"This book answers nearly every question emerging writers ask: cover letters and contracts to residencies, fellowships, and beyond. What a wonderful resource for writers of all genres."
—Lisa Ohlen Harris, Southern New Hampshire University
The Writers’ e-Handbook is a gateway into the writing world for any emerging writer, regardless of age or genre. Jotham Burrello candidly details writing instruction, the writing life, and publishing options. It’s the best of digital, mixing text, linked video clips, and hundreds of hyperlinks to industry news, market research, and writing advice. Literary, speculative, YA, and romance writers and editors offer advice on writing and publishing.
There’s nothing like it on the market.
e-Handbook includes interviews with over thirty writers, instructors, bloggers, editors, and program directors, including: Jane Hamilton, Audrey Niffenegger, Jay Bonansinga, Mort Castle, Stephanie Kuehnert, Christopher Castellani, Tina Jens, Joe Meno, Megan Stielstra, Richard Chewdyk, Terrance Hawkins, Kelly Caldwell, Julia Borcherts, Jeff Parker, Isaac Fitzgerald, and many more.
"Great book for the writing life."
—MARC FITTON, Valeria's Last Stand & Elza's Kitchen
Links to additional clips in the e-book.
Why Do You Write?
My friend Mike Burke reclines on the sofa in his parents’ suburban home in Lake Zurich, Illinois, watching the boob tube. His father, Jerry, a retired truck driver and post office supervisor, sits nearby reading the Sunday papers. The year is 1987. Jerry turns to his wannabe writer son and asks, “Are you writing to change the world?” Mike jumps up, flustered by the question. Jerry waits for an answer. Turning red, Mike answers, “No.”
“Says here,” Jerry begins, reading from the obit page, “James Baldwin wrote to change the world. I thought you might be writing to change the world, too.” Jerry shrugs. Mike is speechless. Baldwin’s famous quotation reads, “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way… people look at reality, then you can change it.”
That Baldwin quote serves as bulletin board motivation for many writers. In the weeks that followed this exchange with his father, Mike began asking himself, “If I am not trying to change the world, then why the hell am I writing?” Each semester when Mike visits with my writing students, he asks them, “Why do you write?” The diligent students scribble in their journals, others just stare into their laps hoping Mike doesn’t expect an answer. He doesn’t during his visit, but he’s planted a seed. Later, I ask them to answer the question in their journal. We read their answers aloud and sometimes paste them on the wall. It a fair question to ask given all the energy and time spent away from friends and family that’s necessary to write well. And it comes in handy when the writing days grow long, or far between. Writers pay serious money to sit in my class, or attend a conference, or visit a retreat, or take an online course. They should know why they’re making the sacrifice. Today Mike does have an answer. He tells folks, “I write to change the world. I write to make the world a smaller place. I write to remind people what we have in common with one another—both the good and the bad.”
How do you answer the question? Why do you write?
In the course of researching this e-book I talked with smart people who, like Mike, at one time or another, questioned why they write. Writer Megan Stielstra paraphrased a line attributed to poet Muriel Rukeyser: “The universe isn’t made out of atoms. It’s made out of stories.” Megan adds, “I think everything is story based. Our relationships are story based. The chair that you're sitting in is story based. My life is story based. This is how we read the news. This is how our culture is shaped. It's how we connect with people. It's how we have children. As our culture speeds up, and so much of it is trying to manage fifty things at once—as we rush and rush and rush, it's a skill to have that moment to sit and listen and pay attention. It's a gift, too. I mean, what you get back is eight times, eighty times, eight hundred times as profound.”
This e-book is designed to offer practical advice to the serious emerging writer, but don’t read any further until you tackle the question, Why do you write? There is no right answer, and your response may change over time. Not many writers achieve the commercial success of James Patterson or Stephen King or Amanda Hocking, or the critical success of Dave Eggers or Marilynne Robinson, or entertain thousands from a theater stage like David Sedaris. Many writers tell stories to make sense of life; they have a story that matters to them, and they devote time to tell it. Writer Chris Castellani echoed many of the writers I interviewed when he said, “If you want to write your book, if you have an urgent story to tell, you will find the hours to do it. There are plenty of stories of writers who get up before their kids at four in the morning and write for an hour. Those stories speak to people who are sincerely and passionately devoted to their craft, to their ambition.” Are you one of these four a.m. people? If you’re not, that’s cool. Here’s Chris’ advice: “If you don’t have that urgent of a story to tell, then don’t put pressure on yourself to keep writing.”
We have fallen from the mountain to the jagged rocks below. It’s this type of straight talk about the writing life I have heard and shared over the years with hundreds of students. And it’s what I discovered again and again in my interviews for this e-book. I say “e” book because it’s digital, of course, but the best of digital, with video and hyperlinks to sources I’ve come to rely on for industry news, market research, and writing advice. The e-book is part how-to, part index, part advice column, but most of all, it’s a point of entry into the writing world for any emerging writer, no matter their age or category of writing. I made it a priority to include many genres. The listings at the end of each chapter are a sampling of what is available for writers. I couldn’t include the entire Internet in the e-book. I am sure I omitted some quality conferences, retreats, and magazines.
Nothing is easy about writing and publishing, but the process of creating art and the community you discover during the journey is life altering. Yeah, life altering. That might sound really, really cheesy, but it’s true. Writing is the ultimate reward—if you make the time to write your best work. And the relationships you forge during the process will endure. Success, as I will discuss, is very subjective. Is selling a hundred thousand books a success? Is solving a sticky POV issue? Is creating a writing group? Is earning an MFA? I can’t answer these questions for you. But by the end of the e-book, you should be able to answer them for yourself. So please take a moment to answer the pressing question Why do you write?, and then proceed to chapter one. Meet you there.