There and Back Again: A Writer’s Tale

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I know it’s been a while. Again, a lot has changed since I wrote last. This time, I’m fortunate enough to say that I’ve had my fair share of victories.

Since March, I’ve traded the sequined scene of the big city for one with a few more stars, a few less people, and a whole lot more dogs. New York taught me a lot of things, and I think it prepared me for the next stage of my life pretty damn well.

So now, I write to you from the comfort of my very own couch, in my very own apartment, in a city I can finally call home. I moved from Poughkeepsie to Rochester in the middle of May, in the freezing cold. Wouldn’t be Rochester without some weird.

And here I am! I’ve got a cozy little attic apartment, a rickety window AC unit, and a whole lot of fizz to get me up in the morning. I even have a job where they pay me to write.

They pay me to write! How cool is that?! I may not be writing poetry every single day, but I’m writing, and I couldn’t be happier. This job is challenging, and sometimes I don’t love what I’m writing about, but I take on every challenge with spark.

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I can walk to this little cafe in less than ten minutes!

It might not seem like the most glamorous occupation, but I’m so proud to be there. The people I work with have blossomed before my eyes, and I hope I’ve done the same.

And Geneseo? Geneseo, that lovely little castle in the clouds. I can honestly say that my time, friends, and mentors there have all held a monumental role in where I am today. They have taught me strength, resolve, and perseverance.

The first time my sister visited, she told me she felt happiness in the walls. I believe her.

It’s hard to believe this isn’t all a dream sometimes. I still have that New York anxiety sometimes, still wake up at 4:30 in the morning & feel phantom train wobbles. But surely, slowly, I’m beginning to realize that this sunny little patch of the world really is mine, and I can do with it what I will.

Adulthood isn’t so bad, after all. There’s a new kind of shimmer in my world lately, and I can’t wait to explore it all. I hope you’ll stick around to see where the next adventure takes me.

On Freelancing

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The first time I ever heard the word “freelance” was when I saw Peter Parker do it in Spiderman. I never thought much of it until I learned that freelancing is more than a way to cover up your super human powers. (Not that it wouldn’t be cool to have that excuse to do freelance work.) Freelancing is a whole world of opportunities for people with all different kinds of skill sets. But for the purposes of this blog, I’ll be talking about the world of freelance writing.

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disclaimer: amount of coffee shown in picture is less than the amount normally required for freelancing

Before we get started, there are a few myths about freelance that I would like to dispel. The first of which is that freelance, contrary to popular belief, is not free. Whatever type of freelancing someone decides to do, rest assured they are getting paid for their work. The major difference between freelance and a 9-5 job is that freelancers get to choose what projects to take on and which companies they would like to be associated with. Not all freelancing jobs work exactly the same way, but that’s the general idea. The second thing I want to make abundantly clear here is that freelancing is not what Carrie Bradshaw does on Sex & the City. Most of the time, there is hardly any glamour to it. It has its boring moments just like any other job, and should be treated like any other paying job. But I’ll get into that more in a little bit.

Rewind to the beginning of this summer. I’m extra fresh out of college, desperate for a job that will actually utilize my skills, and unable to afford not living at home. Of course I still can’t afford to not live at home but that’s besides the point. I wanted to get some experience, and of the 13 companies I applied to for a full time position, not one contacted me. I was beginning to get discouraged, but then I thought about doing some freelance writing. It couldn’t hurt to apply to a few places, right? I needed the experience, and anything to keep me writing.

Finding freelance job postings was not easy at first. I scoured the web looking for entry level positions, but there were seemingly none in existence. That is, until I learned where to look for them. The best website that I’ve found to date is freelancewriting.com. There are job postings, calls for submissions (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction), as well as a very handy newsletter subscription. The newsletter, called “The Morning Coffee” is site creator Brian Scott compiling a list of freelance opportunities and sending them out to subscribers. Every single day. If that’s not commitment to helping your fellow writers, I don’t know what is. This newsletter was extremely helpful in my search for freelance jobs, and it included a range of opportunities from entry level to senior editor.

Another source of information for me was a blog from Luna Luna Magazine that goes into a lot of the same things I’ve talked about here, but with a more technical approach. I love Luna Luna’s blog material, especially all of their work relating to the job search or tips for writers. So go check it out! Their blog is updated daily, and covers everything from feminism to freelance writing.

Long story short, I ended up applying for a freelance position at a web-based SEO company, and I’ve been writing for them since the beginning of July. I’ve learned a lot about freelancing in that short time. Mainly, like I said before, about how it is not what Carrie Bradshaw does. I learned pretty quick that most freelancing is the opposite of glamorous. When someone needs an article written about hose clamps, you better suck it up and do the research. Sometimes it’s not fun, but like my dad always tells me, you don’t get a job to have fun. While I don’t think he’s entirely wrong, there is some fun to be had in freelancing. It’s nice to be able to control your own hours and to tell people yes, I am working in my field. If you have to write a few snore pieces about mortgages and oil tankers, so be it. The idea here is to keep writing! So if you’re stuck with a few crummy freelance positions before you go into the big leagues, don’t sweat it. Keep writing, keep researching, and keep your chin up!

