First Books, Getting Published

September 24, 200

I am going to suggest something—the obvious points are you pull the manuscript together, you make it tight, you send it to contests, you place in a couple, so you know it’s good…

then what… you don’t want to wait ten years.

What Red Hen author Lynnell Edwards did was this.  She did not wait to get a book into BOA or Copper Canyon or Graywolf.  I think a lot of poets have in their head that they have to land a big press.  Red Hen was a baby press when she approached us with the Farmer’s Daughter.  Now of course, we like to think of ourselves as bigger than a lettuce leaf, but these are salad days, that was then, this is now.

When you go to AWP, and you must, walk around and find a press that’s coming up, that’s going to be the next RHP or Sarabande and see if you can form a partnership.  Lynnell didn’t just present herself as an author who wanted to have me make her career or do stuff for her.  She wanted to work with the press, to help us bring authors to the Northwest.  She was in the immortal words of my 18 year old son, a “playa,” a literary citizen, not a taker. 

I’m picking on Lynnell here, but this is true of Bart, and many of our early authors… they took a risk, and I think of that risk as the best way to get a first book published.  We’ve gone on to do a second book with Lynnell, The Highway Man’s Wife and we have a third book coming up, Covet, so getting in on the ground floor can be a good thing.  Lynnell is an outstanding writer and even after moving to Kentucky, she’s continued to be a great supporter of the press.  I even went there once.  I liked the Brown Hotel, but sadly I didn’t get to see the Derby.  Maybe next time.


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