Tip of the Quill: A Journal

So much is going on around these parts that it’s going to take a couple of posts to catch up. Some highlights:

  • Visiting the world HQ of toy company Hasbro
  • Designing the CMS Research Fair
  • Pushing the redesign of PhillyENT live
  • Writing a 10-page comic that shows real professional promise
  • Various and sundry other mini-events

The biggest thing that’s happened recently, though, came in a casual conversation yesterday with one of my profs here at MIT. Junot Diaz has been on my radar for years, ever since he popped up as one of the ‘hot young writers’ in Granta way back in the day. Now he’s agreed to look over my novel, Bones of the Angel, and we spent a little while yesterday talking about writing in general before I hand over the printout for him to read. During the course of the conversation, he let a small bomb drop that’s been having positive psychological ramifications on my head ever since.
All of my creative writing professors so far – all of them, from Triway to the College of Wooster to Kenyon – have prescribed the same path to publication: you write some short stories, you submit them to literary magazines, and then once you have a publishing history built up, you find a publisher or an agent. Publishers or agents won’t look at your stuff until you have a strong, established publishing history. My problem was that, aside from Inkblots (obviously) there weren’t that many places out there publishing the kind of thing that I like to read and/or write. I chew through novels by the bushelful, but there aren’t that many literary journals that publish the Gaiman/Carroll/Marquez combination of literary and genre fiction that I enjoy. This has been the bane of my existence for years.
Yesterday I brought this up to Junot and he says something along the lines of, “Well, yeah – for literary fiction. Genre publishers and agents don’t give a rat’s ass as long as it’s halfway marketable.”
Well, shit.
This gave me a renewed sense of hope, as well as a joyous cry of long-pent-up frustration. “Why didn’t anybody TELL me that!?” I bellowed happily in our kitchen last night. Of course, I probably should have figured thatout on my own (or listened to Laura when she tried to tell me as much before), but I have a thick skull, and have a hard time listening to advice when it doesn’t come from people with professional experience. My bad, and apologies all around.
As a result, I dove back into Bones of the Angel this morning and spent five hours today revising it. (This was a move of some questionable wisdom, since I also have some errands to run this weekend and I have to prep my slides for my presentation at the SCMS conference in Chicago this week, and, oh, yeah, THESIS.) But there is unquestionable value to ‘striking while the iron is hot,’ so to speak, and so strike I did – and I discovered a miraculous thing.
Despite my dread in the core of my soul that Bones sucks, it’s not so bad.
Is it high literature? Hell no – but neither is it meant to be. Rereading it I see my influences on my sleeve – there’s Gaiman in there, as well as X-Files and Carnivale and Doctor Who and Hellboy and The Da Vinci Code and a ton of other things I love. I changed the ending to open it back up for future episodes if this one proves successful, added another couple of scenes and tied up some loose ends that had been flopping around, and – perhaps most importantly #&150; I had a great time while rereading it. I love my book. I really do. I want to read more by the same author, which is both amusing and the source of much hope. I pray that others will feel the same way when reading it.
I’m going to print it off tomorrow or Monday and give it to some folks to read while I’m in Chicago, or perhaps I’ll hand it off to them once I get back so we can meet as soon as they finish it, as opposed to waiting until I get back. One way or the other, I can’t wait to hear what people have to say about it.
I have written a book that I would love to read. This in itself is an accomplishment.