I spent 25 years writing for the cheap sheets. Then, after a while away, I shot for the impossible from the cheap seats. I returned to writing. I decided one day I’d call it Author-ized in ’18…
Why? Because it sounded good and slogany, and that’s exactly what I needed right then as I built pages like this one. God knows how many pages built on social media platforms before I finally settled on a few that I liked. As 2018 draws to a close, I thought I might do well by revisiting some of where all this has been in just these few short months.
Of course, like most things you’ll ever read by my hand, you’re about to get some back story. You can take that to the bank. Besides, that MFA program I was in, you see, required me to write an entire book. If I didn’t pad the backgrounds, how the hell else would I have pulled off something like that?
No, really, I didn’t intentionally pad a damn thing. Not saying it ain’t there, just that I didn’t intend for it to be. But if I ever sit through another writing workshop and hear a single soul mention anything at all about settings, POV or, God forbid, utter one little squeak that even remotely sounds like I really think you ought to… I will happily do my time behind bars because I been dying to see what this graduation ring will do to a windpipe.
Just sayin’… I knew from the start that book was looming there at the end of it all; in fact, it’s one of the primary reasons I enrolled to begin with. It was a way of moving beyond the Round Tuits I kept piling up and writing that book I’d always talked about. Lord knows, I’d been threatening to do so long enough, but when I celebrated my forty-fifth birthday a little over a year ago, I had precisely no pages of it written despite every best intention I may have had of writing that book in my twenties. Of course, I had things to see. Stuff to do. And probably yours and my share of beers to drink.
And I did, too. All of it. Yours and mine both, I’m sure. Then, a not-too-shabby career as a print journalist popped up on my horizon, and before long, I had a family to care for. Sure, I was writing, every day and then some at most places I worked. Even won a few awards for the effort. But while I was busy seeing the great wide wonder of it all, filling my days with other people’s stories, I never got around to any of my own.
Truth is, I was a hellova lot farther away than I’d ever been.
I was tired of it, honestly. Yeah, I got to write a few good stories and do some pretty cool stuff, but writing lost its luster for me. Like most anyone with a few years on them will one day realize is that for every sparse diamond you may dig up, you spent days upon months about neck-deep it mires of shit so vast you only pray you have enough energy to make it to the end of the day so you can do it all over again. When my paid writing job and I parted ways in 2010–just as many longtime print journalists around the country also experienced right about then–I couldn’t have cared less. If anything, I was relieved, especially when I discovered I could get a job as a walk-on at a construction site and make more than I ever did writing.
Part of me wanted to laugh out loud that I’d gotten that job simply by being at the right place at the right time. A dude who didn’t speak a word of English didn’t show up one day for another dude who didn’t even have a green card. I got hired simply for being there, and at day’s end, the fellow who didn’t have a green card agreed to keep me employed, and so long as I continued to show up, he’d pay me what the fellow who couldn’t speak English got. Sad part was, you couldn’t even land an interview for the job I’d lost nowadays without at least one college degree. I had that and then some, plus I brought two decades of experience to the table along with stacks of awards. By month’s end at my new job, sinking tiny screws into walls, I got a $3 an hour raise, just for showing up every day. I now made way more than I ever could writing.
Fucking sad is what that was.
Of course, life often has a way of making you appreciate a thing or two, usually right about the time you start whining about how much of a rut you’re in. And damn it all if life didn’t fuck me good with the next couple of doozies it slung. Pissed me off so bad, I swore I’d never write another word again.
Didn’t even sign my name unless I had to.
Funny thing is, though, one detail that really stood out for me from that entire quarter century I spent chasing stories on constant deadline. It was that look people would give me whenever I introduced myself as a professional writer. Why? I dug how it sounded. No other reason. But unless I was talking to another newspaper geek like me or a truly polished politician, you could count the seconds on one hand before this weird, glazed look washed over the other person’s face. They may be all smiles, grasping your hand, but no sooner than the vibrations of the word writer passed your lips, you could watch the thought process manifest itself in bodily actions, as if they heard every word I spoke, they just weren’t sure what language those words were in or how I’d found time to become quite so fluent in it.
Can’t tell you how many times I saw that look through the years.
But no sooner than I say to hell with all that and start doing some real work for a change, like building buildings or shaping massive chunks of steel, those same glazed looks from before began appearing on many of those same faces I knew from before. Only thing was, then, they were all telling me how I really needed to get back to it. Quite nearly without fail, they start tossing about words like gifts and talents–stuff that crawls up my spine and makes me want to step out of your own skin for a while–you just can’t please some people, it seems.
