Q&A with Wilkes University Creative Writing Program
Featured in the December 2012 issue of Revise This, the Wilkes Creative Writing Program newsletter. An abridged version of this interview also appears in the Wilkes University Creative Writing Program blog, The Write Life.
Wilkes: I understand it was a very long process having the AWP article picked up and published. Can you tell us a bit about that?
TC: I think it was fourteen months after I submitted the article before I heard from the Writer’s Chronicle. By that time I assumed the article had been rejected and that the letter had somehow gotten lost in the mail. Instead of a rejection, I received an email from the managing editor asking me to resubmit the article with a few verbiage adjustments. I made some revisions and resubmitted. This time it took only eight months to receive a response. I remember exactly where I was (sitting on the couch in my living room checking email at 8:30 on a Saturday night) when the acceptance came through. It didn’t seem real, but the wait was not yet over. Another full year passed before the editors found a place for “Privileged Perspective …” in the journal. Three years total from submission to publication; I can say now with confidence, it was well worth the wait.
Wilkes: You’ve also had excerpts of your memoir published in journals. What has this experience been like?
TC: Trying to mold sections or chapters of my narrative memoir into standalone pieces has been a great learning experience. It helped me to see the chapters from a different perspective and to fine-tune them with greater attention to certain details. I think the chapters I revised with intent to submit as standalone pieces are stronger now. Each has its own narrative arc, and I think of these sections as stories within the larger story. It has also been fun to share the memoir with readers through these shorter, representative pieces.
Wilkes: Any thoughts on the need for patience and perseverance for writers?
TC: I don’t know if writers need to be patient, but I do know that being impatient doesn’t change most outcomes. Writing and revising and submitting and waiting for responses are all part of the process. This process takes time, and much of it is out of our control. I thinks we, as writers, do best to focus on the parts we can control–the writing, the submitting, the querying–and we should try not to worry about those parts of the process that depend on others. Of course, this is easier said than done.
As far as perseverance goes, I don’t see how a person could be a writer without this quality. Not only is what we do hard work, it is also a leap of faith every time we pick up a pen or sit down at our computers to write. We don’t know if our work will turn out as we plan or even, at times, if we’ll finish. We can’t know with any degree of certainty how the work will be received by others, and we get far more rejections than acceptances. We rarely write for external rewards because there most often aren’t any. So many elements of writing can decimate the will to continue that I think only the real writers persist. Without perseverance, we would not be writers.
Wilkes: Any comment on how the Wilkes community has been a nice addition to your writing life?
TC: Being among this community of supremely talented writers in the students, alum, and faculty provides both support and inspiration and helps me to continue moving forward. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and I’m encouraged by reading about the work that others are doing. I continue to learn from this community through reading the newsletter and following discussions on various social media platforms on a regular basis. It is part of my “writerly” life, and I’m happy to be able to give back by sharing my experiences as well.