Guess what? I’m back in school. I’ve recently started a course in Book, Magazine, and Electronic Publishing at a Centennial College here in Toronto. One of my first assignments was a short personal essay on just why I chose to be there and what I hoped to get out of it. It was only supposed to be about 500 words, so I edited it down a bit. But, seeing as it’s such a personal issue for me, and it felt good to get it all down on the page. I thought I’d share the raw version with you guys. You’ve read a few of my posts by now, and maybe had me comment on your stories if they’ve ended up in my slush pile, so as a reward, here’s a little piece of what makes me tick. Hope you enjoy it.
What drew me here? Why Publishing? I chose this course because it seemed like such a natural fit for me. Also, because I saw it mentioned by name in a few Quill & Quire job posts. There’s also a few deeper, more personal reasons, but maybe I should start at the beginning.
When I first got into my undergrad, I knew I loved to write, and that I loved books, magazines, and reading good articles online. I didn’t know much else. I went to do a liberal arts degree after high school because it was expected of me, without having any real clue as to how I could make what I learned fit into my very vaguely defined goals for my life. I never finished that degree. I couldn’t pretend to be interested enough in Political Science or Sociology or International Development to want any more to do with it. I had to have the requirements waived based on work experience to get me here. I realize that puts me at a disadvantage compared to my peers in this program, and I accept it.
I worked for a few years in whatever odd jobs I could find, landscaping, online content writing, retail, auction sales, and eventually found myself in kitchens. Cooking made me the happiest, so that’s where I still work part time. During that whole process of trying to figure myself out, I never stopped writing my own stuff. I completed the manuscript for my first novel at the age of twenty-three, and after many rejections and rewrites I’m still trying to see it published. I started writing and publishing short fiction to help build my portfolio and get myself noticed, also realizing that I needed to get better at saying more with less. About eighteen months ago, I got asked by an editor who had read my work if I would like to volunteer some of my time to work as a First Reader at her newly formed speculative fiction e-zine. I almost turned it down because I thought anything that didn’t pay wouldn’t be worth my time. I decided to take it anyway, because this particular publication had offered me constructive feedback on a piece of mine they’d rejected. That had helped me to publish it elsewhere, and I was grateful. It turned out to be one of the most worthwhile creative experiences I’ve ever had, and I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong. Eventually, I made Editorial Assistant for the Science Fiction desk, a position I only reluctantly gave up and went back to go back to First Reader to make time for this program.
My part in the editorial process at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (the magazine) was about as simple as these things get. The Slush Readers would rate the stories, and the Editorial Assistants would either reject them with feedback or pass them along to the senior editor for consideration with our comments. It taught me to treat creative work as content, and to look on it with a more critical eye for publication, with the added benefit of helping me grow as a writer. It gave me something new with words that I loved doing at an emotional low point in my life, and that was priceless.
Why was I low? That’s the other personal bit. In the past year, I’ve lost both of my grandfathers. One to cancer, and the other to plain old age. Before passing, both of them told me separately that they were proud of me for writing and getting my short fiction published. I knew I’d be left a little money after they passed, so I decided to use it to further my own goals and make them proud. I probably would have done it anyway, but that’s what really gave me the kick in the ass I needed to do something new with myself.
As to the questions of how I think this will all relate to my career and what I look forward to exploring, I don’t yet know myself. I came in with the idea that I was going to work in Editorial in some way, since discovering and being involved in engaging projects was what I loved about working at the magazine. I’ve only had the briefest exposure to Design and Production since I arrived, but I’m already beginning to question that preconception. I guess I’ll have to get a little further along to answer that properly. My only concrete hope in being here is that it will be useful in helping me build a career doing something that I love. I will say that I plan on volunteering at Word on the Street and the Festival of Authors, as well as attending the Giller Lite Bash, in order to network and better gauge my prospects.
As for my dream projects, they are still my own. I’m working on my second novel right now. On a more course-focused practical level, I’d like to be involved somehow in publishing the genre fiction I love, mainly Science Fiction and Fantasy, and to give new writers and aspiring editors the same kick towards their goals that I’ve gotten whenever I’ve either been published or helped bring a really excellent new work to publication. Maybe I’ll do this with a big magazine like Asimov’s or Clarkesworld, or an imprint like Tor or Del Rey. I sometimes think I’d like to go another way some day and start my own press.
Whatever happens, I know I’m happy to be here, and that I’m starting to feel I’ve found my people. I also know I’ll have to work harder to find a job because of my academic record. Freelance has a certain appeal to it because of this. I’ll figure it out. The only things I have to fear are fear itself and red ink.