Britny Brooks writes and reads in Philadelphia. She is an editorial assistant at Running Press Books, the Head Serial Fiction Editor for Helios Quarterly, as well as a reader and reviewer for other online literary magazines. She had a dual MFA (in Fiction)/MA (in English), and her weird experimental stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Airgonaut, Ghost Parachute, and more. She has also contributed a few bookish articles to the Bustle Books section. You’re likely to find her drinking coffee while geeking out about novellas, podcasts, short story collections, graphic novels, and tiny houses.
What got you interested in writing?
At first, I was more interested in reading than writing. My parents used to threaten to stop buying me books because I would read them within a day or two and want to go get more. Then in middle and high school, I started passing notes to my best friend with a prompt-like thing—usually a quick, descriptive sentence to set the scene and then I’d introduce my character—and he would write back with a few more sentences and introduce his character. We’d just keep passing the note back and forth building up the story as we reacted to each character’s actions and the basic plot we established.
It was kind of like a mix between a writing and playing a text-based role-playing game really. After a while, we settled into our characters and would just writing more and more complex conflicts and plots that we would have to work our way out of. If it hadn’t have been for all of those notes crammed with stories, I don’t know if I would have found out how much I enjoyed writing. To this day, I think collaborations are the most creative, spontaneous, and care-free ways to write and I think everyone should try it at least once.
How do you handle success and failure?
I like to channel my feelings about success and failure (read: frustration) into my writing and always try to turn it into something that I can learn about myself as a writer. Of course, successes feel a lot like coffee—they get you buzzed and energetic—while frustrations always feel like a big ol’ shot of something that burns on the way down. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s harder to work after I’ve gotten a rejection or if I’m feeling guilty about not writing or a story isn’t working the way I want it to. However, I try my best to turn my negatives into positives and make it a teachable moment. If something isn’t working the way I thought it would then that could mean that I’m pushing my boundaries as a writer, and I just have to be patient while I learn, for example.
A lot of writers think (and say) that a rejection equals a failure. I strongly disagree as a writer and as an editor. We are all readers and we all have likes and dislikes. As an editor, I’m always looking for a story that moves me and that I think the audience of the magazines I work with will enjoy. Rejections can happen for so many reasons and vary rarely is it just because “I didn’t like the story.” As a writer, when I get a rejection it means that I wasn’t the right fit for them this time, but maybe my next story will be.
I think it’s important to remember that it’s the hard work and the determination that makes a great writer—those two things are going to outlive any publications that you might get.
Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)
I think I’m a hybrid. I love having physical books and I’ve noticed that my reading pace and attention seem to be better with paper, but I love the convenience of eBooks. I mainly use my Kindle for books that I’m requesting to review or if I’m getting advanced reader copies because I can get them instantly instead of waiting for a book to get mailed to me. Also, having a Kindle has changed my life when it comes to reading while traveling. The only thing that I can’t do is split a series between physical and digital—I need to have the whole series together.
What is your advice to young and new writers?
Do what you love and write because it makes you happy. If you started writing just so you can get published, you’re doing this all wrong. Make friends with other writers and be a part of your local writing community—go to readings, open mics, and book launches, know where your local bookstore is, join or form a writing group, learn about the small publishers and online magazines that are native to your area. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask other writers or editors out to coffee (if they’re around) or email or Skype and chat with them. Last, but not least, be courteous. You’d be surprised the wonders that a thank you note can do.