I’ve noticed that published authors have a certain professional way of reading their work. I don’t know if it’s practice or confidence but it’s definitely noticeable. I was at a NYC Writers Circle reading event. Two readers were selected from the group to read as well as a woman who has had several books published. She later elaborated that she used to be an actress and it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard a good reader say that.
Her style, sort of romance fiction, where reading the back cover of her book made me think ‘why does the woman main character sound like a doormat?’ (however, I am going to read the book and give it a shot anyway) wasn’t a style I’d normally read. But her writing was clear, concise, each sentence carried the story forward and all those other writing rules and advice you’re meant to follow (which makes sense as she also teaches a creative writing class).
She said she makes $50,000 a year and has two other jobs because that amount is not enough to live on in NY. That amount of money sort of boggled my mind. But then again I guess I’m a young, easy going, hand to mouth, flying by the seat of my pants kind of person who can never really afford to go on holiday and only buys new shoes when the ones I’ve worn to death get a hole that can’t be fixed with duct tape.
Anyway, when she was talking about contracts and deadlines and agents and editors- those things really appealed to me. I want those things. I really started contemplating whether it’d be worth it to go against my beliefs and write a novel first, try and get that published and then do a collection of short stories after. I’ve been told that’s the way it works, perhaps the only way. Make a name for yourself through novels and then, and ONLY then, can you publish a collection of short stories. (Obviously there are always exceptions).
Or, do I continue on the way I have? Trying to get as many short stories as I can published and then approach a literary agent and plead my case that there is a demand out there for short stories. I met a guy at the event who had a Glimmer Train anthology tucked away in his pocket. He was trying to read up on what Glimmer Train publishes before submitting some of his work. He said a friend of his had a short story published in a magazine once- only one story in one magazine- and the story got anthologized and agents were contacting her to see if she had written anything else.
He said how Glimmer Train and Paris Review are like the Top Tier of literary magazines and he figured if you could get into one of them, it’d be nice to have agents chasing you instead of you chasing agents. He said it stands to reason that agents might prefer to read through literary magazines rather than the slush pile.
While this is a long shot, it does make some sense and this has sort of been my thinking thus far in my literary career, but it was great to meet someone who was in the same boat as me. I wanted to talk to him more but then the readings resumed and after they ended he said goodbye and disappeared down the stairs. Much like Danny Wallace had his mysterious Yes Man, perhaps I had just encountered my mysterious Yes Short Story Man.