Don’t Be a Writer Who Isn’t Read

Test your development and gain experience by entering the Hal Prize

There was a time in my life when I had no doubt what I would “be” when I grew up. I majored in English as an undergrad, went on for an M.F.A. in creative writing. I spent a good decade of my life mostly reading and writing and reading and writing – and explicating a few thousand poems.

I have written at least 200 short stories, one play (Mortal Blessed – yup), one novel (The Properties of Light or The Consequences of Grief – depending upon the day) and a short-story collection (How I Killed Jack – no comment). Where is all this evidence of my toil and angst and sweat and tears? In the drive of a computer that no longer works, with a few printed-out copies kicking around in various hiding places around the house.

I wrote for myself, I said at the time. What did I care what others thought of my work? I was a writer.

A writer who wasn’t read. 

I now know that I feared rejection. I was afraid that my writing wasn’t “good enough,” scared to send my stories out into the world. They were like my children, those words on the page, oh so precious. 

Consequently, while my peers were submitting their work to contests and literary reviews and magazines, wracking up those rejection slips that brought them ever closer to their first publication, my only published work at the time was my critical thesis (“What Scientists Can Teach Fiction Writers about Metaphor” – great bedtime reading).

By that time, I had taken my first position with a Chicago newspaper. I fell hard; it all worked out quite well and, I believe, as intended. Yet that doesn’t regain for me that lost decade of my life when I was a creative writer who was never read by anyone other than my workshop peers and advisers. 

My point in writing this is to encourage those who are reluctant to send their manuscripts out into the world to send them out into the world. Specifically, this is an unabashed plug to send your work to us – fiction, nonfiction, poetry and photography – by entering our contest, the Hal Prize. The deadline is Sept. 16.

Overall, don’t be a writer who isn’t read, a photographer whose images aren’t seen. Extend your folded arms that hold your work close. Know that rejection is part of the journey, each one like a step moving you closer to the audience that’s waiting to hear your unique voice.