Creative Writing SpongeBob

In previous years, publishing a novel required sending a story by mail in hopes it would be accepted. While that process is still around, it has been streamlined with the introduction of technology and online submissions.

Michael Czyzniejewski, associate English professor at Missouri State University, is the editor-in-chief at Moon City Press, a MSU run literary publication allowing authors to send in works to be reviewed and printed in physical form. While run by MSU, Czyzniejewski said it mostly caters to those who do not attend the university.

All submissions are digital and do not require physical writing.

When publishing, there are two paths a writer can take. Adjudicated works are those submitted to another source for review and consideration, as opposed to self-publishing, which is solely handled by the author. 

Moon City Press would be considered adjudicated, while sites like Lulu and Blurb allow writers to print books straight from their hard drives. Sites like these let writers print, publish and deliver their works without having to negotiate with a larger printer.

Czyzniejewski encouraged an adjudicated approach over self-publishing, even though works can be met by rejection from the judges. 

According to Czyzniejewski, writers who self-publish for money without the desire to have the work be read are usually unsuccessful. Writers should take the craft seriously and keep going even if they are rejected.

“It's not something that you just jump into and decide that you're going to do for like a few months,” Czyniejewski said. “If you treat it like that, you're probably going to get about a month's worth of value. It’s like ceramics or kickboxing or whatever's next on the list of things you’ve always wanted to do. If you're serious, you're gonna stick with it; writers have to be thick skinned.”

MSU alumni and editor at Arts and Letters Kerry James Evans said acceptance and rejection are part of the craft. Arts and Letters, like Moon City Press, allows writers to submit works for publishing. Though it is based out of Georgia College, a university based in Milledgeville, Georgia. 

Evans advised reading, writing, revising and sending out pieces daily and also encouraged writers to submit works all across the country so it reaches multiple editors and builds a repertoire.

“Comparing it to politics, you don’t just go out and run for president,” Evans said. “You run for the House, you run for Senate. Start with state local politics and then you kind of work your way up. And then once you've been doing it for quite a while you have more of a platform.”

Normal fees for adjudicated publishing range from $3-5, according to Cole Closser, assistant professor of art and design. Any more than that should not be considered a valid publisher, unless the entry fee is part of a contest.

Closser said when considering publishing methods, it depends on how much profit the author wishes to get back.

“Judges used to be real gatekeepers. They picked and chose what they thought would work,” Closser said. “These days they spend less time on that than they do on promotions. If you self publish, you get 100% of the profit, but if you turn it in you get a tiny percent of royalties.”

Jennifer Murvin, senior English instructor said college is a time to read and learn, building up skills for the future as a writer. Murvin also owns Pagination Bookshop, located at 1150 E. Walnut S

“If you’re called to be a creative person, those skills are translatable to all kinds of jobs,” Murvin said. “And, if you can nurture that with education, that is great. We need artists and creators more than ever. Jump with both feet into your creative feet. The pay will come and the joy will come.”

MSU’s creative writing has three major areas of creative writing in the forms of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. ENG 551 also allows students to become involved in Moon City Press and view how the business of creative writing works after college.

Linda Moher, interim department head, said MSU’s creative writing program allows students to grow no matter what their major is.

“I think it's great to watch students grow and develop themselves as creative writers,” Moher said. “There's a lot of flexibility in the program and ways to find a different minor so that you can also develop other skills. I always like to say creative writers are everywhere in every kind of job.”

A successful graduate of the MSU creative writing program is senior instructor Sara Burge. Burge, author of the poetry collection “Apocalypse Ranch,” as well as several other literary journals.

Burge’s advice to new writers is simple: read.

“You need to read a lot,” Burge said. “You can have talent as a writer, you can learn about the craft of writing but you really need to read for inspiration.”


Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley

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