Poems and Short Fiction and Essays, Oh My

I spent the weekend at the annual conference of the Alabama Writers Conclave, which is supposedly the oldest continuous writing organization in the United States. They awarded ROYAL STREET, my first book, with a “First Chapter Novel” award last year, so I thought I’d repay the favor by attending this year.

Interesting experience. First, I had a blast. I met a lot of people, heard some interesting speakers, got to lounge around in a hotel room without pets and family. But what I learned was not what I expected. I expected to get some writing insights, some new ways of approaching material, publishing tips.

But, instead, here’s what I learned:
–There are a LOT of people out there, primarily women, who are trying to make careers of writing poetry. This floored me. Do people still read poetry? Who reads poetry besides other poets? I did not attend any of the poetry sessions, or I might have learned the answers to those questions. But I couldn’t bring myself to do so.

–There are a LOT of people out there, primarily women, who are chasing the dream of literary short fiction. Yawn. Oops, I mean, wow. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t write a decent short story if it came up, introduced itself, and hopped onto my computer screen fully formed, that such a career path would ever occur to me.

–There are a LOT of people out there who write for the love of writing, and the possibility of inclusion in a small-press anthology or a quarterly journal is the end- and be-all of their aspirations.

I almost came out of this weekend experience feeling inferior. I’m crass and commercial. I love writing but I want people to read it. And I want to be paid for it, although the money isn’t as importance as the having people read it part, to be honest. And I have no delusions about my work being the Great American Anything. It isn’t literary, though it is literate. It isn’t full of deep thoughts, although I hope parts of it can be thought-provoking.

It’s popular fiction–even worse–GENRE fiction. Gasp! And I love it.

Now, for that poetry: There was was a writer from Nantuck, who hoped his flowery prose didn’t suck…

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

5 thoughts on “Poems and Short Fiction and Essays, Oh My

  1. I’m sitting here nodding at everything you wrote. I had no idea writing poetry was so big either, but there are tons of things I’m unaware of so this doesn’t surprise me.

    p.s. You mention on another blog about business cards. I just ordered some from vista prints.com for my next WIP I’m writing to hand out to Agents, editors, etc. You never know…plus they were real real real cheap.

    Dawn

  2. Yeah, who knew about poetry? What’s funny is that they had a drawing for prizes at the end of the conference and I won….yes…you got it…a book of poetry. LOL. Good tip about Vista–I’ve seen their ads. Will have to check them out!

  3. I love Vista Print. I usually wait until they have a sale – spend 30 and shipping free.

    I write because I love to write but I also want my writing to be read. And to be paid for it. 🙂

  4. I hear ya on the poetry. I took a creative writing class a couple of years ago and the teacher was really into poetry so half the class was about that. I didn’t like that half so much.

    There’s not a big market for poetry so I find it hard to believe that anyone could make a living from it, unless they sell it song lyrics. LOL, I could be wrong but…

    I love commercial fiction and I’m proud to write it.

  5. Nicole & Angie: Let’s hear it for commercial fiction! After all, Shakespeare was considered a crass, “commercial” writer in his day. Re: the poetry. Someone finally pointed out to me that it’s what college professors do in their spare time–LOL.