I think that getting a chance to explore your field through others who have already established themselves in it is the best way to move forward with your own goals in the area. I know that for me, other, older writers have been simply invaluable. Right now, I’m working on putting an application together for the Anderson Center, hoping to get a residency out there in Minnesota for some part of the summer. I’m not sure why I’m trying to do this, seeing as though I’m relatively certain I have no chance of it, even if I do polish my submission materials to the best of my ability. Regardless, an older writer once encouraged me to apply to workshops and other opportunities, so here I am trying to pave my way with a bit of advice and a lot of gall.
In an American Literature lecture I attended today, the professor mentioned that Benjamin Franklin got to his station in life with “a lot of pluck and luck.” I liked that rhyme, and it struck true since it echoed his own Poor Richard’s advice that God helps those who help themselves. Pluck makes luck. I guess that’s what I’m doing with these applications: being plucky and waiting for luck.
For the application though, I needed references who were “authorities in my field” who were “familiar with my work.” I feel like that requirement (along with the fact that the 70+ page application has to be submitted in print, via mail, with a self-addressed stamped envelope) might turn off some people from applying. Surely the pool of applicants for a Minnesota retreat with such old-fashioned submission guidelines can’t be too competitive, right? I’m probably wrong. I usually am. That doesn’t discourage me.
Anyways, the point I am slowly winding to is that I feel incredibly lucky to actually know editors and publishers of speculative fiction who are able (and willing!) to vouch for me as a candidate for the residency. Yet, that’s only this fringe benefit to having them in my life. Access to people willing to read my writing (even just short bits of it) and then point me in a direction means I have a compass where other writers are just blind in the ocean of literary adventure. Upon reading my submission materials, one of my references remarked on the nature of my short story, and suggested I take it to Shimmer and try to publish with them. I’m going to try just that. Even if nothing comes from it, at least he’s got me trying to publish my short stories again. A little inspiration goes a long way when it comes to the advice and encouragement of people who have been at this game a little longer than you have.
I’m so excited for my million-to-one odds in this.