What was it like being a young writer in the 70s?

For one thing, you could not simply splatter the pages with your ego and bad judgment with the cost being nothing more than the time it took to type it up and hit enter.  If you go back to my main wordpress blog, where most of it still lingers in the archives, you can find some of my accounts of what it was like back then.

It was comprised of hope, terror and determination.  Perseverence.

I used to re-type a manuscript to get all of the typos out until I would start to get physically nauseous.  In my desire for perfection and fear of rejection, I did not tell anyone that I was writing my first novel.  I carried around a notebook to jot things down.  One was letter sized and the other was one of those tiny little pads that fit comfortably in my pocket.

If  someone asked what I was doing, I told them I was working on my ‘secret project.’  It was all very Emily Dickinson-esque while I was in high school.    I was terrified of family and friends knowing that I had the audacity (or stupidity) to contemplate writing things.

I applied for and got special permission to take a creative writing course before even finishing Freshman English in college.  The teacher was a wannabe sports writer (I wish I had known that before hand).  I had a handful of sword and sorcery shorts done by then about Chimquar the Lionhawk (In The Darkness, Hunting: tales of Chimquar the Lionhawk; Wildside Press 2004).  He paired me off with the only other student writing fantasy and the guy just happened to be trying his hand at Conanesque fantasy.

The teacher was no help.  When I would ask him what he thought of my writing, the reply I usually got was “I don’t understand what you’re trying to do here.”

I was trying to tell a story, Bozo.

The guy I was paired  with for the student critique part was a very poor writer.  I tried to show him how to improve his descriptions and characterization without success.

I did my initial junior college work and was looking at four year schools when I came across an ad flyer tacked to the bulletin board in the counselors offices.  Without telling anyone what I was doing, I filled out an application and stuck inside as a writing sample a 500 page novel.  The response was phone calls from the Dean of Admissions and the President of the College.  I got a scholarship.

They were the first to read something I had written other than the assignments I had turned in for that previous course.  That was spring of 1976.

A one-on-one was arranged for me with Paul Kane (the poet who won the Guggenhiem in ’98, not the Brit) and Josiah Bunting III.  My first critique session with Paul, I was so terrified that I had uncontrollable tears streaming down my face.  He gave me a bemused smile.  I turned my head away and said, “Don’t look at me.  Keep talking.  Just don’t look at me.”

I came away from that year with a lot more confidence and skill than I had entered it with.

A year later I made my first ‘sale.’  It was a 4theluv chapbook, The Ruined Tower, and the publisher was Jessica Amanda Salmonson.  She also bought articles from me.  Then, in ’78, she sold an anthology to DAW, “Amazons.”  It came out in ’79.

The first story she bought for it was mine.


So much for being a young writer.

Here’s what I did not do:

I did not purchase illiterate stories for a zine.

I did not knowingly buy from a person with Pacione’s rep.

I did not make all kinds of stupid comments to people in a failed attempt to cover my arse.

I did not insult older writers.

I did not get rude at conventions

I did not write dumb commentary (I wrote well thought out reviews and articles.  In other words, I used that grey matter between my ears instead of squishing it out my ears so everyone could see I was an idiot).

I was fastidiously proper.

Now, I’m an old fart and propriety is no longer something I practice.

And if Roberts and Fabiani don’t like it, they can eat it, smear it on the walls and sit in it as it leaks out their various orifices.