Tag Archives: James Patrick Kelly

Pick me! Pick me!

“Employees wait to be picked for promotion, or to lead a meeting or to speak up at a meeting. ‘Pick me, pick me’ acknowledges the power of the system and passes responsibility to someone to initiate. Even better, ‘pick me, pick me’ moves the blame from you to them. If you don’t get picked, it’s their fault, not yours. Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.”

Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Writers are never employees. Even when they are employed. A writers job is always to say what no one else has yet said. And you can’t wait for your boss to tell you what that is. This is one reason why those structures where writers are employed, are waiting to be told what to do, businesses like newspapers and publishers, are either collapsing or going through revolutionary change, and being beaten in to the ground by dynamic systems where writers do not wait to picked, by blogs and other social media.

Writing is now such a competitive career that saying ‘pick me!’ is hardly even an option anymore, if it ever was. Too many writers think of editors, agents and other publishing professionals as people who are waiting to pick them. The truth is that no good editor or agent interested in making a living is interested in picking a writer. The writers worth working with are the ones who have already picked themselves, who are instigating and building their own career and who understand the value of the relationship they have with other professionals, agents and editors.

What does this mean in practical terms for you as a writer? Above all else it means you need to be aware of what you need to do to instigate your career. If you have never written a word and dream of writerly stardom, you need to enrol on a good course and spend a few years learning your trade. If you have published a few dozen stories and have a strong novel in progress you need to get out and network at events where you will meet people who might publish the book. You’ll quickly find out if it has potential. If you’ve sold 400 million copies of your novels about an orphan boy at magic school it might be time to ditch the agent and the publisher all together and sell direct to your readers.

Don’t mistake a rash leap in the dark for instigating your career. Self-publishing a multi-volume urban fantasy on Lulu is just another way of shouting ‘pick me!’ at a readership swamped with other desperate hopefuls doing the same thing. But don’t fear if you happen to have done this or any of the other host of miss-steps writers take early in their travels, for a fortunate consequence of this kind of failure is that, by definition, no one will have noticed.

(But it is probably a good idea to take that 18 volume saga off Lulu well before you actually publish a real book.)

And now go and read the combined wisdom of Clarion as introduced by James Patrick Kelly.


John Klima sticks his neck out and nominates his top 10 most influential SF / F anthologies over at Tor.com. It’s a list that makes me want to read more, as do the the comments. But I was surprised to see my most influential anthology went entirely unmentioned…

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology was the book that woke me up to what science fiction could be. I would guess that like many readers I found it in the wake of reading Neuromancer. As unique and startling as that novel was, without seeing the diversity of writing in the Bruce sterling edited anthology I might not have grasped what SF short fiction was really capable of.

Red Star, Winter Orbit still rates for me as one of Gibson’s strongest stories (alongside Hinterlands). But Tom Maddox Snake-Eyes sticks in my memory as the epitomy of cyberpunk, and a major influence over my story They Leave Him No Voice (workshopped at Clarion and awaiting re-write). Contributions from Greg Bear and Pat Cadigan also rocked my adolescent world, but it was James Patrick Kelly’s Solstice that really blew my mind. I remember that story pretty much scene for scene, despite not having read it for at least a decade. Meeting Jim at Clarion was totally awe inspiring as a consequence.

I can see my old battered copy of Mirrorshades on the shelf from where I am writing this. Its been a while, I think its time to go and read it again.


James Patrick Kelly praises The Fix

Jim Kelly, award winning SF writer (and Clarion tutor) praises The Fix…

Luckily for fans of the short form, a new site, The Fix, has arrived on the scene. Andy Cox, of TTA Press, publisher of Interzone and Black Static, and Eugie Foster have created a site that is visually pleasing and intellectually stimulating. The size of their staff of columnists and reviewers is impressive. I counted over fifty; most are themselves working or aspiring writers. Of course, the skill and style of the reviewers vary; for the most part they give plot summaries and in some cases offer a critical, or at least a personal, reaction to the story. The intent would seem not so much to pass judgment as to describe stories that a reader might want to look for. The columns are quite astute—I can particularly recommend James Van Pelt’s The Day Job and Scott Danielson’s Audiobook Fix. The Fix is one of the most promising new sites of 2007.

Read the whole article

…well done Eugie and Andy. I read The Fix daily and really enjoy writing my own reviews for it, so its great to see it getting more of the attention it deserves.