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Writers Don’t Have To Be Cheaters

4

October 1, 2015 by Nathaniel Tower

If things aren’t going your way in the publishing world, you can always try what Michael Derrick Hudson did: write as a different person.

We all know the story by now. Hudson, a white poet who somehow arrived at the conclusion that being white was a big obstacle in his writing career, started submitting his work under a Chinese pseudonym. After Hudson was published under the penname, he took to social media to proclaim the injustices he had suffered as a white writer.

Had Hudson not had the horrible misfortune of being a white man, he surely would have been rich and famous. Poet laureate. Pushcart finalist. Pulitzer prize winner. Dammit, if only he had been of some more fortunate pedigree!

Complete lack of satisfactory statistical evidence aside, Hudson “proved” that writing as a non-white person led to instant publication and success. Hell, he was anthologized as soon as he dropped his white identity. If that’s not proof that white people have it rough in the writing world, I don’t know what it is. I mean, one instance in a non-controlled environment. This is pure science. We should all start cheating.

Let’s pretend for a second that every white man in the world decided to adopt a more “culturally diverse” writerly persona. Then all writers could become famous published authors. They could all live in mansions and be studied in universities by hungry MFA scholars. And readers everywhere could rejoice at how cultured they had instantly become. If only they knew they were being duped by a bunch of whiteys.

Or, instead of becoming a bunch of dishonest cheaters (besides, in case you didn’t already do the math, not all of these posers could become published anyway), you could try getting published on your own merits. And if that doesn’t work, then maybe you should accept a brutal truth: you aren’t good enough to be the next great American writer.

If you are thinking about becoming a writing cheat, try these crazy tips first:

1. Do your research

Hudson changed his literary identity because he was tired of rejection. He “meticulously tracked” every rejection, and his rejections were adding up fast. Yeah, we’ve all been rejected. If you’re facing a pile of rejection slips, changing your name isn’t the next logical step. The better solution is to find the right venues to send your work. When you submit your writing out all willy-nilly, you get rejected a lot. When you carefully plan out your submissions, you stand a much better chance. And I don’t mean you decide you are going to be published in The New Yorker and you just keep sending shit through their online form until you get published. I mean you pick the venues or agents that are right for your work.

2. Write better stuff

If you’re being rejected a lot, there’s a damn good chance it isn’t your name holding you back. After all, what’s in a name? The quality of your writing plays a much larger role. The vast majority of editors don’t read your bios or look up who you are prior to accepting or even reading your piece. It’s the quality of the writing that will make the biggest difference in the long run. Sure, there are some venues that will reject you instantly if they don’t know who you are, but those are in the vast minority. Good writing sells more stories and poems than having an “ethnic” name. If you don’t believe me, look at what’s being published.

3. Make connections

I hate to admit it, but one of the best ways to get published is to make a name for yourself. A good name, that is. If the editors recognize your name on a submission, there’s a good chance your story is going to get a closer read. And that’s half the battle. Many rejections occur before a piece has even been read. How do you make a name for yourself? Become an active member of writing communities. Move your way up the publication ladder. Start your own literary magazine. Do something other than post shit on Twitter about how unfair it is that you always get rejected.

If you do your research, write good stuff, and make a positive name for yourself, I guarantee you’ll stand a better chance of getting published than a bitter white man who slaps a Chinese name on his submissions.

Here’s a cliche for you: in the end, cheaters don’t come out on top. They may qualify for prestigious marathons, win Super Bowls, or get their work in literary anthologies. But would you really want to be anthologized at the expense of your dignity? If the entire literary community despises your actions, will one appearance in an anthology make your dreams come true? If it does, then you weren’t dreaming big enough.

4 thoughts on “Writers Don’t Have To Be Cheaters

  1. Paul Lamb says:

    I write under a pen name, though it is very similar to my actual name, mostly to separate my writing life from the mundane rest of my life (also, because people can’t spell or pronounce my real name well). But I don’t think my “false” name garners me any prestige or extra chances at publication, and it wasn’t contrived to do that. Plus, it ain’t gonna get me into the Boston Marathon.

  2. Only in Dreams. says:

    I really enjoy your posts, I think they’re very insightful. Even though writing is not a profession for me, it is something I’m passionate about. I was unaware of this story and I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon it. I’m from South Africa and I found reading about the plight of a white man to be quite entertaining. I hope I don’t come across as spamming but I’m very eager for feedback on my first ever post. If you have time I’d love your thoughts.

    https://onlyindreamssite.wordpress.com/

  3. Harpwriter says:

    I hope you’re right. I’ve heard that the very fact my submissions come from the backward state of Arkansas is enough to get my stuff rejected out of hand. I’m also breaking from what appears to be a tradition of women using only their first initials in their author name when writing murder mysteries.

    I like your emphasis that we need to focus on developing our skills. We’re never done getting better, and a challenge to improve beats whining any day.

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