Thoughts on never giving up on a piece
By Monica Prince
Raised in a little town in southwest Virginia on the West Virginia border called Bluefield, Cathy Cruise was selected as one of the long list finalists for the SFWP Literary Awards Program with her manuscript, Love, Faith, and Other Stories. She received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and her BA in English from Radford University, and she’s an editor for George Mason currently.
Her work has appeared in American Fiction Volume 14, Blue Mesa Review, New Virginia Press and elsewhere. She’s received a Pushcart nomination, a Washington Independent Writers Award for Short Fiction, and the Thomas E. Coleman creative writing award. She is the author of A Hundred Weddings and the co-author of the blog Write Despite, and she lives in Fairfax, Virginia. Find her on her website, her blog Write Despite, her Facebook profile, and on Twitter.
SFWP book reviewer and contributing editor Monica Prince asked Cruise more about her work and practice.
Monica Prince: What is your educational and work background?
Cathy Cruise: I have a bachelor’s degree in English from Radford University and an MFA in Creative Writing, with a fiction concentration, from George Mason University. I’ve worked as a writer and editor for a couple of decades now, both within organizations and as a freelancer. I’ve worked as an editor at Mason for the last five years.
MP: Has your education or work had an impact on your relationship with writing?
CC: Yes, both have. I became fascinated with fiction writing when I took a creative writing workshop as an elective at Radford. That one class led me to change my major from art to English, and to go on from there to get my master’s in writing, with the intent of being an English professor. One year of teaching freshman composition knocked that idea out of my head. I then landed a job inserting editorial corrections for a consulting company, which allowed me to see what an editor did, and I went in that direction.
MP: Do you have a job other than writing?
CC: I’m an editor at George Mason. Additionally, I’ve worked as a professional writer and editor for years, and am about to begin a job as a technical editor with the Red Cross.
MP: How did you first get involved with writing?
CC: I’ve always loved writing. The summer before sixth grade, I began my first novel. My best friend began hers too, and we would each write a chapter a night and then read them to each other the next day. I still have those awful chapters somewhere in my garage. It was my first writing workshop!
MP: What does your writing practice look like?
CC: Several years ago, I participated in a year-long challenge with fellow Mason grad Karen Guzman to write every day for twenty minutes (we posted about it on our blog, Write Despite). I lasted exactly three months. It was so hard. Since then I haven’t tried to write every day, but I do try to do something writing-related every day, even if it’s just sitting and thinking about what I’m working on, or reading something for inspiration.
MP: What are you working on now?
CC: I’ve been writing my second novel, but recently I wrote a short story that intrigues me so much I’m thinking of expanding it into a novel instead. I’m also about to start a flash fiction workshop with Kathy Fish that I’m so very excited about.
MP: Why did you decide to enter the Literary Award Contest with SFWP?
CC: Andrew Gifford and I were paired together for a couple of readings while I was promoting my first novel, A Hundred Weddings, and he was promoting his book, We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire. His readings were so powerful and his book so good that I was naturally drawn to this contest and his publishing venture. Also, my friend Tara Laskowski published her amazing book Bystanders through SFWP.
MP: How do you think submitting to contests impacts your future writing life?
CC: I’m pretty selective about the contests I enter (I’d go broke if I wasn’t), but some of them have definitely opened doors for me. For instance, I received a second-place prize awarded by Elizabeth Strout when she was a guest judge at American Fiction a few years ago, which thrilled me beyond belief. And that led to a Pushcart nomination as well. For story collections, I think contests are the way to go, as most offer publication – something that’s harder to achieve on your own.
MP: What do you believe is a key to successful publishing?
CC: Researching publishers or agents you feel are a good fit with your work, and then submitting and submitting and submitting. I never give up on a piece when I think it’s ready to be out in the world. That doesn’t mean I won’t rework it based on useful comments. But if you want it out there, get it out. No one’s going to hit that send button for you.
MP: What advice do you have for writers just starting to make this their priority?
CC: Read, write, and submit as much as you can. Repeat indefinitely. And find other writers who care about your work who can give you great feedback.
Monica Prince is the 2017-2018 Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. She received her MFA in poetry at Georgia College & State University, and her BA in English Creative Writing at Knox College. She currently writes and reviews for the Santa Fe Writers Project, as well as reviews and edits for Aquarius Press. Her work can be found in MadCap Review, Fourth & Sycamore, The Shade Journal, Texas’s Best Emerging Poets, TRACK//FOUR, and others. Her choreopoem, How to Exterminate the Black Woman, will receive a staged reading as part of the Women’s Voices International Theatre Festival in January 2018, and will premiere as a full-length show in April 2018 in Selinsgrove, PA, where she teaches, writes, and performs. Keep up with her work on her website or follow her on Twitter.