Monday, March 30, 2015

Going Back to Where it All Began

By Kristin Battista-Frazee

It’s always good to reflect back to the beginning. It gives you a chance to see how far you have come and gives clarity for future plans. On Sunday, March 22 I presented at The Writer’s Center and it was wonderful to recall the start of my writing career.

I first came to The Writer’s Center in 2006, and I didn’t have grand plans to be become a famous writer (although it would be nice) I just wanted to become a better writer for work. I enrolled in a business writing course where I met Rick Walter, teacher extraordinaire and perpetual optimist. Rick was the catalyst for me embarking on this crazy endeavor to get published. He took a genuine interest in my efforts to improve my writing and even after the workshop ended, we would meet to review my work. Most importantly Rick believed in my writing potential. 

In one of those meetings I was brave enough to share the first 17 pages of what would be become my memoir The Pornographer’s Daughter.  I knew I had an usual story; my father was prosecuted by the federal government for distributing the adult film Deep Throat in the 1970s. The impact on my family was profound and shaped who I am today.  To tell the honest truth, those pages I provided to Rick were not very good, maybe even awful. But Rick recognized an opportunity and said the almost magically words, “I think this is sellable.” This changed everything. 

After my meeting with Rick, I had the unshakeable desire to get published. It seemed a daunting task, but if Rick thought my story was worthy to print, maybe someone else would too. I had to try. So for the next eight years I juggled a full-time job and family life; I made my plans and wrote as much as possible to improve my skills. A had two-fold strategy. First, I had to become a good writer and secondly, and of growing importance today, I had to develop a platform to grab the attention of an agent and ultimately a publisher.  Here some things I learned along the way. 

  • Learn the difference between constructive criticism and bad advice.  You’re the one most dedicated to your story, having spent an exorbitant amount of time with your characters and researching your topic. Don’t ignore that nagging voice in the back of your mind if suggested changes or criticism just doesn’t feel right. Also don’t make changes just to force a fit with an agent or publishing house. In the end it will produce a bad result.
  • Have an unfailing optimism that you will be published despite the difficulty.  If you don’t believe you will be published, no one else will either. Shut out the negative noise about hard and unlikely the success of seeing your book in print, it’s worthless to dwell on it.
  • Surround yourself with people who believe in your story and in you as a writer.  Without my writing group, my family and good friends, my book might not have been accomplished.
  • Practice writing as much as you can.  Freelance articles, blog, journal, long Facebook posts, etc.  This work helps hone your platform and thoughts about your book.
  • Find other writers to collaborate with and review your work.  I found other like-minded writers at The Writer’s Center, and their support was key to getting published.
  • Create your marketing platform and write a great book at the same time. You’ll need both for a chance to sell your book and have a publisher take you seriously.
No doubt it was a rocky road to seeing my book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. I lost an agent, gained a new agent, and suffered more rejections from publishers then I care to remember. But there were bright spots, too, like writing for The Daily Beast and having my story optioned to sell as television series, and finally a book deal with Skyhorse Publishing. My memoir was published in September 2014. What can I say, it has been a wild ride. It was great to come full circle and back to The Writer’s Center where it all began. 

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