My writing career has followed a different path than many others. It has certainly not looked like the trajectories presented at writing conferences as the norm.
I started out writing novels because that was the only path presented at the time, but I quickly found that I enjoyed the process of short stories: writing them and submitting them. It’s a roller coaster system, where a quick turnaround time is beneficial. Got a rejection? Turn that puppy around and submit it elsewhere. You can’t get published if you’re always sitting on your stories.
When I ventured out to my first writing conference, I left feeling deflated, but inspired and determined at the same time. At this conference, I got torn apart by an agent notorious for being what she called “honest,” but what I now know as unnecessarily nasty. I volunteered at the conference that year, and was hooked on the feeling of community, so I kept doing it year after year.
Those years taught me a lot about the writing world, about agents and editors, and about community. They also put me in a position to be there for new authors getting their first eye-opening experiences about what the writing world really looked like, and I thrived on passing that along and being there to lift them up after they were knocked down.
During those years, I shelved that first novel, wrote a second novel, and submitted short stories to various markets. I also introduced the idea of short stories being a valid part of an author’s experience to that original conference, as well as others. I was suddenly being invited to speak at conferences and to appear at events, when I’d thought that would never happen until I was a published novelist. Those first few events I almost tip-toed in, afraid someone would tell me I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t a real author since I was only published in short story markets, but that never happened. Instead, I found I was accepted like everyone else, and even that people were curious about my path and short stories, in general, because they simply weren’t well covered at writing conferences. Everything I had learned about short stories had been self-taught. That was an ongoing problem for others, as well. I felt there was no reason that should be so.
Since then, I’ve self-published several short story collections and a non-fiction book on the business of short stories, as well as formulating new workshops, with the hope of giving aspiring writers another path for their own writing careers. I’ve continued speaking on that topic and others. My short stories led to me winning a scholarship from the Horror Writer’s Association last year, which I’ve used to help continue my writing education by attending conferences and online workshops.
Going forward, I intend to continue honing my short stories, but also return to the novel form. I fully believe in always learning and growing in one’s career, and that applies here just as much as to my day job. Short stories have allowed me to play and learn in multiple genres; novel writing is my next playground.