Anthology Update & What Is A Professional Writer?

Thanks all for leaving comments and e-mailing me about Augusto Monterroso's estate. I'm happy to say I've gotten in contact with them and it's looking like there's a very good chance I'll be able to include his story in the anthology. Tuesday night I did a read-through of the stories in the maybe pile. Out of the 276 stories, I check marked 149. What does this mean exactly? Well, those 149 stories were what stuck out to me at that moment. Because these stories are so short and rely so much on my participation as a reader (i.e., a lot of imagination), my mood at the time (even the weather) can sway my opinion on any particular story. So I'm setting those stories aside and next week will read through the 276 stories again. I know the suspense is killing some of you, and I apologize for that, but I hope you understand the amount of time and thought I need to put into these stories. If this were a magazine with multiple issues, I probably could have made my decisions by now and sent out responses. But obviously in terms of this anthology -- most likely a once and done thing -- I have to be extremely selective.

Finally, I am curious to know what you think makes a professional writer. A couple posts back in the comments section there had been a mention of novice and professional writers, and I had said for argument sake let's assume a professional writer is someone who makes their living completely off their writing, with no other source of income. Daniel Olivas then mentioned how he didn't quite agree with that statement, saying he doesn't think many "professional" writers write full-time.

He's right, of course. As Joe Konrath once put it, more people play in the NFL than there are people who write full-time.

No two writers are alike. Michael Connelly published four novels before he quit working as a crime reporter and went to write full-time. T.C. Boyle regularly publishes stories in The New Yorker and Playboy and has a book coming out almost every year, many bestsellers, but still he teaches writing at the University of Southern California where he's been since 1978. My buddy Joe Schreiber, who has two novels coming out next month (one a Star Wars novel, another an original horror novel), works full-time as an MRI tech. He's married, has kids, but still manages to find time to write. When I asked him once if he ever thought he'd get to a point where he could write full-time, he said he'd be happy to get to a point where he could cut back to part-time work and spend the rest writing.

Again, no two writers are alike, but despite all those differences, I consider all three of those gentlemen professional writers.

There is no definitive answer on this topic. Just like everyone has their own definition of what lazy means, everyone has their own definition of what professional means. I will say that I think many people base whether or not someone is a "professional" in terms of success. If a writer has a bestseller or wins a lot of awards, they can easily be considered a professional writer (even if that writer still has a day job). Then there are other writers who aren't very well known, who have never won an award, yet they somehow manage to make enough money to stay afloat writing full-time. Would they, then, be considered a professional writer?

This is why I'm curious to see what other people think. And this doesn't even have to apply to writers. Like, what makes a professional musician? Somebody who's signed by a major record label and whose songs are played nonstop on the radio? They make their living off their art, sure, but so do some people in cover bands that play local bars. Not a lot of people, but a few, and if both types make their living off their music ... well, I'm sure you see just how slippery this slope really is.

It's also worth noting that there are "professional writers" who are arrogant assholes that act very unprofessional most of the time. Yet they continue to be successful in the amount of books they sell, the awards they win, etc.

And then you have the novice writer who has been trying to sell a novel for years and hasn't managed it yet, and despite how frustrating it is, how it looks like it will never happen, they manage to maintain a level of professionalism in every aspect of their writing.

I could keep throwing out examples but I think I'll open it up to you. Again, there's no right or wrong answer, but still I'm curious to see what you have to say.