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 called 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.
And I don’t know how many companion sites on social media platforms before I went with the ones I liked best. That MFA program I was in, you see, required me to write an entire book. I knew that from the start; 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 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 my efforts. 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.
I was tired of it, honestly. Yeah, I got to write a few good stories and do some pretty cool stuff, writing lost its luster for me. Like most things, for every sparse diamond you may dig up, you spent days upon months about neck deep it mires of shit so vast, you can 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–as many longtime print journalists 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 months 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 to hell if life didn’t fuck me good with the next couple of doozies it slung at me. 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 involved this look I used to get 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 as 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 got past your lips, you could watch the though process manifest 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.
But no sooner than I say to hell with all that and start doing some real work, 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–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 deadlines 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 and fairly long 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. 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 they’d be headed this other direction
So, it was now or never, far as writing went. Could an old fart like me learn a new trick or two?
You’ll have to be the judge of that, honestly, because despite what this piece of paper I’ve since gotten that labels me a master of said craft, I know just enough about it all to readily admit I don’t know shit. I’d toss over stories to the publishers almost as soon as I’d written them. I summed up the process fairly well in the first few pages of Long Gone & Lost: True Fictions and Other Lies, which became my MFA thesis, a collection of ten original stories told in 225 pages (vii – viii):
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: True Fictions and Other Lies…
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, published in February 2019 by Kallisto Gaia Press.
Other publications are listed HERE. 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…
Hope you enjoy!
Bobby Horecka’s Literary Publications
Bobby Horecka’s Journalism Awards
IN MEMORY of VIOLA KONVICKA (1928-2018)
A month after Gramma celebrated her ninth decade, she went to bed one last time at her home. She died sometime in the early hours of Sept. 7, 2018. Members of the family asked Bobby if he would write her eulogy. This is what he came up with.
She will be forever missed…
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