Going Pro (Or I’m a Real Writer)

two ladies review an IBM keypunch card

2014 brought significant changes to my writing and my self-image as a writer. In mid-summer I enrolled in a Creative Nonfiction class called Experimental Forms. Led by Barrett Swanson, an MFA graduate from University of Wisconsin at Madison, and a 2014 Pushcart Winner, I found my voice and an extraordinarily supportive teacher.

The course ran for six weeks. By some miracle wherein I lived with a piece for about five years, I wrote a 3000+word memoir essay entitled Ballistic Trauma, A Self-Report. Barrett’s feedback was a three page single spaced word document. He concluded his feedback by encouraging me to submit the piece to several literary journals. Who me? I thought.

I feel like I got my ticket punched! So to honor the both of us I submitted the piece to several journals late last year. While one has already declined to publish the piece, I await a response from four other journals. If all decline, I will focus on rewriting the piece over the summer and submit to a fresh round of journals in the fall.

Submitting any work to a journal, especially a piece I’ve worked on for quite a few months, makes me feel like a professional writer. Yes, I’ve published pieces on my blog. But the process of submitting to journals makes me feel like a real writer. Other people think so, too, apparently. Several coworkers have asked if I am using my nonwork time to write using a particular voice, with a certain tone. Oh, yes! I’ve already submitted two pieces to several journals.” To a one surprised they are and mutter a few ohs and okays and move along. I guess so many of us spend our lives writing or thinking about writing or getting ready to think about possibly writing, to submit work is an outlier.

What makes you feel like a real writer?