A few years ago, I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino where he made this comment about how, when he was a kid, he loved the movies so much that he wanted to become a movie star. He said he wanted this because kids can only really see the actors onscreen at first. Then he learned about all the things that go on behind the camera, and he realized that’s where he wanted to be.
My pursuing publishing wasn’t too much different a jump. As a child, I saw that writers and illustrators were putting stories to paper, but never dreamed how many people had to come together to make these words and pictures into a coherent piece. So I decided that becoming a writer would be my ultimate fate.
After intensive summer writing camps and college classes, I realized that the fiction writing process was a painstaking, self-centered, solo journey. While I still loved storytelling and didn’t have a problem expressing myself when I needed to, I realized that my taking this journey usually left me feeling drained. I’d stare at my work, wondering if I’d done anything more than ruminate on those ugly corners of myself that writing dredged up (and workshop compatriots often wondered the same thing about me).
To make money, I took up tutoring and teaching, followed by copywriting and marketing. I wrote for alumni publications, did a stint at a newspaper, and took up blogging. The satisfaction of crafting someone’s broken sentence into something meaningful, through proofreading or cajoling, made me feel like there are some things in this world that can be repaired (or at least improved). All the while, I was trying over and over to write fiction, and over and over again wondering why I wasn’t deriving satisfaction from it.
The epiphany came when I realized there’s more to loving words than being a literary fiction writer, and that I wasn’t giving up. I was finding a more unique, more appropriate path for myself.
While I wasn’t so impressed with my own fictional stories, telling other people’s stories – or helping to promote or improve them – was definitely something I could see myself doing forever. And when I found Ooligan Press’ program online, I realized it was the perfect interdisciplinary combination of editing, design, marketing and – yes, still! – writing that I was looking for.
Naturally, letting people know what I’m doing has drawn some skeptical looks and flippant remarks about “dead” industries. Though time and time again I’ve had to bite back scorn, I’m usually able to convince naysayers that publishing is in one of its most intriguing phases. Omnivorous content consumption (paper AND electronic) creates myriad opportunities for fascinating work creating print books, e-books, and versatile ad campaigns for both.
People are taking in so many images, stories, jokes, think-pieces, paperbacks, classics, video, articles, short stories, poems, etc., that the barrier to entry for a writer has lowered. That can, of course, create a glut of crap-content, and that crap can bury quality work created by writers and researchers that are willing to take that dark, solo journey into focused creativity.
But even crap-content can serve a greater purpose. It can give people who are already reading crave more substantial stories and meaningful words and images that they can hold onto. And I want to be one of the people putting well-crafted, powerful works into the hands of these readers.