Have you ever written a story, essay or poem and longed for it to be loved by excited readers all across the world? We all have a story to tell, but the road to becoming a published author may seem daunting and impossible. We may wonder, “what is it like to be a published author?” or “what should I expect in the process of becoming published?”As an aspiring author myself, I wanted to find out the answers to these questions. I reached out to John McManus, Luisa A. Igloria, and Sheri Reynolds- all ODU professors and published authors- to answer some questions about the process of becoming a published writer.
Meet The Professors
John McManus has been a professor at ODU since 2008, teaching mainly creative writing workshops and craft classes. He has also been the graduate program director of the MFA creative writing program since 2016. As a fiction writer, McManus has published three collections of short stories, most recently “Fox Tooth Heart”, and a novel called “Bitter Milk”. In addition he has published freestanding short stories, novel chapters, and nonfiction essays
Sheri Reynolds has been a professor at ODU since 1997. She is currently the department chair, teaching fiction-writing workshops and craft courses. Her published novels include the newly released “The Tender Grave,” and New York Times BestSeller, “The Rapture of Canaan,” which was on Oprah Winfrey’s Book-club selection list. More information on her works can be found her www.sherireynolds.com
Luisa A. Igloria has been a professor at ODU since 1998. She is on the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program in the Department of English. She also teaches a large array of classes including Creative Writing courses and Literature courses. She specializes in poetry and is Virginia’s current poet laureate. Her publications in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction can be found here http://www.luisaigloria.com/books–chapbooks.html
How did it feel the first time you had a work published?
John McManus- “It felt surreal. I was young, right out of college, and the whole thing seemed like a dream. In retrospect I wish it had all happened later in life, because at the time I didn’t know the first thing about revision or editing.”
Sheri Reynolds- “It felt scary. Great, but scary. Once something is published, it’s no longer just yours. You have to let it go.”
Luisa A. Igloria- “The first and any time really that one is able to publish something is exhilarating and exciting. It contains promise not only that your work might be read, but that it might also be deeply felt and seen by others.”
What steps were the most difficult in the process of becoming published?
John McManus- “By far the most difficult stage has been admitting to myself when manuscripts I believed were finished (and thus ready for publication) weren’t really anywhere close to being finished.”
Sheri Reynolds- “It was difficult for me as an imaginative, introverted person to do the necessary business of getting published. I like writing. I don’t like the business of writing,meaning submitting things, keeping up with what I’ve sent out, soliciting agents or publishers [and]promotion.”
Luisa A. Igloria- “The work of writing itself. Just really keeping the faith and doing the work that is necessary – writing, revising, listening and learning from a community of writers, hopefully one that is supportive of you and your goals.”
What advice would you give aspiring authors who hope to have their work published one day?
John McManus- “Read at least 100 books a year for the rest of your life. Delete social media apps, games, YouTube, etc. from your phone and spend all that time reading instead. Read everything–award-winning literary work; genre paperbacks for sale in the grocery store checkout aisle; classics; all the recent National Book Award winners and Pulitzer winners and winners of the various Poets, Essayists, Novelists Awards. Read with an eye for how those writers are doing the things you want to be able to do on the page, whether it’s shift point of view, write a crowd scene or a dream sequence, or enact a high-concept plot twist. Join literary communities. If you’re at ODU, take creative writing classes. Find the few classmates who care the most deeply about their writing and stay in touch with them and share work with one another.”
Sheri Reynolds- “Read for the pleasure of language or story, but also read like a detective, investigating the decisions a writer makes. A first draft can be a place to figure out what you’re trying to say, but after that, you have to do the work of shaping it. You have to imagine an audience-not your mama or anybody who loves you-reading it, and then make your piece work for that imagined audience. If you read often, with curiosity about decisions writers make, this will begin to come naturally.”
Luisa A. Igloria- “ Read, read, read— as much as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Above all, try to not lose sight of what it was that first made you love writing—that fire that made you fall in love with words. That’s the most important thing.”