My most recent book is Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead: The Bumpy Road to Getting Published. (Stephens Press, Las Vegas, Nevada.)
After 22 years of teaching creative writing on the college level, plus twelve published books, I believed that my experiences in the publishing world—some maddening, some miraculous—would be useful to other writers. In “Damn the Rejections,” I meshed vignettes about my personal struggles to get published, with my growing knowledge of what students were doing wrong—and right. The book is filled with simple, practical writing tips, all usable immediately.
Happily, my editor, Carolyn Uber, shared my vision for this book.
Tell us something about yourself.
An isolated ranch in Mt. Shasta, California—seven miles from town and a mile from the nearest neighbor—propelled me toward books. Growing up with only a younger brother to play with, I entertained myself by reading—first my kids’ books, then my mother’s. I soon pictured myself doing what all these entertaining people had done before me.
Thanks to copies of the Reader’s Digest lying around the house, I absorbed the magazine’s can-do philosophy with my breakfast cereal: Nothing is impossible if you care enough. In later years, as rejections piled up, I fell back on the Reader’s Digest mantra. If I never quit, I’d eventually succeed.
All that attitude finally got me published.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
For me, and probably for my students, the hardest part of writing is recognizing the flaws in your work—and then figuring out how to correct them. My flaws are smaller now, but all of them feel like Speed Bumps. I never send things out until the Speed Bumps are gone.
For newcomers, recognizing the flaws can take years . . . and soon Attitude takes over. How patient are you? How ready are you to study great writers? How fast do you learn? How many times are you willing to re-write? Will you push on past Good until you reach Wonderful?
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
Writing “Damn the Rejections” was less a learning experience than a process of organizing and gathering. To my surprise, I really did have enough knowledge for a book. In fact, more than enough. To my further surprise, the personal stories that created doubts in editors were the same stories that inspired kudos from readers.
Once again, the flaws in the publishing business seemed obvious: New York editors are often wrong when they second-guess the tastes of readers.
My memoir, “Higher Than Eagles,” took 14 years to find a publisher. But once published, readers responded as I’d hoped: the memoir received great reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus; articles about it were re-printed in 56 newspapers; our family received a visit from the TV newsmagazine, 20/20; within a few years it garnered five movie options. Today, the book is under consideration, once more, for a full-length feature movie.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
My reading taste is eclectic: I love good writing in most genres. While not fond of fantasy or sci-fi, I’ve read a great variety of both fiction and nonfiction, and I especially love well-written memoirs. I’m a fan of John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Ann Patchett, Ivan Doig, Harper Lee, Diane Pearson, Frank McCourt, Pat Conroy, Jon Krakauer, Colleen McCullough, and many others—though not all of them all the time. Even the best writers are inconsistent.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I WILL be working on my next book—soon. It’s about marketing. And that’s the whole reason I’m not writing now . . . I’m too busy marketing.
My biggest complaint about today’s writing world is that few of us have the luxury of writing full time. Penning books is no longer enough. We have to sell what we write. Only the already-famous authors can skip this chore. The rest of us—even the noted Jim Lehrer, it turns out—have to work harder at selling than we did at writing. As well-known as he is, Jim Lehrer is now appearing everywhere, working at selling his latest novel. Good Grief!
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
My best advice for other writers: getting published is a two-pronged effort. You can never stop making your work better. And you can never stop sending it out.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
My current activities are covered on my web site: Maralys.com. I love to hear from readers, and always answer their e-mails. My e-mail address is: Maralys@Cox.net.