Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to Meet and Marry a Genre

Guest Blogger: Laura Bridgwater

When I was a new writer, I flirted with many kinds of writing before I met the genre of my dreams. Unfortunately, there was no online dating service to match me with compatible writing, so I went on a number of blind dates.

First I dated children’s books. I figured that since I dragged a diaper bag and a book bag to the library three times a week, I could write stories that appealed to the Sesame Street crowd. Plus, I had years of experience reading aloud to first graders as a teacher. Despite these qualifications, I learned that it is surprisingly hard to write a bad children’s book and even harder to write a good one. It wasn’t a match made in heaven and we broke up.

Next, I dated poetry, mostly because I fancy Shel Silverstein . My best poem started like this: Hurray! Hurray!/ The flowers are dead/ No more pollen/ Cloggin’ up my head. After I combed through Poet’s Market and discovered that many of the small publishers had folded or were on vacation indefinitely, I settled for reciting Silverstein to my children instead of publishing my own verse.

Then I had an affair with a 1500-words-or-fewer short story and entered The Writer’s Digest Annual Short Short Story Competition . My wonderfully supportive and encouraging writing group giggled at what were supposed to be my serious passages. Short short story writing was a short short fling.

I was starting to tire of these courtships. I now had a history of serial monogamy with bad children’s books, embarrassing poetry, and laughable fiction. Was there a genre out there for me or would I die a spinster alone with my orphan words?

Naturally, when I was poised to throw in the pen and join a cloister, I met my first published clip: a humorous personal essay about what happens when you combine a cranky two year old and a cheap tent in the middle of nowhere. We went on a second date that was quickly followed by spending all of our time together. I started writing articles for newspapers and magazines and won awards from the Colorado Press Women. It was a labor of love.

The dating game was over! I entered a long-term relationship with nonfiction. I announced our engagement with business cards printed with the title freelance writer.

After I married nonfiction, I shopped for a home for my writing. In my search for more markets, I submitted essays to my local public radio station KUNC. I broke into radio because I was in the right place at the right time after being in the wrong place for a long time.

My advice to writers who want to break into any genre, including radio, is to keep dating. After all, even J.K. Rowling had to kiss a lot of frogs before she found her prince.

Laura Bridgwater is an award-winning journalist and radio commentator from Colorado. To hear Laura's latest radio spot, click here.

1 comment:

Name: Luana Krause said...

You hit the nail on the head, Laura. I, too, have had "dating" problems with my writing. Unfortunately, I'm still searching for Mr. Write.


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