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Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Someone asks what you’ve been doing since you retired, and you tell them you’ve been writing. Or someone asks you what you do, and you say you’re a writer. What’s the typical response? (You probably already know this already.) “Have you been published?”

The rest of the conversation will depend on your answer. If it’s “no,” you’ll probably get a lackluster, “That’s nice,” and it’s on to other topics. But If your answer is “yes,” their eyes light up as if to say, “Oh, a writer.” Then they ask you all kinds of questions about what kind of stuff you write, where you’ve been published, etc.

I was lucky enough to get my first short story published in a college literary journal that probably had a readership of twenty, not counting my mother. Didn’t matter. I had credibility. I was a writer.” During the next three years, when every one of my submissions was rejected, I could use my published story “street cred” and keep the conversation going. It’s the literary version of a tree falling in the woods. If you’ve written stories, poems, whatever, you’re a writer, even if nobody has read your work.

I’ve just written a novel and will soon be pitching it to agents. I can already hear what people ask me when I tell them my novel is out. (You probably already know this, too.) Did you self-publish?

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