Recently I met and heard Jonathan Scott Fuqua, a prominent Baltimore author and teacher. He made some interesting comments about writing and publishing in general. Here are a few comments from my notes:
“Try every door” was the closing advice from Jonathan Scott Fuqua, speaker at the May 19 MWA meeting. He is an author, fiction and nonfiction writer, historian, artist and teaches on the faculty of Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore.
Fuqua described his seventeen year writing career as a “long hard slog.” He considered his first two books to be disappointments and mostly ignored, he said. His second book was written with a bolder viewpoint and rejected 32 times. At that point he pretty much gave up writing for a while.
Suddenly out of the blue his book “The Reappearance of Sam Webber” was mentioned by an East coast talk show host, particularly talking about an obscure bullying scene in the book. This unlikely scenario brought an unexpected uplift in sales and recognition. For it he was awarded the ALA Alex Award. Fuqua expressed his admiration for librarians saying “what sustains you are librarians” and urges writers to go out of their way to talk with librarians. “If you are looking for someone to place your books, they are wonderful.”
Fuqua suggests that writers form ideas that are prompted by larger subjects such as mental illness or civil rights. “Pick a subject and create a story around it. Bend a concept and really be specific.” He urges writers to come up with an ending before they start writing, or an ending concept. He suggests writing in an arc as though your material is tethered.
We’ll talk more another day.