Fiction Consultations with John Mauk
During the month of March, 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. He currently hosts Prose from the Underground, a YouTube video series for working writers.
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, $55
- Chapbooks, up to 40 pages in length, $225
- Novellas, up to 100 pages in length, $350
- Short story collections, up to 180 pages in length, $475
- Novels, up to 300 pages in length, $725
All manuscripts should be double spaced and formatted in 12-point font. The deadline to submit work for this consultation program is March 31. John will complete his work and respond to all participants by April 30.
John's Statement of Purpose
Fiction writing is ballet on a tightrope. It’s fancy dancing on a 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 to read and review. In fact, successful writers are often insatiable workshoppers. But even with consistent up-close readers, we all benefit from an occasional faraway voice, someone unfamiliar yet 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. As a writer, 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?
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?
As a consultant, I will apply these four questions to your work. Of course, there are more issues: concerns about plot, setting, syntax, narrator placement, and so on, but the above four questions will drive my approach. I’ll offer scene-by-scene comments. I’ll say what makes me hope, wonder, worry, and cheer. I’ll offer suggestions for intensifying and attenuating. Also, I’ll say what the story is doing best because we all need affirmation. I look forward to reading whatever you might send.