During the month of June, Black Lawrence Press author John Mauk is on board to critique fiction manuscripts.
John Mauk has a PhD in English from Bowling Green State University and a Masters from the University of Toledo. His stories have appeared or been accepted in a range of fine magazines such as Arts & Letters, Salamander, Bull, and New Millennium Writings. He has also contributed essays to online magazines, including Writer’s Digest, Beatrice.com, Three Guys One Book, The Portland Book Review, and Rumpus. His first short collection, The Rest of Us, won Michigan Writer’s Cooperative Press chapbook contest. His first full collection, Field Notes for the Earthbound, is available on Black Lawrence Press.
John is accepting everything from flash fiction to novels for critique. The fees and parameters for each of these categories are as follows:
- Flash fiction, up to 2 pages in length, $25
- Short stories, up to 20 pages in length, $50
- Chapbooks, up to 40 pages in length, $195
- Novellas, up to 100 pages in length, $325
- Short story collections, up to 180 pages in length, $450
- Novels, up to 300 pages in length, $700
All manuscripts should be double spaced and formatted in 12-point font. The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is June 30. John will complete his work and respond to all participants by July 31 .
John's Statement of Purpose
Fiction writing is ballet on a tightrope. It’s fancy dancing on a super-slim line. All decisions and effort must blur away so the story itself becomes more alluring than the world beyond it. After all, readers are inclined toward the physical world: the one with air, water, food, friends, and cell phones. It takes immense energy and focus to make a story work—really work—so readers decide to ignore everything else. In short, no writer should go it alone.
Every writer I know calls upon comrades—mentors, peers, friends, and spouses—to read and review. Successful writers are often insatiable workshoppers. But even with consistent up-close readers, we all benefit from an occasional faraway voice, someone both unfamiliar but invested—someone who’s detached but totally willing to help.
I’m willing to help. I consider myself a perpetual student of fiction. I’ve been studying, reading, and writing for years and still have consistent eureka moments about the craft. While every story has its own origin, nearly everything I write goes through a range of steps (or eras, depending) that go something like this: wonder, begin, doubt, continue, doubt, believe, revise, celebrate, love, hate, revise. With all these steps—and the possible ways to stumble or fall—I try to apply consistent principles. As writer and reader, I ask two basic questions. If I know the answer to the first, I begin working on the second:
· What do the characters yearn for or need?
· How can each scene fully render that yearning or need?
These questions and the issues they kick up constitute most of my work. If the main characters’ yearning (in whatever form) is palpable, I’ve got a story. If each scene fully renders out that yearning, I’ve probably got a good story. From there, I can ask two more elemental questions:
· Does the voice of the narrator keep us committed to the characters?
· Does the pace of the narration keep us committed to the characters?
Of course, there are more issues, thousands of more cerebral concerns about plot, setting, syntax, and narrator placement. But the above four questions get at the crucial layers. As a reader, I’ll apply these questions to your manuscript. I’ll offer scene-by-scene comments—my response to each development in the story. I’ll say what makes me hope, wonder, worry, and cheer. I’ll offer suggestions for intensifying and attenuating—calling forward and toning down. And I’ll always say what I think the story is doing best. I look forward to reading whatever you might send.