So it’s official. I’ve signed with an enterprising independent publisher and my memoir–four years after I first started working on it–will be published this October. So many readers of The Artist’s Road have traveled with me as I’ve chronicled this pursuit. I’ve shared my highs and my lows, and there were a fair number of the latter. But you’ve always supported me, and so this triumph is in part yours.
I plan to share more details about the publishing plans–and the book itself–in future posts. What I can say for now is that Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road will be available in print as a soft launch from Black Rose Writing on October 16th, 2014, and in print and ebook formats a few weeks later in stores and online retailers such as Amazon.
For now, I think it’s worth looking at those highs and lows, in the hope that it is helpful to someone moving forward on a long-term creative project.
- September 2010: I complete a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip in which I interviewed creatives of all types. I had drifted away from my own creativity, but the artists I encounter inspire me to return to the path of the art-committed life. I give notice to the board of directors of the nonprofit I run, and agree to serve through the end of the calendar year as they recruit a successor.
- October 2010: I launch The Artist’s Road blog in part to share my story, but also to hold me publicly accountable to my new commitment to creativity.
- November 2010: An early reader of my blog, Milli Thornton (author of Fear of Writing) posts a comment urging me to tell my story in a book. As it happens, I’m already outlining what would be a part travel book/part creativity craft book.
- January 2011: I take my first-ever creative writing class. My instructor, memoirist Sara Taber, reads an early chapter. She likes the writing and the attention to detail, but wants more of the narrator. In other words, I am missing from the pages. I resist.
- March 2011: The annual AWP writing conference is held in my backyard, Washington, D.C. At the conference I decide I want to start an MFA program, and quiz every low-residency program exhibiting. Meanwhile, I begin a new career as a freelance writer.
- April 2011: I accept an MFA admissions offer from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. My first residency is in June and I need to submit 20 pages of creative writing, so I send another chapter of the travel/craft book-in-progress.
- June 2011: I experience my first-ever writing workshop at my VCFA residency in Montpelier. The instructors and students like the writing and the attention to detail, but want more of the narrator. I am missing from the pages. My wall of resistance to including myself in the story develops a crack.
- July 2011: I begin working with my first-semester MFA instructor, Kurt Caswell. For five months he implores me to put myself on the page. The book is threatening to morph into a memoir, I tell him. He says that’s what the book wants to be.
- January 2012: I start working with my second-semester MFA instructor, Larry Sutin. He presses me further; I slowly start revealing myself in my prose, and darned if it doesn’t make for a better read.
- April 2012: I decide to leave behind freelance writing and return to full-time work. I begin to have serious doubts as to whether I’ll ever finish the book.
- June 2012: I sweat through another VCFA workshop, with the students critiquing a chapter I wrote with Larry in which I reveal a secret about myself known only to a handful of people. To my surprise, they do not berate me or run from me. They focus on the writing, and applaud the places where I am on the page.
- July 2012: I begin working with my third-semester VCFA instructor, Sue William Silverman. Now finally aware of the power in writing honestly about yourself in creative nonfiction, I go on a writing tear. I know what the book wants to be, and Sue does a great job of guiding me.
- January 2013: I start writing for my final MFA instructor, Sascha Feinstein. With him the final pieces of the book fall into place.
- May 2013: I submit a complete draft of the memoir as part of my creative thesis. It is 384 pages.
- July 2013: I graduate from VCFA. My next project is editing the memoir down to a manageable size.
- August 2013: I reduce the manuscript size to 300 pages. I then hire Sara Taber, my very first creative writing instructor, to edit it.
- September 2013: Equipped with great editorial feedback from Sara, I begin a final revision of the book.
- October 2013: I decide to leave my literary agent just after sending him the manuscript. It feels like career suicide as I begin querying agents.
- January 2014: I have been rejected by a lengthy list of agents. The consensus is that they like the writing and the story, but do not feel that they can place a memoir at a major publishing house by an unpublished author who isn’t a celebrity or a survivor of some heinous tragedy such as a hang-gliding accident in the Andes or a volcanic explosion in Siberia. At the recommendation of my mentor Sue William Silverman, I begin querying independent publishers that don’t require agents.
- April 2014: After several near-misses in which publishers decline the manuscript for reasons outside of my control, I receive an offer from Black Rose Writing. I connect with an intellectual property attorney to review the contract.
- May 2014: After some back-and-forth and a lengthy telephone conversation, I find I have great faith and confidence in the publisher, and appreciate the passion demonstrated for my manuscript. I sign the contract and add a new page to my website.
It’s only five months until a new bullet is added to this list; an October publication. I have a lot to do leading up to that date, which begins with new rounds of extensive editing with the publisher. (For one, I want the book to be shorter still.) Fortunately I enjoy editing, especially when I know the end result is publication.
Thank you again, all of you in the Artist’s Road community, for your support, encouragement, and patience. I hope this timeline demonstrates the importance of patience as a component of an art-committed life.