100 Years of Writer’s Digest (#WritersDigest100): Some Thoughts



Writer’s Digest is celebrating its 100th anniversary, which is pretty epic. At the same time, the parent company of F&W is also declaring bankruptcy. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

I’ve been at the writing game since the early 1990s. I was a teenager when I first mailed off a money order to Writer’s Digest to subscribe to the magazine to get an insight into how to become a writer. Back then, I knew next to nothing, and the articles about agents and writing novels were actually really intimidating to a 9th grader just trying to figure out how to finish a story. But it was cool to read interviews with the authors and see how they worked.

When Paolo Bacigalupi and I had an article run in Writer’s Digest about how we collaborated on The Tangled Lands not too long ago, for me it was one of those really cool full circle moments.

By the end of high school, I had gotten my hands on a few books about writing. Nancy Kress’s Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and Nancy Kress’s Beginnings, Middles, and Ends helped me get my start in writing. Each of those books came out of Writers Digest Books.

It always seemed like whether I was trying to work on craft, or business, there was something that ended up being from Writers Digest in my library.

When I started submitting short stories, I used the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Guide (though back then, with the length of time it took to get printed and my habit of buying an older copy because I was broke, there were a lot of already dead markets!).

My memories of Writer’s Digest are very tied up in the early days of my path to being a writer.

So, disclosure: I’m also a huge fan of Guy LeCharles Gonzales. I first met him while in New York talking about digital strategies and the future of publishing. Guy is the publisher of Writers Digest, now, just promoted a few months ago, and when I heard this I was excited to see what his vision could bring to the leadership there. Guy’s thoughts on twitter about branding and the future meant I had some high hopes for the next evolution of Writer’s Digest.

So, I really hope someone is able to rescue Writer’s Digest from this bankruptcy. Because I’d hate to see this big part of my journey as a writer drift away into memories.

I did a keynote for Writer Digest conference in Cincinnati not too long ago. I really tried to kick my keynoting abilities up to a new level, and I think I was able to deliver. But while there, I met quite a few staff from Writers Digest. I really hope this ends well for them, as they were all excited about helping writers and celebrating books.

Mr. Skin’s Heart: March’s Patreon Short Story (read it for as little as $1)



March’s short story is a 2,300 word fantasy for Patreon subscribers called “Mr. Skin’s Heart.”

Two of Manny’s bodyguards kicked the door to my shitty, off-the-strip motel room door right off its hinges. I was waiting for them by the peeling door jamb with a taser. I jammed fifty-thousand volts of electricity into Paolo’s neck and two hundred pounds of meathead dropped to the floor with all the grace of a bag of cement.

Jaqi, the other bodyguard, turned to me, exasperated. I dropped the taser when she punched me in the jaw so hard my vision flickered in time to the neon vacancy sign looming over the motel’s parking lot.

“I don’t like to hit women anymore,” she said, reaching out a hand. She had a shotgun cradled in her other arm like it was her kid. “So quit messing around.”

I groaned as I wobbled up to my feet. Jaqi, an aging medium-weight boxer, famous in her time for her vicious combinations, looked bored as she pulled a chair over for me.


I obeyed like a trained dog. Ass in chair.

“You know why we came,” Jaqi said, pulling another squeaking desk chair over. She sat down across from me, the corners around her gray eyes wrinkled with crow’s feet from the Nevada sun and etched with a weariness that made me want to apologize to her for making her day more complicated than it had to be.

“I can’t pay it back,” I told her, the truth leaping from my lips instead of the lies and pleas I’d spent the last two nights developing.

“Two hundred grand.” Jaqi lay the shotgun across her lap. It made a point. “Manny can’t overlook that kind of debt.”

“I had a system that always worked when I ran tests,” I said. I idly wondered if I could grab the gun from her.

Then I patted the numb side of my face. No way to run away from this.

Hell, Vegas was where I had run to.

Jaqi ignored what I’d just said. Too silly to dignify. Everyone had a system that worked, until it didn’t.

“Manny has a way you can pay him back,” Jaqi said.

“I won’t—”

“You’re not all that, college girl,” Jaqi interrupted me, anticipating my next words. “Not for two hundred thousand. No one can work off that much that way. No, Manny has another use for you.”

I could feel my heart hammer at my chest. I licked my nervous, dry lips. “What does he want?”

Jaqi leaned over as Paolo started to stir and groan. She petted him on the head. “A small piece of your soul,” she said to me…

The story can be downloaded in PDF, RTF, ePub, and MOBI (for Kindle) at Patreon for all subscribers.