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Perseverance—a stubborn drive to keep moving forward in doing something despite difficulty, hardship, or delay in achieving success.

Avenues are explored and time is lost in submission. Sometimes I have moments of despair of wondering if the effort is worth it. I always shake them off and try again. Writing needs focus and a plan. It is so easy to get lost in how to get a project out into the world from the pits of social media—lost in algorithms—to the reality of the expensiveness of ads that are mostly doomed to fail. I want to be a creator not a publisher. My self-published works all had life at a small press before I re-published them. I had to teach myself how to format and design new editions with modest success. It is hard to bring second life to a book once it has been published. The experiment was necessary in purging the old editions from the price gouged second-hand market and also from pirates who hijack e-books and put out versions with altered titles (sometimes with a 1900 or other fictional date) to illegally sell. Distributers will take down these fake editions with a push of an email with proof, but the audacity of thieves is off-putting. Yet, I go on.

The conundrum is presented like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. In the eighties, I loved the books where you could follow a story and the choices you made dictated how it would end. Now, I must choose to continue with the submission process on multiple fronts and on the prospect of taking one of my completed projects and self-publishing it. I do not want to put out a book in a void. Majors will not accept an unsolicited manuscript without an agent and agencies and small publishers that do accept have tough gatekeepers and small windows of opportunity. One of the hardest aspects is the waiting game. Most submissions take three months or longer to get a response and some recipients may ghost, never to respond at all. I keep a small book with submission data and timelines to update as deadlines approach for followups or for the red pen to mark a rejection. Quitting is not a choice.

The sinking feeling when reading the first few lines of an automated response is always a punch to gut, but I can take a punch. Most people in the industry, the ones who actually reply, are kind and offer encouragement to go on. The personal comments, even the ones on the periphery of a form letter, give me heart. I imagine the publishing world to be like most insular worlds where it helps to know someone. One of the keys must be to find a mentor with similar tastes who takes an interest in my craft. One day, I will find them… whoever and wherever they are. Until then, I have to keep choosing my own adventure. The trick to navigating the Choose Your Own Adventure books was there no one true ending but multiple ones. When reading as a youth, if the hero died, lost a battle, or got stuck in a dead end quest, I could always turn back some pages and make a different choice to set them on a different path. The lesson I learned long ago is that the choices I have made are part of a larger story, one with many possibilities. I cannot be defined by my mistakes only by my future decisions, so I will continue to submit and will consider the alternatives as they come.


Washington Monument 2020


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