Please welcome guest blogger Neil Plakcy, an award-winning author, vice president of the Florida chapter of the MWA and all around good guy. He is the author of Author of Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, and Mahu Vice (August, 2009), mystery novels set in Hawaii.
By Neil Plakcy
I still remember the first time I used the phrase “my editor.” I was twenty-two, a recent college graduate with publishing aspirations, and that phrase thrilled me in a way that still gives me pleasure decades later.Back when I lived in Philadelphia, I was an avid reader of the Inquirer and its book coverage. The paper ran “Book and Author Luncheons” a couple of times a year, and I started attending them in my junior year in college. They were presided over by the paper’s book editor, and I felt like a real grown-up sitting at big round tables eating hotel food and chatting nervously with the mostly older women at my table.
I knew I wanted to write, but knew I didn’t have much to write about yet. The one thing I could do, as an English major, was read books, think about them, and then write up my opinions. I’d written a couple of book reviews for free, for hometown papers, and I saw my chance to break in to the big time when the Inquirer’s book editor left in a scandal involving the sale of advanced readers’ copies to used bookstores.
His replacement was a lovely woman named Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, a Penn graduate like me. A friend working as an editorial assistant at a New York publisher sent me an advance copy of a first novel by Brett Singer called The Petting Zoo, because she thought I’d like this story of young love. Brashly, I wrote a capsule review (the Inquirer ran a series of 75-words reviews back then) and sent it off, with a note introducing myself.
Amazingly, she accepted it, and paid me the grand sum of $25. She invited me to come down to her office and look through the review copies she had, to see if there was something else that interested me. Walking away from her office that afternoon, carrying a couple of (free!) books, I first realized I could now call her “my editor.” And what a wonderful feeling that was. I’ve had lots of editors since then, even been an editor myself, but at that moment I felt like I had entered, for the first time, the world of publishing, a place I knew I wanted to belong.
If you savor those small moments, you’ll find writing is a career full of milestones to celebrate. My first published work of fiction? A contest-winning story called “My Cousin’s Keeper.” The first story I made money from? A piece of gay erotica called “The Cop Who Caught Me” in Honcho magazine. My first agent, my first book contract, seeing the cover of my first book—all those are terrific moments.
What are some of your favorite writing moments?