Of course, those jobs, too, wound up going the way of the dodo bird. So did that family of mine. All about the same time this MFA program appeared on my radar, one that required me to work on that writing I’d been honing for all those years. It would provide the motivations I needed to put this whole book thing together. Nothing like a deadline to get you off your dead ass…
But getting it written was just part of the problem I faced. As my first thesis advisor told me–yeah, I said FIRST thesis advisor, but that’s another story tied to a fairly long and fucked up conversation–but in addition to her surprise that so little of my book was actually written at the time, she was smooth appalled I hadn’t yet been published by the literaries yet.
That degree I was shooting for wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on if I hadn’t yet gotten published. Back when she started, you needed a good book or three published before you could land a teaching post at a college. But a story or two would at least show I was trying anyway. Ironic, ain’t it? Just a couple weeks after telling me all that, she was job hunting herself following a letter from the dean about how the school would be headed this other arbitrary direction. What couldn’t tell was if he said meant the physical building, the five whole faculty members he still had working there, or if perhaps he was referencing the student body, for whom all this education crap is supposed to serve, right?
I almost made it through that with a straight face. Either way, though, it was now or never for me, far as writing went. So, could an old fart like me learn a new trick or two?
You’ll have to be the judge of that, honestly, because despite that degree I got that labeled me a “master” of said craft–’til death do me in, apparently, I guess that’s what all that business about it being a terminal degree means–I know just enough about it all to readily admit that I don’t know shit. I’d toss over stories to the publishers almost as soon as I’d written them. Many of them left me flat stunned by their denials, but others, sent primarily to literarily flip the bird at them, straight floored me when they wrote back saying congratulations. I summed up the process fairly well in the first few pages of Long Gone & Lost: True Fictions and Other Lies, a collection of ten stories told in 225 pages that became my thesis (v–vii):
Just know, it had to be done. All of it was necessary—my personal prerequisite—a requirement to my becoming the storyteller I always wanted to be. Of course, I become still. Always will, probably. Become, that is. Not quite ever approaching that image of storyteller I hold in my mind, yet always striving, nonetheless.
So, I sent several of these stories out as individual writing submissions during the drafting process, hoping to see them snatched up by publishers who rained heaps of money on me, begging for more, as I worked hard at adjusting to my own island paradise.
That never happened, in case you’re wondering.
In fact, it proved mighty dismal, initially. Eighty-seven kinds of dismal, precisely, because that’s how many rejections I got from the various literary magazines from January to April of 2018. Quite nearly one a day. I wanted to cry.
Finally, though, somebody didn’t say no. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I’d developed such a routine for dealing with the rejects—open email, scan quickly so as not to put all my weight on the sharp edges of the word NO, print it out, punch some holes in it and add to binder with the rest—I didn’t know how to act when one finally got published. So, I just sat there, staring at it. Truth be told, I think I cried a little, after all.
That notification came the final week of April 2018. In the months since (up to the start of December 2018), the number of total items published in literary magazines, anthologies and writer organization publications, has grown to eighteen, including short fictions, like those you’re about read, poems and prose pieces.– Bobby Horecka, Long Gone & Lost
I went on to say that six of those eighteen publications in 2018 were stories from my ten-story collection. It’s actually just four stories, two of them published twice now, in separate publications. They include:
• Mr. Man Candy, in the May 2018 edition of Bluestem Magazine, published by English faculty at Eastern Illinois University since 1968; and as an excerpt in the May/June 2019 edition of Down in the Dirt, published by Chicago-based Scars Publications.
• The Legend of Chunk, in the inaugural Central Texas Writers Society 2018 Anthology by Nicole Metts, ed. (released on Amazon.com in August 2018); and in the May/June 2019 edition of Down in the Dirt, a Scars Publication.
• Lubbock 1974, in the October 2018 edition of Amarillo Bay, published by English department faculty at the University of South Carolina since 1999.
• Forget the Alamo, in the Winter 2019 edition of The Ocotillo Review, whose third year begins with the February 2019 publication by Kallisto Gaia Press.
Other publications are listed immediately to the right, just beyond the margins of this piece. Do they measure up to all that Author-ized in ’18 business? I doubt it. I mean, could anything really? About the only thing I can guarantee is that it’ll be a little bit outlaw and plenty off-center. Most everything I’ve ever done was, anyway. I don’t suspect my writings would be any different, particularly not these writings…
I’ve got the entire package making rounds in front of a few possible publishers now, so I can’t really publish much more about it than I have already. Until then, you’ll find a few oldies but goodies mixed in with some of newer items by clicking here. The article ought to look mighty familiar, if nothing else. I’ll add to that list and the one at right, periodically as new material arises. Those ought to get you started, anyhow.
Hope you enjoy!
You may all go to hell. I’m headed to Texas…
– Mr. David Crockett, Outlaw Extraordinaire