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Valley author preaches perseverance at workshop
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Before he became a New York Times best-selling author, Jason Wright was just another writer hoping to get published and receiving rejection after rejection.
On Saturday, he shared his expertise and experience with a group of writer hopefuls gathered at the Hampton Inn. In addition to writing exercises, a literary agent, a publicist and a publishing representative joined the workshop via Skype.
In the process, more than $1,000 was raised for the Seventeen Second Miracle Scholarship fund, inspired by Wright's latest book, "The Seventeen Second Miracle." The message is it only takes a few seconds to positively impact the lives of others.
On Saturday, he read rejection letters he'd gotten from literary agents while shopping "The Christmas Jars," one of his most famous novels. Some offered him luck and encouragement elsewhere, while others were brusque.
"That book that you're writing, not everyone's going to love," Wright said.
"The Wednesday Letters" landed him on the New York Times best-sellers list. He shared glowing reviews that had been written about the book, along with some scathing ones.
"I left my copy on the plane and feel sorry for the next person who reads it," one said.
Another wrote, "Made me want to retch."
Before, such reviews really troubled him.
"I just felt like trash when I read those," he admitted.
But now, Wright sees the positive side of poor reviews.
"It reminds me that it's OK to have different tastes," he said.
Doggedness is key to getting your writing published, said Wright's publicist, Matt Birch, speaking via Skype.
"Be persistent and just keep looking because somewhere out there is someone that will take an interest," he said. "You have to keep looking. You have to keep trying. Don't give up."
Publicists can offer the "so-what" of a novel, Birch said.
"This is your chance to tell the so-what of that story," he said. "You can really get to the heart of the matter -- why would someone want to read that story.
"['The Christmas Jars'] was a great book for the so-what. It's a short book. It was paperback. On the outside of it was nothing impressive -- no offense, Jason."
But, the product manager who told Birch about the little novel cried as he told him the story.
"I thought, wow, this book has the potential to really reach people," Birch recalled.
With between 600,000 and 700,000 copies sold, it's safe to say it has.
Persistence doesn't only come into play once a novel is finished. It's needed to get it finished.
"On the days when you just feel like you're either too tired to write or the creativity is just gone ... to finish that book you're going to have to pour concrete on the days you really don't want to pour concrete," Wright said.
With all his books, he's known the outcome before he's written the first word. But even well-known authors get writer's block. That's when it's necessary to pour concrete to finish the sidewalk and get to the resolution, Wright said.
"Just finish the manuscript," he advised. "Quit reading back over, quit editing. Just finish the stinkin' manuscript. When you're done with the manuscript, do not look at it for at least 10 days. I do this with all of my books. I would say more like two or three weeks. Then go back and look at it with really fresh eyes and start at the beginning, and start working your way through section by section."
At 14, Laura Taylor and her friend, Dakota Funkhouser, were the youngest participants in Saturday's workshop.
"I'm interested in a career as a writer when I grow up, so I wanted to learn how to get involved, what it takes to be a writer," said Laura, an eighth-grader at Signal Knob Middle School. "I thought he did a really good job and it was a lot of fun."
Woodstock resident Chastity Harris, a friend of Wright's, is just a couple of pages from finishing her murder-mystery.
"He had three different professionals from different parts of the literary world that gave a lot of information that we normally wouldn't be able to access here in the valley," she said. "Bringing it here to Woodstock was huge."