On the Art of Rejection

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We all know that submitting to literary journals is a part of being a writer. Acceptance & publication are the end goals, but what happens when you don’t get accepted? How do you handle rejection?

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There are posts & posts & posts on this subject, but I think that’s because it’s important for a writer to know how to handle a rejection. While it’s great to receive an acceptance, it’s much easier to say thank you & ride the giddy current of happy feelings than it is to sit down, check your e-mail, and come to terms with the form rejection that most journals & presses will send you.

The truth of the matter? Writers get rejected many more times than they get published. But that’s okay!  Rejection is not a message from God himself telling you to stop writing. Rejection is the first step in finding the perfect home for your piece. In a wonderful article on The Review Review, author Tara Masih writes, “If you don’t lose your enthusiasm for the joy of creating and sending your work out into the world, you will become a published survivor. Promise.” In her article, Masih speaks about surviving those form rejections & working past them to find that place where your work belongs. I definitely agree with her.

My first poetry professor told me that a poem is never really done. I think the same holds true for all types of writing, especially when you’re starting the submission process. Rejection can be scary! But as a writer, you can’t let it scare you into not submitting to other journals out there. In another article from The Review Review, author Chelsea Clammer writes, “…if your writing isn’t right for us at this time, it doesn’t mean we think you in any way suck. You, my dear, are awesome. We’re cheering you on. Keep going.” She continues on to encourage writers to keep editing & submitting work, and she’s right! Without contributors, your favorite literary journals wouldn’t exist. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from writing. Instead, let it be the inspiration to make your writing better & find the perfect fit.

As a writer, I often imagined the rejection process as some grand crushing of dreams. Allison K. Williams describes it pretty much the way I always imagined in a post on BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog: “Sometimes in my nightmare there’s a dart board, on which the choicest bits of literary failure are impaled, a group of hipsters mocking each submission as they keep score.” It can definitely feel that way in a writer’s shoes. But it’s a strange & thrilling experience on the other side. As the poetry editor for Gandy Dancer Issue 3.2, I got to stick my feet into the shoes of the editors I send my own work to. And the truth is we absolutely love reading your work. I got to read over 200 poetry submissions in prep for the upcoming issue, and I was thrilled every day to be reading something new. We’re not just sitting there laughing at your work, I promise. We want your work to be the right fit for our journal! While form letter rejections might seem harsh & not thought out, the truth is a lot of journals just don’t have the time to create personalized rejections for everyone. A deadline, is a deadline, is a deadline. So don’t smack the “they hated it” label on your rejections, because 99.99% of the time, that’s not true.

There are hundreds of small presses & journals open for submissions. Aim big, aim small, literally just aim. You’ll find one that’s perfect for your work. But if there’s one thing to keep in mind, it’s that each journal has its own aesthetic, and you should make sure your work fits it before submitting! Poets & Writers says, ” It’s important to read the literary magazines in which you’d like to publish before you submit your work, so that you can evaluate how good a match they are for you.” There’s nothing worse than receiving a rejection letter that says your work doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the magazine or journal. My first rejection was a result of my not reading through the journal before I submitted. Needless to say, I learned my lesson. My rule of thumb is to read at least two issues of whatever journal you want to submit to. Gargi Mehra has a great article up at The Review Review that discusses the basics of good submission etiquette, and I for one think it’s extremely helpful.

So you’ve learned a little bit about handling rejection, got some links to other posts that speak about rejection, and hopefully visited some of those links. In the end, rejection is a part of the process, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad part. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep submitting!

Why am I here?

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Scenario: you’re five weeks from graduating, studying chapbooks, and trying to figure out how a resume works. What do you do?

My solution was to start this blog.

My name is Devin, and I’m a graduating Senior at SUNY Geneseo. I’m majoring in Creative Writing, currently the poetry editor for Gandy Dancer (Issue 3.2), and struggle-bussing my way through starting my life as a professional. Sounds fun, right?

My studies as a Creative Writing Major have led me to some amazing discoveries and challenges, one of my favorite being the chapbook. I’m currently nearing the end of my second directed study on the chapbook, which involves reading other poets’ chapbooks, as well as creating my own. The process has been grueling, but I can’t wait to see the finished product that I create. Between writing tons of poems and reading tons of chapbooks, I began to really appreciate the short collections of work, as well as wonder why more attention wasn’t paid to them. When do chapbooks receive reviews? Is the only way to get a chapbook published to enter it into a contest? Do I need an MFA to start sending out my drafts? I began to realize I wanted answers, and that the best way to find them was to go after them myself.

So here we are! I’m here in an attempt to foster a better understanding and appreciation for the chapbook as a form of creative work, and figure out what writing after graduation might entail.

Welcome all, please read and enjoy.