The 2010 Student Literary Awards were announced and presented at the Denver Public Library on April 29th. Winning students in both the Letters About Literature and River of Words contests were recognized by the Colorado Humanities in front of a full crowd of teachers, parents, and supporters.
During the event, Cassie Lipscomb, the 2nd place winner in Category IV of the River of Words Poetry contest, asked to interview me for a school project…
Cassie: Is it necessary to go do further schooling to make my writing better? What kind of schools does it take?
Brent: No one will frown on you for having a higher education. Not only does going to college make your writing better, but it makes your life better, although perhaps not for the reasons you may think. College isn’t about attending a lot of English and Latin classes and/or getting your MBA in creative writing. College is about having an experience and being surrounded by intelligence 24/7. You can learn as much sitting in the student union participating in a lively discussion with other classmates as you can in a 500-person auditorium listening to a professor. You will literally become smarter through osmosis while attending college, and that’s before you even step into the classroom – and yes, the classes will help you become smarter still. After all, writing fiction involves your ability to create an experience for the reader while writing non-fiction involves your ability to effectively impart knowledge. Regardless of what kind of writing you prefer, college will help you improve your craft. What kind of college becomes secondary. It’s not what the school brings to you; it’s what you bring to the school.
Cassie: What do you like about your job? What do you dislike about the job?
Brent: I’ve always said I’m a writer first and a CEO second, but nowadays I spend the majority of my time on the latter instead of the former. I love helping writers. Nothing is more gratifying than getting a jubilant email from a newly published author, or seeing a photograph of a writer holding their book with tears of joy in their eyes. It is very fulfilling and I love it. Things I dislike about the job are the same things that apply to nearly every job – the daily and sometimes minutiae-riddled “grind” of producing something. Whether you are writing a book or running a company or buried in a cubicle somewhere, production takes effort and discipline. It helps if what you produce is something you love. Since you’re going to be spending so much time doing something, you had better love it, right?
Cassie: What does a regular day of work consist of?
Brent: I spend a lot of time managing departments and projects via email. But… that’s not quite right. You can’t really manage departments or projects. You can only manage the people involved with the departments or the projects. So I manage people, but the ultimate goal is to aim departments in a certain direction and aim projects to fulfill a certain benefit for our authors. So email takes up quite a lot of my day. And the phone, although I find the phone somewhat inefficient, unless it’s a conference call. As for writing, it is my personal goal to write and publish a new book each year. I didn’t pull that off in 2009, so I must in 2010. I do not carve out a specific time each day to write anymore. With an awesome 5-year old in the picture, I just haven’t got the time. You’ve probably heard it before and you’ll probably hear it again, and it gets repeated so often because it is so true: A writer writes. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. And writing a book requires a lot of writing, and a lot of discipline.
Cassie: Is this what you thought the job would be like?
Brent: I never had any preconceived notions about what it would be like to run a publishing company, or what it would be like to be a writer, but I am enjoying the ride so far.
Cassie: Where do you get your ideas to write?
Brent: When I was younger, my mind was constantly alive with ideas for novels and short stories, and I wrote a lot of both. As I’ve grown older, my writing has turned to non-fiction and is related to what I do for a living. That is probably out of necessity more than heartfelt desire. Writing a book takes so much time, I feel it needs to accomplish multiple goals to be worthwhile. As sad as it makes me to admit it, I’m not sure fiction can accomplish multiple goals. At least, my fiction can’t.
Cassie: How do you get over writer’s block?
Brent: I don’t write unless I’m feeling it. I don’t try to force anything. Which means I don’t get over writer’s block. Every once in a while, it just goes away. That isn’t a very inspirational answer, but it’s an honest one. It’s also the reason my book production is so erratic. Fortunately, I have the flexibility to write that way. Other writers on ‘deadlines’ might have quite a different answer, and probably a better one.
Cassie: How do you choose between publishers?
Brent: Interestingly, this is the subject of one of my books. There are five paths toward publication that you can pursue. Conglomerate traditional publication, small press traditional publication, full-service self-publishing services, D-I-Y (do it yourself) self-publishing websites, and fully-independent self-publication. They all have pros and cons. The path you should take depends upon your talent, your patience, your goals, your desire, your pocket book, and your time. The good news is, and it seems to be an epiphany for many writers when they realize this, that you can take multiple paths.
Cassie: Is there a lot of competition to deal with these days?
Brent: I assume you are referring to competition with other writers, but regardless of what this question refers to, the answer is “Yes.” There is always a lot of competition for everything. The trick is to not view competitors as ‘the enemy’ but rather as opportunities to learn and excel.