Coming Out, as a Writer

So, for a long time I have kept my writing ambitions mostly to myself and shared them only with a select circle of family and friends.

I know a lot of people, and most of them don’t know at all that I write.   There are a lot of reasons for this:

Not everyone is supportive, and I have enough trouble assuaging my own fears, without dealing with anyone else’s dampening influence.

It’s a long road, and I know that already.  I don’t need others to tell me.

In the film industry, there’s a certain contempt for the “wannabe.”  And I never wanted to be seen as a wannabe.  I wanted to come out to people as an “am,” as in “I am a screenwriter, and here are my credits,” or “I’m writing for this TV show…”

Of course I can withstand other’s unsupportive thoughts.  I survived USC film school, after all, which is not a gushingly supportive atmosphere, at least it wasn’t when I was there.  (And it doesn’t have to be.  We were all tough enough to get through it, and the industry itself can be tough.  I know that.)  It’s just that dealing with other people’s negative comments takes energy, and I’d rather spend it on my work.

I also prefer to spend my energy doing the work, not talking about it.  I have gotten so close with a lot of things, good responses from producers and others,  getting my work seen by production companies, etc.  And I don’t want to be continually saying, “This almost worked,” and so on.  I just want to work on it until I succeed, and then be able to share the success.

Now with the Graphic Novel (and blogging) project, I can’t keep it that way any more.

I need help.

And I need to come out as a writer to get it.

Even though I am constantly educating myself, I still don’t know nearly enough about Graphic Novels as an art form or about how they are produced and published.  I am working on finding out, and there are so many people who can help me with that.  Bur first they need to know I need their help and why.

I tried, judiciously, telling a few friends about it at a Victorian dance ball a couple of months ago, and out of four revelations, I got two offers of help from friends who have brothers or friends with knowledge of the field, or who have published graphic novels, and would be willing to advise me.

The warm enthusiasm of my friends, and their expressions of support have been wonderful.  As I said, I have been releasing the information carefully.  I’m not ready to broadcast it yet.  But those I have told have been marvelous about it, and I am grateful.

It’s scary coming out.

As exhilarating as the response has been to my selective revelations, it’s still scary to share the information.  I fear people will think me a poor, deluded soul, pursuing a crazy, unrealistic dream.   Counterbalancing that is the tremendously positive comments I have gotten about my writing from Ken Rotcop and my manager.  Just being able to say I have a manager helps, and makes me seem more legitimate.  The very fact that my manager judged me good enough to try out for a T.V. writing job is so encouraging.  (No guarantee of getting the job, of course, but still, encouraging.)

Still, it is hard to let my secret out.

After all the hours and years of studying and writing, I want to be taken seriously.  It has taken a lot of dedication to get to this point, but in America, if you’re not making money already at something, you’re seen somehow as less legitimate.  Also, American culture has a strange relationship with the arts.  It seems we worship those who are making lots of money in the arts, and disdain anyone who isn’t.   There isn’t a lot of support for those of us transitioning into making money at it, the way there might be, for example for lawyers are applying to firms, or dentists seeking their first office to start practicing.

It’s as if an artist isn’t a professional until we bring the check home from it, but those other professionals are regarded as “the real thing,” even before they obtain a position.

Now, I know not all artists are created alike.  I know that not everyone with aspirations is creating good work.  I know I certainly wasn’t when I first got started.  It takes time to get good at any art form.  And there are some people who just dream of an artistic career but never do the work necessary to get good, or to get connected with the money side of it.  Of course, some people don’t want to make money at art – and that’s fine, too.

But it would be nice if people in general would give aspiring artists the benefit of the doubt, instead of the all-too-usual cynicism.

There’s another dimension to this.

As gregarious as I am, I’m very private about certain things in my life, and for the longest time, this has been one of them.  I’m not used to having this all out in the open.

But I must forge ahead as I must.  Coming out as a writer is already helping me, to get advice and help.  So here I go…

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WonderCon 2011: the first day, there’s more!

I found some more notes from my first day at WonderCon.

In the small press area of the exhibit hall, I talked with a couple of very helpful folks at one of the tables.  Unfortunately, this was before I started writing down the companies of everyone I talked with and asking their permission to mention them in the blog, so alas, I cannot identify them.  But anyway, I told them of my quest, and they gave me some interesting information.  They mentioned an article in SF Gate about Amanda Hocking, who self-published online and marketed through ebooksellers.  Her work got to be so popular that she was courted by three publishers and made a deal with St. Martin’s Press.

These helpful folks also mentioned an artist website: Deviantart.com, where artists display and sell their art.  They thought that if I needed to find an artist partner for my graphic novel, that might be a good place to look.

When I had been upstairs for the first session I attended,  by Douglas Neff, I had noticed a very long line for Portfolio review.  I asked about it, and someone waiting told me that various companies had a rep inside the room, who would look over artist portfolios and give suggestions.  I thought that was very friendly and helpful.  I also thought, if I needed to find an artist to partner with, that long line might be a great place to start.  I checked the schedule, and the review was continuing on the next day, so I knew I could come back if necessary.

When I started out at WonderCon searching for information, I didn’t even know how the business worked at all.  I didn’t know if publishers accept stories and then pair up the writer with an artist in their stable, as it were, or if artists and writers paired up before bringing a project to a publisher.  I also didn’t know there was so much self-publishing going on.  Even as the first day wore on, I sort of gathered that mostly artists and writers pair up independently, either to self-publish or to submit proposals to publishers.

That night when I got home, I called a dear friend of mine, Andrea Potts, who is also an amazing artist.  She didn’t have much time, so I asked if she was interested in the project, and she said yes.  And then she asked me to tell her about the story a little, just to be sure she would be into it.  I pitched it to her briefly (Hollywood teaches you nothing if not to be brief with pitching).

Side note – for some great advice about pitching, see Ken Rotcop‘s Perfect Pitch, and his DVD, Let’s Sell Your ScriptKen Rotcop is wonderful, fiercely supportive of writers, and truly interested in helping us get careers going.  He worked in the industry for decades; he’s been the creative head of four studios; and he is an award-winning writer himself.  He founded the original pitching event, Pitchmart, which is celebrating its 50th session on April 30th, 2011.  I have attended many times and gotten very positive responses from producers.  That is where I met my manager.

Andrea liked my story, so I didn’t need to return to the portfolio review on Saturday, and I planned on spending all my time in the exhibit hall, gleaning information and resources.