The Writer


IN August 2019, I signed my first book contract with Unsolicited Press, an independent press based in Portland, Oregon. I had just turned 34, and though I’d been writing fiction for over 15 years, I had little to show for it outside of three previously unpublished novels and a few published essays and book reviews. So it felt pretty damn good to sign and submit that legal document, even though the publication date was more than a year and a half away.

Once the contract was finalized, revisions began. And because I love revising, this, too, felt good.

But I knew as the publication date – March 23, 2021 – neared, I would need to shift my focus to marketing. And though Unsolicited had a strategy in place (even after COVID-19 hit), I dreaded the prospect. It’s a strange thing to go from writer to self-promoter. You’re excited, yes – what aspiring author doesn’t dream of publishing a novel? But once you’re in it, it can feel daunting. Years of literary rejections, and suddenly you’re supposed to talk about your work without the weight and self-doubt that follows, well, years of literary rejections.

Fortunately, I went to graduate (Tin House), came out in November 2019, and Jeni McFarland, whose debut novel, (Putnam), hit bookstores in April 2020.

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