I've been asked to speak on the topic: "So You've FInished Your Masterpiece: What's Next?" I get 15 minutes. Hm.

There's a delicate balance in speaking to wannabe writers (and I count myself among this group). On one hand we need encouragement, because we're likely to be shy about sharing our writing with others. Like Emily Dickinson said, it's like airing a piece of your soul. It hurts when someone rejects it, or worse, doesn't even notice. Still we live in a real world, and it doesn't help to pretend that everyone's writing is great and everyone should and will be published. So your English teacher said it was worthy, or your mother, or even your agent. There is still the matter of timing, marketing, changing tastes, and of course luck. All of those can work for you and against you.

So what will I say to my audience? The truth, I suppose. Although I will phrase it tactfully and use humor to soften it somewhat, writers need to know that publishing isn't as easy, timely, or profitable as outsiders believe and new writers hope. When we set out to write for money, we must accept that there will be more work after "The End" than there was to get to that point. In addition, it may be work that we aren't excited about doing: selling ourselves, pushing the book, investing our own money into getting the word out that a book exists that was written by Peg Herring or Ann Jones or Bill Shaksper. While a writer imagines herself sending off manuscripts to an eagerly-awaiting public, the truth is that very few people will even know she wrote a book. And even less of them will care.

I can't help it if these truths discourage some people. Think of air's effect on a fire. If the fire is small, the air puts it out. If the fire is strong, air makes the fire grow larger and hotter. Creative fire is the same way. If you burn brightly, no breath of cold air will smother your flame.

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