Mar 2, 2013

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What I have learned about writing a book

On May 24, 2013, my collection of poetry “Three Ways of Searching” (my first “real book” – i.e. properly published by a real publisher) will ship. Now that I have a book to my name, folks are asking me about the process, how it works. As if I know.

I don’t know. I’m still a bit stunned about what happened with Three Ways – my experience is certainly not a field manual for the aspiring author. Here’s the story:

From June 2008-ish to September 2011-ish, I tweeted hundreds of haiku, tanka, senryu, and other micro-poems. I started out to learn about Twitter, and after following some talented haiku poets, I kept at it because it was fun. I wanted to write, the haiku community on Twitter was generous and kind, and it was easy to do in the in-between times. I pulled a few of the more worthwhile scribbles together in a collection at some point in the Fall of 2011, and then just sat on them.

In February 2012, I saw something in my Twitter stream that caught my eye. It was about poetry contests, grants, and publishing opportunities, and in following the link, I found that Finishing Line Press was running a contest for new women writers. I looked at my collection and decided to go for it. After submitting my manuscript in February, I didn’t hear anything for months, and assumed that was that – a rejection through silence. Ah, well, it was worth a shot. Bummer, move on. Then seemingly out of the blue, I got an email in October (eight months later) from Finishing Line Press telling me that they would like to publish my manuscript. I agreed. (Hello?)

Three Ways of Searching Belmonte

And that is the story of my first publishing contract. I think the back story might be more useful, though. i.e. What did I do between February and October, between submission and acceptance? Did I just sit around and wait to hear if I was a winner? No, of course not. I forgot about the contest and my manuscript, mostly. I expanded the vision and content for my blog. I started a new book of memoir. I started writing for other blogs and teaching a monthly writing class. I submitted an essay for publication (and received a rejection). I worked my day job. I loved my family. I made new friends.

Point being? Life goes on. Write. Submit. Write some more. Get rejection. Get a hug. Write some more. Get acceptance. High five. Write some more. Submit. Keep writing. Life goes on.

I have written creatively on a near daily basis for as long as I can remember, and only sometimes have I thought about it in the context of getting published. Don’t get me wrong, the desire to publish has always been there, but when writing, actually putting words on paper, I am not thinking about it. Like when I was tweeting those hundreds of haiku. I was not thinking, “Gee, these would make a nice little collection in print someday…” I was just playing, which is a very serious thing for me. I spent years focused on this one thing, and it was worth it. There was no short cut through those moments of serious play. And I am glad.

But only you can decide what you’ll be playing at. The thing is about writing and about being published … it helps to keep them in that priority order. For me it does, anyway. It keeps things in perspective. I write because I love writing.

I hope to be published again, because I also like to have my words read. But I have to love writing first.

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Kelly Belmonte is a published poet, blogger (http://allninemuses.wordpress.com), and management consultant with expertise in non-profit organizational development and youth mentoring. She currently serves on the board of directors for Exeter Fine Crafts in Exeter, New Hampshire. Her book of poetry, Three Ways of Searching, is available in through Finishing Line Press.

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