In the late 1980s, my husband, three-year-old son, and I moved to Southern Oregon from Texas. I left a career in the investment field and became a stay-at-home mom. We decided I would homeschool our son when he reached school age. Around this time, I also discovered a desire to write. I took a few classes, read any writing book I could find at the local library, and wrote, filling many notebook pages and clicking away on my electric typewriter.
When people asked me what I did, saying I was a writer comprised part of my answer. This usually led to the inevitable “Are you published?” party question. My answer, no, was a conversation killer. Publication seemed to be the public pinnacle of validation that I was a legitimate writer.
So, I began my publishing quest, sending my writing out to magazines, publishers, and contests. This wasn’t as easy back then as it is today with the computer for typing and email for submission. A big part of the adventure was getting a clean submission copy on an electric typewriter.
I sent out many envelopes by snail mail. Surely, I could be published somewhere and finally be able to answer the recurring publishing question with a yes. I gave little thought to self-publishing, which at the time carried a stigma and meant spending a lot of money with a vanity press.
Within a few years, I had grown weary of my publishing pursuit and the rejection letters arriving in my mailbox. By the time I called it quits, I had one poem published in a little known poetry newsletter—which meant I could answer the publishing question with a yes, but few would recognize the publication if I was asked for details—and had won a first place award scholarship to a writers conference for my fiction. While grateful for my successes, the game had worn me out. I decided to take a break from my dreams of publishing and my fiction writing.
Fast forward twenty years. During that time, we moved to Minnesota. I homeschooled my son through high school. When he neared the end of his schooling and needed less of my time, I went to work outside my home again. I did a six-year public service stint on my community’s city council.
The writing bug hadn’t gone away completely, and from time to time it swept in like a virus and demanded my attention. I started lots of stories in my head and on paper. I wrote first drafts of several novels. I completed one during National Novel Writing Month.
Early this year, I decided it was time to get serious about my fiction writing again. One thing or another over the passing years had reminded me all too often that I wasn’t going to live forever. Get to work, my creative self prodded, or finally let it go.
I pulled out one of my novel drafts and used it as a starting point. I began to research publishing routes again and discovered the publishing world has changed quite a bit while I was off doing other things. I was overjoyed—and quickly overwhelmed.
Although still possible, the traditional publishing options seem to have dwindled, while self-publishing options, minus the stigma, have exploded. And if you call it indie publishing, it sounds downright cool. Answering that publishing party question with a resounding yes has become a much more attainable goal today.
All the options leave me with more questions than clarity, though. Which publishing route is the right one for me? What are the pitfalls? Will I even recognize a pitfall before I tumble headlong into one and damage any hopes of a sustained writing career?
I’m still navigating my route. I am submitting work to publishers as the opportunities come along. I’ve had my first success this time around. My short story “Making Contact” is included in the recently released (September 18) All Hallows’ Evil anthology published by Mystery and Horror, LLC. I’m cruising toward finishing a mystery novel. What I’ll do with it, if and when it is ready for distribution, is, well, a mystery to me.
What route have you chosen or do you plan to take to publication? Why?
Marilyn Pierce Patterson lives in Minnesota with her husband, two inquisitive dogs, and a cat with all the answers. Her short story “Making Contact” appears in All Hallows’ Evil published by Mystery and Horror, LLC. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppies, and is working on a novel.