I earned my MFA from the USC Professional Writing Program in Los Angeles. The curriculum differed from the usual creative writing master’s in that it was multidisciplinary, which means I majored in fiction but was required to choose from electives in playwriting, screenwriting, nonfiction, and poetry.
Beginning in 1971, USC offered the first graduate program in the nation to utilize this approach to the craft because the founders recognized that each genre improved the others. We also took classes relating to the business side of publishing, where we learned how to collaborate with agents and editors. Most importantly, however, the psychological benefit of having earned such a unique degree is that I am not aspiring to be a creative writer; I am working toward being a professional writer.
As of Tuesday, I can proudly say that I have crossed that threshold. Readers have purchased a product I have written, and you know what?
It feels gooood.
The Lookout and Other Stories debuted on Kindle for $0.99, and four copies sold in the first night. At a 35% royalty rate, I earned $1.40. The earnings are modest (like many business start-ups), but $1.40 is still an achievement because this marks the first time I’ve been paid for my fiction.
Even though three of the five stories have been previously published in literary journals, the common situation of these smaller publications is that they lack funds to pay their contributors. You’re lucky to even receive complimentary copies of the edition in which your story appeared. This was one factor that inspired me to no longer sit around and wait for the magic to happen.
My primary motivation for releasing the chapbook was to collect these stories under one title. I needed a literary calling card, a sample of my work for the public to find, and now I have something concrete to show them.
The Lookout is just the first step of many in my writing career. It’s just nice to finally be able to call myself a professional.