W. P. Johnson

I Am Author

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

     Kind of like I Am Legend. Get it?

Anyway…

For those of you that don’t know me through social media, I made my first professional sale to One Buck Horror for my short story “Little Man”. It’ll be featured in their Halloween issue, a drop date that all horror writers can love and appreciate. Last week I also learned that I’ll be featured in the Weird Noir anthology edited by K. A. Laity and put out by Fox Spirit Books. My short story “Train Tracks” is the closing story and if there’s anything I’ve learned since I’ve been submitting work it’s that anthologies are like albums. The first story is what people read first and the last story is something that lingers in a reader’s mind. It’s a good place to be for a new writer.

I also started a monthly column at Manarchy Magazine called “Standing Up To Die” about my experiences doing stand up. So far I’ve performed four times and would’ve done a fifth time if not for the fact that they had their four year anniversary last night. It’s gotten a lot of good feedback and it’s something that I think will develop and grow.

     I have business cards now. The picture above is an early rendition of what eventually became what is posted below.

     It’s a weird time for me. I wrote my first story when I was sixteen in 1997. Since then I’ve written a shitty novel, a hundred awful stories, started and stalled on two other novels, taken half a dozen writers workshops, gone to college, worked a bunch of horrendous jobs, moved ten times within the same city, read a hundred craft books, and have received close to a thousand rejections (I stopped counting a long time ago). I’ve also seen the state of the publishing industry change quite a bit. When I first started, I was physically mailing my manuscripts with a SASE and a paper clip, checking the mailbox daily. Now I won’t even send something to a magazine unless they accept manuscripts electronically and it’s become something of the standard.

I used to have a library of books. Now I have about twenty books and the rest is on my kindle. When you move a lot you realize how much crap you have.

But I digress (it’s early and I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee). It’s a weird time for me because I feel like I can finally tell people I’m an author without this sense of fear that I’ll be exposed for what I really am, which is an unpublished hack (all of you newbies know that feeling, I’m sure). I’ve spent more than a decade trying to be an author and now that I am one I don’t know what to do exactly. You feel like all the hard work was supposed to get you to a place where you don’t have to sweat it as much, where you don’t have to make all those sacrifices. There’s this sense of having completed a ten year journey only to arrive at the endpoint with the realization that I have another ten years of work before I really “get there”. Another ten years before I can really tell people with zero doubt that being an author is what I do for a living.

Many of you would assume that the sale of “Little Man” would prompt a day of celebration, an era of good feelings. It did for a time, but then I started to feel like I was crashing, that the sale of “Little Man” would be the only thing I’d ever be able to list as a professional accomplishment. All that positivity left me an empty husk whose only recourse of filling this void was to get another story published, to sell more work. It made me want to push harder when I was already pushing as hard as I could.

If I had written this blog post a week earlier, I would’ve ended the entry right here on that miserable note. Thankfully, the sale of “Train Tracks” has changed my attitude. For whatever reason, the sale of that story tempered some of the anxiety I was feeling. Used to be when I sat down to write, I felt like I was just throwing pennies down a wishing well whose bottom I couldn’t see. Now when I sit down to work, I feel a sense of purpose that things will be okay, that I’m not just chasing another high of acceptance, but writing something that will be read someday.

Today, I feel really good. Not great, just good. I used to wonder what would happen to me. Now I know what will happen. I know it in my bones. Someday I’m going to be a writer and nothing else. All those pennies in the wishing well are starting to catch a gleam of sunlight. I just have to keep throwing more money down, more time, more words. Someday, it’s gonna overflow and I’ll be able to take a break and enjoy the fact that I’ve finally filled this hole in myself that makes me want to write for whatever reason.

Chances are though, I’ll probably keep typing.

In other news, I’ll be writing a piece on my story “Train Tracks”, sort of a “how did you come up with this story” kinda thing. Since it’s a blend of crime noir, weird fiction, and a coming of age tale, I think it’s something that will be of interest, especially if you read the story. In other random news about my writing career I’m currently waiting to hear back on six stories and I have about five that I’m close to sending out once I get a chance to edit them. I’ll also be participating in Literactor’s War challenge, a competition wherein I’m given a prompt and have only one week to write a story. If I manage to hang through even half of this thing I’ll end up writing half a dozen stories in just a month or two.

Oh, and if you like the business cards, check out the website for the people that helped me put it together. Not only did JJo take my headshots, she also started a small business that specializes in zombie portraits called Dead World Photos. If you live in Philadelphia or are visiting, contact her for a session.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

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  1. You should be pleased; not only did your story get accepted, but you’re batting clean up. A choice location in any anthology. I winced — actually *winced* when I saw your description of it as a ‘coming of age story’. It’s a genre I tend to deplore. But your story was good. Very good. The voice was sure. It’s good stuff. The rejections will keep coming (they do anyway for me) but you’re a writer. Take it from me.

  2. Thank you Kate, I really appreciate it. It can be hard working in a vacuum sometimes and when people show support and a sincere appreciation of your work, it really helps me get out of bed when I’d rather just sleep in and do nothing all day. Lately I wake up with a lot of positive energy and its thanks to people like you that egg us on. Quite frankly, I’m not one of those people. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to read and pimp out all my writer friends so I’m always dumbfounded when a peer finds the time to check out my work. Maybe someday when I stop bartending to pay the bills I’ll be able to immerse myself in this community and show more support for those just starting out.

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