People think that all you need to do to be a writer is put pen to paper. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t question that idea, though I should have. As a former software developer, I knew you needed more than just a keyboard to write code. Looking back at 15 years of writing, I see how far I’ve come in my understanding of what makes a writer.
In the beginning, I was a bright-eyed apprentice taking any and all advice and learning what worked for me in the process. I started with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and The AP Stylebook, titles recommended by the faculty at The University of Washington Extension’s Certificate in Nonfiction Writing, which I completed in 2006. I thought, if I can get my English to sparkle, then I’m a writer.
“If you like writing, why can’t you just write? Why do you need to publish it too?”
This pointed question comes up in my conversations once in a while. It usually follows my description of the hard road to publication. It’s a well-meaning question, but it still hurts. It seems that wanting to have a career as a writer puts me in a different category than many other professionals.
Before the times of COVID-19, all the way back to the beginning of January 2020, I finished my new novel, an immigration thriller called Extreme Vetting. The title comes from a catchword coined by our own salesman president, and it refers to the treatment of immigrants in the United States—undocumented and documented—under the current administration. “Extreme vetting” describes a rough and cruel time in the lives of millions, beginning with asylum seekers at the southern border and ending with Americans whose citizenship could be revoked on technicalities. As an example, if an immigrant now leaves a blank space on a visa application, such as a middle name they don’t have or an apartment number when they live in a house, their application will be rejected.
The other day, I wrote a post here on my website about getting ready for the coronavirus tsunami to hit. It’s much closer now but the world still resembles the one I always knew, except that today the toy store in our neighborhood is closed, as are the interior decoration boutique, the hair salon, and the kitchen store. The restaurants are only permitted delivery and takeout, but the wonderful people at the grocery store and the pharmacy are still somehow getting to work each morning so that our neighborhood doesn’t collapse under generalized panic. We’ve already embraced smaller panics: the Tylenol panic, the hand-sanitizer and the toilet paper ones, among others. But this is the way it must be for now, because every time we get too close to another human being, we create a bridge that the virus can cross, in one direction or another.
A chapter from my novel has been published in The Write Launch, Issue #16. I’d be happy to hear your opinions about it, as I always strive to improve my writing. Thank you for reading!
I have recently received an envelope in the mail with a diploma and a set of three critiques. The diploma read:
Roxana Arama is hereby awarded Honorable Mention for All Those Monsters in the San Antonio Writers’ Guild 2018 Annual Writing Contest, category: short story.
Today I received two emails that begin with:
Congratulations on being chosen as a finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards competition. We received 620 submissions, and competition was tough. Though not one of the three cash award winners, your work was on the finalists list in the fiction category.
I entered the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards competition in October 2017 with The Wedding Bell, my speculative novel, and All Those Monsters, a short story.
I moved to the United States from Romania in 2001, and it took a family tragedy for me to understand that I cannot straddle the world and have two homes half a planet apart. Now that I’ve learned the limitations of living in the real world, where the laws of physics apply no matter what we dream of or how hard we pray, there’s this feeling of anticlimax to being uprooted. Maybe my roots are now deeper into this American soil than they were out of the Romanian one sixteen years ago. Or not. Continue reading
I recently received a phone call, followed by an email message that begins with:
Dear Roxana Arama,
Congratulations! You are a finalist in the 2017 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest. You should be very proud as PNWA received close to Eight Hundred contest entries from all around the world. An agent or editor will be selecting the first, second and third place winners in each category.
First things first: being a fiction writer is, in my opinion, a type of fortunate madness, sanctioned by society, tolerated by family, where a lonely person locked in a room, hallucinating about figments of her imagination, playing god in a world of her own creation can claim to be a functional member of said society, and could even be gainfully employed, to the relief of said family. Continue reading