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Writing Workshops Dallas Gave Me the Boost I Needed to Publish by Adam Fout

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 years ago

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 years ago

In the fall of 2019, I took an 8-week intermediate-level fiction class with Writing Workshops Dallas. About 6 months before that, I had begun working on a memoir about my 9 years of addiction.

By the time I signed up for the workshop, I had hit a stumbling block—I had finished the whole memoir, and I had no desire whatsoever to start the editing process.

The memoir is episodic, so I knew the value of having each chapter able to stand on its own—I could submit them to lit mags.

The downside: because the chapters are only tangentially connected, there’s not much of a through-line. That made the prospect of editing even more intimidating because I couldn’t figure out how to order the chapters, much less begin the process of whittling down.

That intimidation lasted at least a month. I had just reached 8 years of sobriety, and between a full-time job and the work I had to do to stay sober through 12-Step meetings, not to mention spending time with friends, family, and my beautiful wife, I just didn’t have it in me to edit.

I lost all momentum.

I’d been writing every day, and now I was lucky if I wrote once a week.

I’d been writing speculative fiction for about 3 years up to this point, and I had sold a number of flash pieces to some newer magazines, but I wasn’t getting any traction with the larger magazines, so I was hoping that I could get my fiction going again by signing up for the workshop.

And if it just happened to give me a great excuse to sit on my memoir, that was cool too.

The Workshop

Going through the workshops over 8 weeks gave me the boost I needed to get my brain back into the writing mindset. I was super happy with what I wrote in the workshops, and I found the feedback incredibly helpful.

At the end of the workshop, Blake Kimzey graciously offered to read anything we might write in the future.

I immediately thought of my memoir and sent him a couple chapters. I worried the quality just wasn’t where it needed it to be to submit. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to reach that level of quality without just starting over, which I had no intention of doing ever.

Blake warned me that nonfiction was not his specialty, but he read the chapters anyway—and very quickly. He gave me a lot of encouragement and positive feedback.

During the workshop, he was always encouraging us to submit, which I had been doing in volume for the previous 3 years (about 200 submissions a year), but that had only been fiction, so I was nervous to submit my nonfiction until I got some beta readers’ feedback.

After getting his positive feedback, I felt emboldened enough to reach out to a few writer friends of mine, including Anna Madden and Jamie D. Munro and ask for their feedback.

They were both incredibly helpful. Without Anna, I never would have been able to figure out how to order the memoir. Jamie helped me stop with all the purple prose I tend to favor and showed me how much more powerful the chapters were when they were cut down.

Not long after that, I started submitting.

Rejection, Acceptance, and Beyond

I began submitting after the workshop, and at first I got no traction.

Then the pandemic hit, and along with the rest of the world, the literary world got thrown off balance. Long delays were inevitable, but the previous 4 years of submitting had prepared me.

The rejections kept rolling in though, so I figured I was just way off the mark, especially because of how much I was still struggling to sell my fiction.

Then I got my first nonfiction acceptance ever in April from J Journal. A few months later, december accepted another piece.

Two more acceptances from Another Chicago Magazine and The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review came within a few days of each other.

Somehow, despite my fears, despite convincing myself that this memoir was just another stack of 100,000 words that I needed to write to get to the good stuff, it turned out that maybe this was the good stuff.

During this time, I got the incredible opportunity to attend The Odyssey Writing Workshop. It took my fiction to another level and gave me time to let the submissions for my memoir sit. It was near the end of the workshop that those last 2 acceptances came in.

It was strange to look at Submittable and finally see those bright green Accepted tags. With fall submissions getting into swing, I knew I had to put the fiction on the backburner for a little while so I could keep the momentum going with the memoir.

Nonfiction pays for the fiction, right? I want to focus on this so that maybe, just maybe, I can sell the damn thing and make enough money to focus on fiction for a year.

Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

Building a Platform

I’ve heard it a thousand times—if you want to be attractive to an agent and an editor, you need to show them you can help market and sell your book.

You need a platform.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of how to build a platform for fiction, but it was clear how I could build one for my addiction/recovery/mental health memoir: turn my freelance website into an addiction/nonfiction/mental health blog (duh).

I’ve spent the last 6 years in the world of WordPress, publishing content as a ghostwriter for tons of businesses, so I knew how to make this happen. In about a week, I launched the blog and started pushing it out on social media.

I wasn’t quite sure how well it would be received, but the response was overwhelming, and I got a ton of people reading who said they loved it.

I’d love it if you paid me a visit——and I’d love it even more if you left me some comments.

Now I try to post twice a week. My posts are targeting keywords and come from the heart. After years of blogging for someone else, I can finally blog about the things that matter to me.

I know that all of this takes time. I knew that when I started the blog.

But I also know that it’s going to be a while before those chapters get published, a while before I can sell them again, a while before I should even look for an agent, much less query one. I want to get this platform built and running strong before I do.

And I can honestly say that Writing Workshops Dallas was exactly what I needed in the beginning to get me going again.

If You’ve Been on the Fence About Writing Workshops Dallas, Get Your Ass Off and Sign Up for a Workshop

My experience at Writing Workshops Dallas was fantastic. The quality was far above what I’d experienced at 2 colleges in undergrad. Honestly, for the level of quality they provide, you’re getting far more than your money’s worth.

They should at least double their prices for the 8-week courses.

You should probably sign up for one before they wise up and do exactly that.

Check them out here, and tell them you want a class with Blake because he’s a superstar.

And keep writing.

Adam Fout is an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer in North Texas. His work appears or is forthcoming in december, J Journal, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Pulp Literature, and DreamForge.

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