, “Are you quitting smoking?” and you answer, “Trying to!” It’s a yes, with built-in wiggle room.

So, let’s go to the Tale of the Tape as Cossell used to say before a big fight:

Writing for how long?  

Well, now. Let’s define that a bit more: writing to a deadline + writing for public consumption. In those bounds, since 1997. Mostly damnable propaganda for my Mennonite employers along the way:

“Why close your jacket with BUTTONS when HOOKS are so much better? See us today for Hiebert’s Handy Hooks!”

I have been writing FICTION on the other hand – for about the last four years. Early in 2016, I achieved a kind of orbital altitude — since that time I have managed to write every day, several hours a day — between two and six hours. Mostly in the morning.

Training? 

The weak link for me. Besides a relentless English prof at the University of Victoria – complete with a proper, tweedy London accent – I have little formal training. My BA in Sociology and a certificate in Marketing from Schulich do not qualify me. I live at the far end of the wild woods and so I have neither a nearby course to take or a group to join. Otters and pine grosbeaks do what they can for me, but I am a Googling fool, on the shores of Jessica Lake, where modifiers dangle and MCs are MCs.

How much have you produced?

Again, some definition – like Papa’s shapely calf muscle. Without adding bulge via photoshop or any other form of exaggeration, I have written 100,000 words in 2016.

Blog: Core page content plus around 50 posts. The posts run from 200 to 1000 words apiece. Maybe 10,000 words in total.

Short Fiction: 30,700 words unpublished…36,000 published. Many – oh so many – rewrites and editing scans.

Novella: 16,000 words.

Paid Content: Propaganda and “the truth with attitude” for employers – 5000 words or so.

Milestones?

Using Duotrope and Submittable, I reckon I have submitted about 120 times or so. I have had 16 stories accepted and have had two other stories find success in contests.

I submit to big, well-known print journals – mostly Canadian. They have so far (almost) uniformly rejected my work. I also send stories to smaller print/online reviews; to online-only literary ezines and literary sites; and to writers’ groups and publishers that produce journals or contests. I have 18 unpublished short stories that I am sending out as slush pile fodder as well as my sci-fi thriller novella, “Tafelberg”, which will receive a rigorous adverb-ectomy this winter. Three new stories near completion.

I am actively seeking chapbook and anthology collections for my published works.

A few of the bigger journals to whom I have submitted my shabby shorts have offered sympathetic replies of the, “don’t give up” variety. Sometimes these are genuine. Other times they are intended to cajole me into shelling out another $15 for their next “opportunity for new Canadian voices”. Yeah, right. More like, “so I can buy another jar of beard wax, you hopeless bottom-feeder!”

Either way, I usually do shell out, so next time see you see a youngish MFA with a fine, shiny beard or a new plaid shirt — think of me, brethren. (To be accurate, my observation is that there seems to be far more female readers and editors, than male. Furthermore, literary journals do not appear to be a get rich quick scheme. So, respect; I’m happy to shell out a little, here and there.)

Anyway, to answer the question, after adding it all up, I`m gonna say yes. I`m a writer.

Now who wants to fight me?

allfornow – Mitch

IMAGE — Hemingway: “Damn fine legs for a dead guy.”

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