Book Writing/Critiques: On Rejection and Growth

Back in mid April, I had the bright idea to turn on the Twitter feed for the National Book Critics Circle. In so doing, I quickly discovered their Emerging Critics program, in which would-be book reviewers are paired with mentors and taught the ins and outs of soliciting freelance writing work. I think they also help with editing manuscripts and provide workshops with people who have made it in the business. And the best part? Little experience would be required, as long as one demonstrates an ability to think critically and write clearly about a book.
I knew I had to attempt applying for this organization, especially as it is one of the most respected outlets of its kind and the name alone would likely open doors for me. So I submitted my application—which required three sample reviews, a personal statement, two references, and a resume—on May 1. Hundreds of people competed for ten slots, and a month later I finally learned that I hadn’t made the cut. Of course I understood the odds, but it still took me a few days to pick myself off of the mat and get back on it.
But I am nothing if not resilient, and each exposure to rejection makes my skin a little tougher. It will have to be in order to enter the world of writing, of that I am well aware. So I asked myself, what next? Time to go online and find some kind of writers workshops that would help me sharpen my skills. And that’s what I’m now doing, as the author Francesca Serritella, Lisa Scottoline’s daughter, unwittingly linked me to something called the Dallas Writers Workshop. Their headquarters and personal meetings are in fact in Dallas, Texas, but they also have a lot of activities that can be completed online. The first of these I saw that really looked compelling is going to be taught by James Tate Hill, a blind individual who’s memoir Blind Man’s Bluff I had coincidentally just read with my Facebook book club Friends and Books. This is a group of blind folks who discuss monthly picks and whatever else we happen to be reading. Anyway, Mr. Tate Hill’s workshop is to be on short story construction, and it would allow you to work with and have your work evaluated by him and other students. It’s a little steep for my wallet at the moment, though I do plan to take a later offering from him perhaps after we get our home purchase squared away.
So I chose an eight-week independent study workshop on how to write works of fiction, novels in particular. I’m still toiling away at my book, an Excerpt of which I made available earlier. Already, listening to the instructor of this workshop explain the basic elements of a story has helped me tremendously. The first week’s assignment was to combine the four elements, using a selection of mix and match scenarios and generate a piece of flash fiction. I was surprised that once I started typing, the words flowed relatively freely from my fingers. I am definitely looking forward to what I will learn in the following seven weeks. And I hope that watching my journey to bestseller status (yeah I know getting ahead of myself, but a man can dream!) will help others. You won’t make everything you try for, but you can for sure learn from each attempt.

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