How I Got Published
I'm not a famous writer, but I publish enough to be satisfied, and it sure beats golf. This is the true story I tell to encourage young writers.
- •I once wrote a funny essay about stupid baby names.
- •Thinking "that wasnt hard," I cold-emailed the editor of my town newspaper, asking if I could write a humor column. She requested a sample, and I sent the baby-name one. Then I got this email.
- •We agreed I would write a local column every week... and get paid nothing. I was ecstatic about the deal. We called it "Grain of Salt," but it could have been called "Don't Complain, I'm Doing This for Free."
- •In 2006, the editor of New Jersey Monthly, who lived in my town, liked the column, and offered me $600 to write a personal Mother's Day essay for NJ Monthly. I did, throwing my mom under the bus. http://njmonthly.com/articles/jersey-living/the-mother-of-all-holidays/
- •Buoyed, I took a personal essay-writing class in NYC. The first assignment: Write about your most embarrassing moment. The teacher suggested I send it to The New York Times Magazine. I pitched it in 2006. A year later, after calling my mom to fact-check the story (true!), they published it. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/magazine/12lives-t.html
- •Feeling confident, I pitched another personal essay to Newsweek in 2009. They only liked one paragraph -- naturally the most controversial part. I rewrote it based on the one paragraph. They published it. http://www.newsweek.com/new-dads-postpartum-depression-77109
- •I read about a publisher in Oregon specializing in nonfiction books by Moms. I pitched a collection of essays by a Divorced Dad. She agreed to publish me, and paid me nothing. Then again, I paid her nothing. I wrote 40 essays. It was published in 2009 with a great cover. http://www.bookfordad.com
- •Five years later, I had written another 25,000 words. Same publisher. Same deal. This time, terrible cover. http://www.smallthingsconsidered.info
- •If you want to be really impressed, know my work can be found in three "Chicken Soup for the Soul" anthologies. That's big time.
- •With the combined royalties from my two books, I'm able to buy expensive coffee fairly frequently. But the goal was never to make money. It was just to have a reason to write.
- •The lesson I learned is this: If you want to be a published writer, you don't have to be famous. You just have to write something worth reading. But remember, writers write. They don't dream about the things they'd like to write. I started with a simple essay about baby names. But the truth is, it would have made a much better Li.st.