Please join me today in welcoming Jenine Boisits, the creator of a unique literary journal that caters to new and aspiring writers.
Q- Can you tell my readers a little about you and your experiential background as a writer?
A - Back in the early eighties, I was a struggling, unpublished writer going to school at Briarcliffe Secretarial school in Hicksville, NY. I was also taking classes at Nassau Community College in Uniondale for writing. In high school some of my work was published in our school magazine, Pegasus; I do mention that for a reason.
In my senior year of Jericho High school, I took a creative writing class and submitted a short story for one of our assignments. It was a 'recycled' story called "The Jogger," not a story written specifically for the class assignment. The following week we went over our stories in class but for some reason, my teacher, Mrs. Schwalb, called me up to her desk( in front of the entire class) to ask where I found the story used for the assignment! Apparently, according to her, it couldn't be mine because it had been handed in last year (and received an 'A') by another student! I was stunned because I didn't "find it"--I wrote it! Remembering that it was published in Pegasus the year prior, I brought in that year's issue to prove the story was written by me! So, at the early age of 17, my story, "The Jogger", was stolen by one of my classmates! And to add insult to injury, Mrs. Schwalb refused to reveal the identity of the student.
Q- Describe your writing process. Do you write every day?
A - I always write with music in the background--instrumental music, preferably Enya but without the distraction of singing. I love to write in the morning when the day is fresh and thoughts are clearer; not muddled with the mind's incessant chatter of what needs to be done, wandering thoughts, struggles. Can't say that I write every day. I know I should, and I try to, but I am not always disciplined.
Q- What was the inspiration behind Beginnings?
A - What inspired me to start Beginnings began with my own desire to see my work published. Even though I was already published in a few small presses and online, I was still sending my work out. That's what writers do... continually subjecting ourselves through the journey of one rejection slip after another, not to mention hours and hours of rewrite! rewrite! rewrite! So, after finally realizing I wanted to submit a story, I selected a small press and sent for the sample copy because I was unfamiliar with their publication. After paying my five dollars for their sample issue, waiting about three months without receiving one, I managed to find a phone number and called the editor. When I finally did receive the issue, I was shocked. Not only was it incredibly difficult to read due to its presentation and lack of order in the text itself, I realized I was fed up with everything! Even the work that was published was really not very good at all...spelling errors, too! Incredible! Time to change! Time to mix it up! Time to get off the hamster treadmill of the same ol' thing, same ol' thing.
If nothing changes--nothing changes! So, you can figure out the rest...this little small press was the impetus behind why I started Beginnings. The very next day I paid for a post office box and started the process of putting together a writing journal I could be proud of! Initially it was supposed to only cover Long Island, NY, but that ended in about a month as word spread and Beginnings became international in less than a year.
To sum up, it's a simple fix for the new writer: research the market before you send your work out, include a brief cover letter, take the time to find out the editor's name, and-- for goodness sakes--proof your work! I'm not saying that's all you need to do, but these simple changes will eventually result in a lot less rejection slips. Not only that, you will become a better, more polished writer in the process.
Q- What challenges do you think are the biggest for today's writers seeking a career in the publishing industry?
A - The writers that I deal with in terms of publishing are, of course, the new writers. So sometimes everything feels like the biggest challenge to them! This is why Beginnings fills such an important niche in the writing community-- because we not only introduce them to the tools they need, but we teach them how to best use them. One of the biggest struggles I see are writers who don't know where to send their work. Writer's Digest publishes a very important guide book called Writer's Market that provides more than 8,000 listings for book publishers & writing agents. But, they also have smaller versions (magazines instead of hard cover books) for fiction writers, poets, and places to find literary agents, literary contests and advice on how to become a better writer! Writer's Digest and Writer's Market should be on every writer's desk!
Q- What was the best advice you ever received about writing?
A - This might seem silly, but an editor at Writer's Digest really made an impact on me when I was just twelve years old. This editor took the time to answer a young child's fiction submission, but not only that, he took the time to sit down and write a kind and helpful letter. He explained that Writer's Digest was the wrong place to send my work, but not only that, he even critiqued the story! He did say in closing that he would not write me again so do not submit any more work! Of course I didn't listen, and of course he didn't answer, still he was the one who gave me the "best advice ever received. It was simply this: Write what you know, write from the heart! I don't think I understood those words back then as well as I do now, but at age twelve, it was quite an amazing feeling! After all, not only did he acknowledge my existence, but he read my story! And the best part of this story? Years later, after publishing my own literary journal, in 2002 and again in 2003, Writer's Digest chose Beginnings Publishing, Inc., as one of their top thirty picks for fiction markets!
Word to the wise:
Not all small presses are created equal. New writers have to realize it's all about finding what works best for you in terms of what you want to achieve as a writer. If you want to be published, then you need to study the markets and adhere to their specific guidelines. Find the right market for your fiction or poetry-- or whatever your passion is-- and work hard at improving your craft!
I'd like to end this interview with a quote that is incredibly applicable for Beginnings:
"It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way."
- Ernest Hemingway
To learn more about how to embark upon your new "Beginnings" (if you're a novice writer), or to discover more about Jenine's inspiring story, visit: http://www.literarybeginnings.org/
Please feel free to provide feedback or questions for Jenine, by leaving a comment here.