On Self-Promotion

Here’s a little something on this subject that just appeared in my inbox.

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I realize I got a little out of hand with that whole Medium Fiction thing, posting here, there, and everywhere with pleas to read “Shunyata” and vote for me. It was a tough contest, because in order to get read, I really had to self-promote. It may come as a surprise to learn that I loathe self-promotion, or at least, I loathe the point where you travel from casual, appropriately-proud asker-of-favors to overbearing, obnoxious, and desperate.

Forgive me if I reached that point.

We’ve been talking about this over on popcorntheblog, because contributor Tara Conklin is about to have a book out and we all want to support her as much as we can (and of course, by promoting Tara, we also promote popcorn, which is thus also self-promotion). It feels easy-peasy to support someone close to me, another writer whose work I love–I do it here all the time, after all–but much less easy to swallow and ask everyone to support ME. It makes you wonder which successful writers and artists had a huge hand in their own success and which just got lucky. Someone told me the other day that Cheryl Strayed is a shameless self-promoter. How so? How did this person know? Would Wild have been any less successful if Strayed hadn’t gone to bat for herself? (I loved that book; I think it was worthy of self-promotion.)

Self-promotion is like networking, that other horribly uncomfortable occupation that one must engage in in order to get ahead. My friend Jesse Taggert is an excellent networker. Sometimes I think I should hire her to tell me what to do with my career. She’s the one, for example, who suggested I email the head of Medium just to casually say hi and tell her about my experience with the contest. She’s always got a plan to open a door.

Me networking with a dog.

Me networking with a dog.

Then again, as she said to me before I sent that email, “Take me with a grain of salt. It’s easier to be glib and enthusiastic about others’ actions versus your own.”

Which is, of course, true. I think most of us, at our core, just wish doors would open for us without the need for networking or self-promotion. Unfortunately I don’t think the world really works that way.

Your turn, readers: share your deepest secrets and stories of self-promotion. I am all ears.

Plug: Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder

I still have about 25 pages to read, but I am officially plugging Ann Patchett’s novel State of Wonder. The book was sitting on my bedside table for weeks but didn’t excite me, probably because the cover is kind of nondescript and the title just didn’t evoke much–innocence, childhood, maybe science? Then a friend said she was reading a novel about a single woman who travels to the Amazon and I thought, perfect.

Thank you google images

Thank you google images

The book is just beautifully done. It has elements of magical realism, a la Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, but since I know that book annoyed a lot of people don’t take that as your main comparison. Perhaps I should say the book has elements of the otherworldly, and while it seems to be making a statement about primitivism–one might argue that it’s a bit reductive in its portrayal of Amazonian tribes of Indians–I am fascinated by the people that Dr. Marina Singh encounters on her journey. So much about it is surprising, unexpected. I realized about 50 pages ago that I had no idea what was going to happen, and as we all know, if you can’t wait to find out, that makes for a page-turner!

You may recall I mentioned Patchett’s Truth and Beauty as one of my Must-Read Memoirs way back when.

Well, folks, it’s the last day to vote in the Medium Short Fiction Contest, where my story “Shunyata” is an entry. As my sister in law said, I do wish it weren’t a popularity contest, but there you have it. I have been pretty popular; my story, about love lost and spirituality found, hit the #2 slot on Saturday but this morning is back around #5. Top three get read and judged by an agent and the prize is $2,012. Every vote really does count, and today is the last day to vote, and if you haven’t and you’re so inclined…well, I’m very grateful.

Here’s to reading in the new year!

Also:

http://bit.ly/WVC0eC

http://nyti.ms/VeKqg3

Oh to be third…

Well, at last check my story is fifth in Medium’s Fiction Contest. To be read by an agent, and judged, and possibly win $2,012, it needs to be in the top three.

I’d say I’m disappointed, and I am–it’s doubtful I can jump two places in two days–but honestly, this is the story of my writing life (no pun intended!). My poetry manuscript was a finalist in two or three contests, but never got published. I’ve gotten great rejection notes from top places. I’ve had so many near misses I’ve come to expect my writing career to be like this.

Actually, it occurs to me, this is probably the story of most writers. Unless you’re just kissed by fairy dust, most of us struggle and come close and have disappointments and failures and some of them are because we aren’t, yet, good enough and some are because we’re unlucky, in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just plain not ready.

I hold onto this theory, because if I didn’t I might get very, very discouraged.

So! One last plea, readers: if you haven’t read it yet, please do. And if you feel inclined to share it, even better. Maybe with your help, I’ll be in the right place at the right time on this one.

#MediumFiction