Publish Your Writing with Help from Your Library

denise low speaks writers forum 2013

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Do you want to be a published writer? Get ready to work hard. Publishing written work is challenging, and not everyone will succeed. Successful writers not only write great work, they also submit for publication and then market and promote their work to readers.

So after you’ve written and polished your work, what comes next? Look to your library for advice and resources.

Veteran writers and editors Denise Low, Dennis Etzel Jr., Thomas Fox Averill, and Eric McHenry offered expert advice and insight on submissions, marketing, and publishing written work at a Novice Writers Forum hosted by our library in December, 2013.

Denise Low, who served as Kansas Poet Laureate from 2007 to 2009, speaks from her experience as a writer and as a publisher. Low is the author of ten collections of poetry and six books of essays. She also co-owns Mammoth Publications in Lawrence, Kansas, an independent publisher committed to publishing diverse voices. Low advises writers to pay more attention to quality than to publication. She notes, “Being a published writer is not like being a rock star. It is learning to articulate life experience well, and it is a life-long pursuit. Most writers continue to improve into old age, so buckle up for the long haul.” She also advises writers to send individual pieces out for publication before attempting to publish a book-length collection, because “the validation of the magazine publishing process will show book editors that you have experience and quality.” Check out Denise Low’s Blog for more detailed notes and advice for emerging writers.

Dennis Etzel Jr. has worked for six years as managing editor for Topeka’s Woodley Press, a nonprofit publisher focusing on Kansas writers. Etzel is also a poet, and recently published his first collection of poetry, The Sum of Two Mothers. Etzel advises writers to do the research and learn about a press or publisher before submitting work, by reading work that they have already published. Etzel also says that the writer is often the most active promoter of his or her own book, particularly with a small press or nonprofit publisher. Scheduling readings at libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops to share your work can help you engage readers and sell books. Etzel also recommends reading work and attending readings by other writers, to connect with your local writing scene. “Local writers support each other,” he says, “we’re a community.” Check out Dennis’s blog for writing advice, updates on local events, and more.

Thomas Fox Averill has served as a Professor of English and a Writer-in-Residence at Washburn University in Topeka for over 30 years, and has published three novels, three collections of short fiction, and numerous articles and poems. Averill says that the first step for fiction writers is to submit work to literary magazines, and to learn about the market from rejection. “Writing is a collaboration,” he notes, “between the writer and the publisher.” Averill works with a literary agent, and vouches for the many ways that a publisher can help an author get his or her work out into the market. “I’m not against self publishing,” he says, “but publishers know their business.” Averill notes that a publisher provides a design for the book cover, writes jacket copy, solicits blurbs, and helps market a book to the right audience. “You often get a good deal,” Averill says, “when you consider all of the roles that a publisher fills.” His most recent novel, rode, was a Kansas Notable Book, a Spur Award finalist, and was named Outstanding Western Novel of 2011 as part of the Western Heritage Awards. You can read more about Averill, including an original interview, on our library’s books blog.

Eric McHenry is a Professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka, and has published two books of poetry. McHenry is a winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize, and his first collection of poetry, Potscrubber Lullabies, won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2007. McHenry reminds writers that the world is glutted with creative writing. “One of the challenges,” he says, “is that it’s not a true market–supply dwarfs demand.” He notes that understanding the market and targeting submissions to the right publications are necessary if you want to be published. He also reminds writers that reviewing creative work is subjective. “You are always up against what the editor had for breakfast,” he says. McHenry stresses persistence and belief in your work above all else. “The prize is is writing well,” he says, “and art is the goal.” You can read more about McHenry, including an original interview, on our library’s books blog.

You can publish your work! Support other writers, schedule readings at libraries and bookstores, and promote yourself and others in person and through social media. Hone your craft, research your market, and submit, submit, submit. Above all, persist and believe.

Your library has resources that can help you learn to write better, get involved with other writers, and market your work. For information about the Community Novel Project, NaNoWrimo, or the Local Author Fair, please contact Miranda Ericsson ( or Lissa Staley ( Come to the library for access to Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market, and more. Check out our catalog for books on writing and market listings, or ask a librarian for assistance. Check out just a few of the titles from our collection linked below!

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.