Branching Out by Dean Gloster


            I’m not exactly under contract for my next YA novel.

            And by “not exactly,” I mean my agent has left the business, my publisher got sold to Simon and Schuster, and my editor lost her position as part of that deal. Sure, my writing career is humming along—it’s just that sometimes, for a while, we hum silently.

(At least there's coffee)

            This month, on YA Outside the Lines, we’re writing about out typical writing days and what sustains us as writers—what keeps us going in this odd pursuit and business. Here’s my quick take:

            Deadlines. Not being under contract, I have to create my own deadlines. I’m in two writers’ groups, which have submission deadlines. I’m also writing a short story for an anthology, Spoon Knife 8, where there’s a submission deadline at the end of July.

            Shorter Works. It takes a long time to write a novel. And for a huge part of that time, you’re building a pier out into the fog, hoping that it’ll turn into an actual bridge that will get you (and readers) somewhere interesting in a satisfying way. But there are no guaranties. So I’ve branched out into writing YA short stories. One, “Death’s Adopted Daughter” I sold to the anthology Spoon Knife 6.

 Another, “Proof of the Existence of Dog,” I sold to the anthology Spoon Knife 7, which just came out this week.


            One of the things I love about Spoon Knife, from Autonomous Press, is that their anthologies each have a separate theme, and the stories—otherwise wildly diverse—all relate strongly to that theme. For next year’s anthology, the theme is “Smoke and Mirrors” and I have a doozy of an urban fantasy story underway, with one character named Smoke and another named Mirror.

            (Submission guidelines for Spoon Knife 8 are here.)

            If I’m fortunate, I’ll sell that new story to them. Worst case, though, the deadline and theme have gotten me to write a short story I otherwise never would have even started.

            Branching Out.

            This business of writing novels is unpredictable, and the category of novel you’ve been working on for a couple of years can be out of favor by the time you’re ready go out on submission. So now I also write other things. I have written a small pile of picture book manuscripts and started on a new nonfiction book for young people, along with the two YA novels I’m writing—one I’m revising and the other that I’m half-way through the first draft.  


            With all that, my writing days are sometimes a little eclectic. Today I worked on putting together a writers’ conference for our local chapter—S.F. North & East Bay—of SCBWI, the organization of writers and illustrators for young people. I revised and sent my draft query for my finished (but still under revision) novel, for review by a panel of four agents as part of an online professional development seminar put on by Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I got my MFA degree. I revised a picture book manuscript and rewrote the end of a chapter of my new YA novel and sent both of those to one of my writers’ groups for a Zoom discussion later this week, and revised another picture book manuscript to send to my other writers’ group next week. I also did some research for the nonfiction book.

            And, of course, wrote this blog post. (Because—deadlines—it was due today.)

            You’ll have to excuse me now, though. I have to get to Aikido class, to get thrown around like trailer park lawn furniture in a tornado.

            It’s not exactly a living, but it’s a nice life.

Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His YA short story “Proof of the Existence of Dog” just came out in the anthology Spoon Knife 7: Transitions from Autonomous Press. He is at work on two more YA novels, one in draft and the other in revision. His hobbies include downhill ski racing and Aikido, and he does sometimes resemble lawn furniture. 


  1. Congrats on the short stories! And "it's not a living, but it's a nice life" is going to be my new motto.


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