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Dream big and be persistent

Don't be intimidated by today's publishing environment. The key is the same as it's always been: dream big and never give up.
Photo by Michele Stapleton

Do you ever forget the first time you see your work officially published in print or online? Probably not.

I fondly remember pitching a series about black history month to a newspaper when I was a doctoral student in my 20s. They bought it. After that – to follow advice we’ve read many times in these pages – I pitched another series, this time about women’s history month. They bought that, too. Indeed, I had established a solid relationship with two editors on the style desk and wrote for them when I wasn’t working on my dissertation. Eventually, they asked me to join the staff, and I wrote for the newspaper, primarily as an arts reporter, for 20 years.

You don’t hear too many newspaper stories like that anymore, but publishing is a thriving business, and in this issue, we suggest ways in which you can find support for publishing your work. The key, it seems to me, is to dream big and not give up. The landscape has changed with self-publishing and the multi-book contract imperative, but in the end, dreaming big and being persistent are timeless requirements for a writer.

When this issue was about to be sent to the printers, we lost two literary luminaries: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. They represent two distinct voices and contributions to the world of letters and culture, and each has acolytes. Eco’s The Name of the Rose was the first book that confused me so much that I couldn’t put it down. I suppose gateway fiction is as much a memory maker as seeing one’s first byline. It stays with you. Eco made it into my personal literary canon.

We were quickly able to track down one of Lee’s admirers – Roy Peter Clark, a fellow journalist and a regular contributor to this magazine. Clark provided us with the craft door to Lee’s most famous work To Kill a Mockingbird: an analysis from his new book, which we excerpt here to honor the writer whose work has fascinated, inspired and propelled many of our readers.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and we wish you luck in the publishing arena.

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Alicia Anstead

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