But the job, like the others, had its pleasures. When a voice did answer to the name on the list it seemed to Caroline a piece of luck, and to use a false identity was a wonderful novelty. She was Betty Brown. She had heard of actors who were nervous stammering people while offstage but who became fluid and confident once concealed behind the mask of a character. Now she knew how they felt.
Even after I decided I wanted to be a writer—a career path that everyone, especially my parents, agreed was nebulous at best—I eventually saw how one could become a “successful” writer. Get into an MFA program, get published in a literary journal, get an agent, sell a novel, win a prize maybe, and, obviously get writing. I don’t think I’m alone in this way of thinking. I think we all, generally, have some idea of the signifiers of success.
We watch the swimmers
with our feet splayed upon the dashboard.
We will never be younger than we are now—
conjuring what we can from August heat,
all these nights of little sleep,
our bodies shifting to find the breeze.
“Initially, I was going to tell the story of Amy and her murder, the subsequent criminal trial, the [Truth and Reconciliation] Commission, and her parents’ amazing feat of forgiveness. It’s a story that’s pretty well known in South Africa, and one that was at one point quite well known in America.”
For those unaccustomed to putting themselves out there and submitting to the slush pile, as we so fondly call it, the task can be daunting and even emotionally fraught. But there are perfectly good ways to go about it that will keep you organized, give you great chances at success, and, most important — and I will argue this until the snows pile against the house — can actually help you improve your writing and how you think about it.