In Depth Questions for Working Authors – Jennifer Brozek
1. Please give your fellow members a little bit of background on your writing life. I would really love to focus on the story of how Grants Pass came to fruition.
I have been publishing professionally since 2001 when I started writing RPG reviews for Black Gate magazine. On the heels of being furious at a friend's comment about my writing ("She's good… but she only dreams about being published. She'll never actually do anything with it.") I emailed the editor of Black Gate and told him I wanted to review RPGs for him because, while he had reviewers, he didn't have the female gamer perspective. That got me in.
From there, I wrote RPG reviews for Black Gate, Games Unplugged and Campaign Magazine. In 2004, I contacted the editor of Campaign magazine and pitched a short monthly serial called "Tales of the Hucked Tankard." It was fiction based around an old D&D character who used metal tankards as weapons. This editor, Sean Everette, knew me from professional and social circles and agreed. That was my first published fiction. I was over the moon.
Also in 2004, Sean started working for Sovereign Press (now known as Margaret Weis Productions) as an editor with Margaret Weis. I immediately asked if he was looking for new authors and he was. Sean helped me start my RPG author career by believing in me and by knowing I worked hard for what I wanted. It is because of him that I have had the pleasure of working on the Dragonlance, Castlemourn, Cortex and Serenity RPGs. It is also because of him that I have been able to branch out into working with other RPG companies like Rogue Games, Catalyst Labs and Otherworld Creations.
You might notice that 2004 was a big year for me as a professional author. I received my first RPG contracts and sold fiction. At the same time, I was in another LiveJournal writing group and I wanted to show everyone that becoming a professional author, while not easy, was possible and that it was an active thing. You did not just sit back and let things come to you. You wrote, yes, but you also contacted people, asked for work and you submitted your writing everywhere.
As one of the few "real life authors" of the writing group, I wrote a series of essays on the business of writing, the business of being published, critiques, rejections, and the like. At the end of them, I gave a series of short writing exercises based on the information I wrote about. One of the bits of feedback I received was the fact that a new author was terrified of submitting anything to anyone because they were afraid of doing it wrong. So, I decided to do a "call for submissions" as an exercise for the group.
Thus, the GRANTS PASS anthology was born.
Unfortunately, I received one submission for the anthology. Just one. I was very disappointed. Especially since people had seemed so interested in it at first. It reminded me too much of those words that got me going in the first place. Most of the writers in that particular writing group were only dreamers. Few had the drive to actually do something about their dream
Not to be daunted, because I adored my idea for GRANTS PASS, in 2005, I broke it out of the writing group and I put up a general call for submissions to the world at large. I publicized it all around. I collected stories. I rejected stories. I worked very hard until I had a collection I liked. In 2007, I started shopping it around. The one thing I heard over and over was, "Wow, what a great idea. However, you don't have enough big named authors. Send me a copy if it gets published."
That was disappointing. But I did not give up. In 2008, I approached one of my GRANTS PASS authors about publishing the book through his independent press, Morrigan Books. We had a long talk about it and, in the end, I signed on with them. The first thing that happened was that I received a co-editor, Amanda Pillar. The second thing that happened was that my co-editor and publisher read through all the stories and rejected just over half of them.
This broke my heart. Some of those stories had been with me for four years. But, in the end, I knew this was what was best for my anthology. The third thing that happened was tightening up my guidelines and the fourth was inviting a small, select list of professional authors to submit to the anthology. Now that it had a publisher, we could do that. Also, in the intervening years, while my writing portfolio had grown, so had my social network within the writing industry.
Five years from conception to publication, GRANTS PASS will be released in July 2009. I'm so very happy about it. Yes, I am published in numerous RPG books and anthologies and I do have my semi-pro webzine, The Edge of Propinquity, but GRANTS PASS is my first baby. I am so proud of it and the fact that I never gave up on it.
I guess that is the biggest lesson I have about writing and to become a professional author – never give up. Eventually, if you have the drive and the talent, your time will come.