Writing in 2022

2022 has been a good year for writing, and I’ve had several stories published:

I also published two more volumes in my South Downs Way series: Weird Tales of the South Downs Way and A Foolish Journey. I also launched an etsy shop in January to sell my work.

In April, I joined the Todmorden Wednesday Writers group and have enjoyed the fortnightly writing challenges. I’ve also made some new friends, and was published in their annual anthology.

Also in April, Dan Sumption made a video of his reading of my story A Disease of Books.

I’ve been working at submitting stories this year. I sent out 55, of which 8 were accepted, and 38 rejected. Sending out stories is hard work, since you’re part of an avalanche of slush; and it’s not just about being good, it’s about appealing to a particular editor. And, looking back on the last year, I’ve had more satisfaction from self-publishing than I’ve had from my submissions.

I don’t have a large audience. That’s OK. Of all the writers I’ve met, the one who seemed happiest with their career was a woman who spoke at Slash Night. She wrote about a minor fandom for a group of about 100 people who passed around samizdat novels. The audience was responsive and engaged, and the way she spoke about her career was more passionate than anyone else I’ve encountered.

There’s an obvious question here: do I work harder at submitting my stories, or do I focus on self-publishing?

A major factor here is that the response is better from self-publishing than submissions. It’s great to be published in markets I love, but receiving a personal response to the work means more. I had an enthusiastic review from the Zeenscene blog (“These are affecting tales, well-written and honest, and well worth setting time aside to read“) and, several months into the etsy store, I found my reviews (“all of the stories in the pamphlets are consistently well-written and simultaneously strange and comforting“). It’s not simply about validation, it’s about participation. Some of my published pieces have received little or no response, whereas I’ve loved seeing social media posts about the Mycelium Parish News as readers get their copies.

Sending work out for submission means tailoring my work. Editors provide an important filter for writing, and self-publishing runs a risk by not having this oversight. But, at the same time, not everything I want to write fits into a market. I like the weird pieces. I’m tired of giving stories with a cosy beginning, middle and end. I’d prefer to focus on my own type of strange and aggressive little pieces, and I’m producing more of these than there seem to be markets for.

A third thing: I like producing physical objects. I like putting writing into a container and sending it out into the world. There’s a magic to the postal system. The tiny A7 books of stories I produced a few years back were hard work to make, but they were fun. I’d love to produce more writing like the short story I did on an origami crane.

I don’t want to continue gambling with my happiness, working hard submitting pieces I love to receive form rejection emails. I’d rather use my energy on something that will definitely bring me joy, and that is building tiny publications. My design skills might be rudimentary, but they are tighter than some of the online magazines I’ve found myself submitting to. And, you know, if I decide to produce several thousand words of Death Stranding fanfics, self-publishing means I can find them a home.

So that’s my plan for 2023, to focus on zines and postal experiments. Most of this will be fiction (I have two more South Downs Way zines on the runway), but there may be some non-fiction work too. I’m not 100% sure what else I will focus on, and that in itself is exciting.

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