Monday, June 16, 2008

monkeys with typewriters

The results are in on the West Virginia Writer's competition. I didn't win, didn't place, didn't even show. Bummer.

I didn't expect to win, though I believe in my warped little book. I have a suspicion that regional flavor does very well at this thing --books about growing up in the hollar, the coal fields or by the railroad. There's nothing particularly wrong with that. Homer Hickam did it. So, did Breece Pancake, and my book is not about West Virginia, West Virginians or really Appalachian life. I don't know if I have that kind of book in me.

When I started writing, I considered some of the writers who influenced me early. Guys like Larry McMurtry, Stephen King and even Dean Koontz are pretty geographically centered. McMurtry's books are set in Texas. Stephen King mostly writes about a mythical version of Maine and Dean Koontz has California. They're very much married to the places they live. I'm a writer who lives in West Virginia, but not a West Virginia writer. I know the people. I am one of the people, but my literary voice doesn't have the right twang.

If I ever get published, if I have any kind of success, the state probably will not embrace me as one of their favorite sons. I'm really sort of on my own, which in it's own peculiar way, underlines my spiritual tie to the area.

So, even as I submitted to the contest, I knew I was doomed to fail. I submitted because I knew what would happen and how I'd feel about it. I needed for it to hurt. I'm going to send my book out in the next week or two. It's going to get rejected a lot. It may get passed up by everybody this first time out. I'm going to take the letters, the stickers on my cover letters and the stunning silence hard. It's going to hurt. If I had done anything other than lose and lose in such a terribly anonymous way (I couldn't crack the top 8. How many books do I really think people sent in?), I might have raised my expectations too much. I'd have expected too much to come too soon. I'd have expected a hit and a lottery win, fame and wealth. I think getting anything would have done me more harm than good.

So, it goes... I'm halfway through the next phase. If I finish by the end of this week, I'll spend next weekend working on cover letters and a nice pitch for agents, publishers and whatever devils can be conjured. A week after the 18th, my current cosmic tailspin should be wearing off, too. It usually does.

Interesting thing to note: First and second place for the novel competition were won by residents of Texas and Florida. Nice... I lost to people who don't even live here any more.

2 comments:

iremonger said...

I'm a little tired of all the "Regional" books too. For once, it'd be nice to get some sort of urban drama set in Charleston. Or a legal thriller :)

moneytastesbad said...

You could read John Grisham's The Appeal.

Although it is not set in Charleston, It is based on Don Blankenship and the WV Supreme Court