While I’ve enjoyed sharing tales of publishing journeys from novelists I’ve gotten to know, (thanks to Lydia, Jean, Dan, Vanessa and Anita for these,) there are many other formats aside from novels for writers to share their stories and dreams.
Today I’d like to welcome Jonathon Mast back to The Naptime Author to share his experiences in publishing short fiction!
Hello and welcome, Jon! Tell us a bit about yourself, won’t you?
Hello! I’m Jonathon Mast. I’ve done a little bit of everything; I’ve been a pig farmer, a door-to-door insurance salesman, worked in a comic shop, a window factory, and group homes, taught video production and life skills, and right now I’m a pastor! My wife puts up with me, and we have an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Currently our insanity is four strong.)
Through it all… I have written. I remember writing stories back in third grade. I remember making up stories and telling them on the bus as we rode to and from school. I remember writing stories through high school and college. It’s just part of who I am: I tell stories
What’s your preferred genre?
Most of what I write qualifies as science fiction or fantasy, though I’ve done some horror as well. In my “day job” as a pastor, of course, I also write a lot of religious things: Sermons and Bible studies and devotions and… well, the list goes on.
But for this interview today, I’ll be focusing on the science fiction and fantasy. 🙂
Sounds good! Is there a particular place where you find writing inspiration?
The ideas for the stories usually simply materialize. The emotions and people, though – they often come from my life.
In my life as a pastor, I encounter so many emotions. I know what it is to hold the hand of someone you love as they die. I know what it is to stand between two people who are trying to literally kill each other. I know what it is to rejoice when a friend finally gets a job after four years of searching. Having that rich emotional experience means I can draw on deep wells of material that are very authentic.
I also get to meet so many people. I visit prisons and memory care units, inner city homes and the mansions of the rich. I get to witness so much.
I try to be careful to never take a real person and put them into words. I don’t want to steal someone! I will take the emotions, though, or portions of personalities and translate them. And sometimes ideas come from mashing all that together.
Between pastoring and family life, finding time to write must be a challenge. How do you do it?
Honestly, at this point in my life I need to write. It’s a stress relief for me. It helps me sort out my own emotions. My youngest daughter was born about six months ago, and for the first four months of her life or so I didn’t write. And I was a wreck. I picked up writing again, and voila! Suddenly all is better!
What drew you to short stories?
The fact that they’re short.
I’ve written novels. It is such an experience to write something of that length, to hold together a cohesive story!
But now with how busy my life has become, I don’t think I can keep that attention span. I can knock out a rough draft for a short story in one or two days and then concentrate on polishing. The fact that I can do that helps immensely!
Which is why you impress me, Anne! Writing a whole novel just during nap times?
Can I write while I nap, do you think?
HA! With practice, Jon, I’m sure you can! Though to be honest, “The Naptime Author” is pretty much a misnomer now- they’ve given up napping and that makes writing…interesting. Ah well. Enough about that.
The time frame of short fiction sounds amazing! Once you’ve written a piece, how do you find venues for publication?
There’s a few sites on Facebook that are very handy that gather up open calls for stories. But here is a great site that can get you started if you’re looking for some lists!
Of course, if you’re writing short fiction for an anthology, you likely have to work with a group of different writers. How has that been? Is there any advice you’d give people seeking this kind of publication?
Any advice I give you can probably find all over online. Here’s some basic advice, though:
When there’s a call for submissions, read what they’re asking for. It doesn’t matter how amazing your story is; if they’re asking for swashbuckling cats and you’re giving them sneaky dogs, you’re not going to find a purchase there. Match your story to the call for submissions.
Read the directions on HOW to submit. Follow them. Many publishers like their submissions in a certain format. Some are very blunt: If you don’t match our format, we’re tossing your story unread. Kinda hard to make a sale if you don’t follow the directions!
This is one I’ve learned along the way: Look, if what you’re writing is worth someone else reading, it’s worth getting paid for. If you put any work into your story, you should be paid, and not just in “valuable exposure.” You should get paid in cash. (Conversely, if you didn’t work to write it, why they heck would anyone want to read it?)
That means you submit to markets that pay you in some way. Maybe it’s not professional rates; that’s ok. But make sure you’re valued, and that your value is shown in getting a paycheck.
As far as different anthologies – well, every editor is different. Stand up for your story, but be willing to bend to an editor that shows they know their market. They’re trying to get a product that will sell so they –and you! – get a paycheck. They saw something in your story that they thought they could sell. As I said, be willing to defend your story, but also listen to your editor.
Thanks for all of these fantastic insights, though I’ll be dreaming about swashbuckling cats tonight I think… any closing thoughts before I share links to where folks can find your stories?
Make sure you have a good playlist for while you write. If you need background noise that isn’t music, might I suggest Rainy Mood?
I certainly will!
If you’d like to check out Jon’s writing (and I’d recommend it- he tells a great tale!) you can in the following locations:
“A Dragon Bigger than My Stories” is in Wings of Change, an anthology of YA dragon stories. As I’ve been reading through the other entries, I’m blown away to be included in such an assemblage. It’s a really, really cool book, and if you like dragon or YA lit, you should check it out. That’s my first print release.
If you want to see what else I’ve written, some of the stories are available free online. You can find my list of published works here.
Check out my writing blog Wanted: One New Earth. I post about once a week, unless there’s specific publishing news.
If you’re curious about my ministry, feel free to check out Ordained for Growth.
Thanks for having me, Anne!
Thanks for coming by, Jon, and thank YOU, readers, for visiting, too!