June 2, 2017

A Circuitous Path: Short Stories to Novels

By Bob Strother

When I started my journey into creative writing in 2005, my first steps involved joining a statewide writers’ association and becoming part of a critique groups. While diverse in terms of length of membership, craft knowledge and literary aspirations, most of the group’s members focused in one of two areas: short stories and novels.

I was full of stories. They rattled around in my head like arcade pinballs. I wrote furiously, trying to get them down on paper while they were still fresh. That first year, I amassed about three dozen stories, fed them through the critique process and, after careful editing and proofing, began submitting to literary journals.

My first acceptance came on September 30, 2006—quite by chance, the day I retired from my professional career. The literary journal moonShine review published “Gray Area” soon thereafter, and for the first time in my life, I truly felt like a “writer.”

I kept on submitting and, although the rejections far outnumbered the acceptances, by the end of 2006, I had a healthy portfolio of published stories. Including two more stories published by moonShine review. A critique group colleague asked why I would resubmit to a journal where I’d already been published. I understood his logic. He and several other novelists in the group wrote and submitted short stories only to build up enough publishing credits to, hopefully, attract an agent (the more different journals under your belt, the better). Still, probably because they were the first to publish me, I had a soft spot for moonShine.

Over the next few years, I continued to write short stories and continued to be published twice a year in moonShine review. In 2010, the editor of that journal suggested I compile a collection of stories. She knew the publisher of Main Street Rag, a small press publisher in Charlotte, North Carolina, and felt he would be interested in publishing the collection. As a result, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, was published in 2011. Then in 2013, again with assistance from the moonShine editor, my first novel, Shug’s Place, was published by the same press.

In 2015, with the release of my novel, Burning Time, I was honored to become the first author published through the newly created moonSHINE review press.  The sequel, A Fire to be Kindled, was released April 1, 2017, and I hope to complete and publish the third book in the trilogy sometime in the next year.

I might have secured an agent at some point, had a book sold and published at some point in time. Or, I might still be sending out those query letters and hoping for divine intervention.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t follow the typical path of agent to publisher. I would offer that building relationships with literary journals—people in the business who know other people in the business—might just be the right path for you.

Bob Strother is an award-winning author and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee with over one hundred publishing credits in a number of literary journals and magazines both at home and abroad. In addition to his short story collection and three published novels, his short story “Doughnut Walk” was adapted for a short film that premiered at the 2014 Expecting Goodness Film Festival. Bob lives with his wife, Vicki, in Greenville, South Carolina. One of the quotes Bob Strother likes best is from a Doonesbury cartoon where one of the characters is referring to a novelist: “He lies for a living.” Bob thinks that’s all right—to make up stories that aren’t true about people who aren’t real—that done correctly, they help us realize truths about ourselves.  Facebook:

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