May 19, 2024

Writers @ Work features author Kevin Maloney

Assistant Professors of English, Angela Buck and Liam O’Laughlin, want to challenge students’ relationship with literature. Together, they crafted the Writers @ Work series to do just that. 

Writers @ Work is intended to disrupt students’ consumeristic understanding of books and dive into the reality of producing work and the world of small press publishing that can support it. 

Buck hopes that the series will “get students to think of themselves as producers (workers? entrepreneurs? unpaid spirit guides?) of literature instead of consumers.” 

The event flier promised students “a window on the writing life and the chance to have a conversation with a working artist.”

February’s forum featured author Kevin Maloney in Blackmore Library, where he read excerpts from his new book, “The Red-Headed Pilgrim,” and spoke about the nuances of getting your foot in the door of the literary scene. 

A long way from his home in Oregon, Maloney made his appearance at the university after a visit with his Columbus-based publisher, Two Dollar Radio, before continuing his book tour. Two Dollar Radio is a highly selective, family-run publisher that puts out no more than a half dozen books each year.

Maloney has had numerous short stories published in journals and magazines over the years prior to the release of his second novel and newest work, which came out just days before his appearance at the university. 

After reading from “The Red-Headed Pilgrim,” Maloney opened the floor for attendees to ask  questions about how his writing voice developed, what most influenced his work and how he navigated the world of publishing. 

When asked about the process of going from a 20-something that wanted to write a book to actually becoming a published author, Maloney said he didn’t know his early works would serve simply as practice and that “…publication would be years away.”

It wasn’t until his early 30s, Maloney speculates, that he had to dig in and “figure out how to actually get something published, and realized that it’s really hard to jump to that book level, so [he] just started with short stories.”

Maloney estimated that his stories were rejected by magazines upwards of 200 times, but he knew to expect resistance in his publishing journey, so he persevered. He continued to develop his signature dry humor style of writing and read up on the recent publications of other up-and-comers to get a feel for what was striking a chord with audiences and publishers. Buck later stressed the importance of this particular tactic stating, “You have to find other writers like you/who like you/who like the stuff you like.”

Throughout the Q&A, Maloney opened up about how his approach to writing and to life has evolved. He found that writing in a way that was true to his own humor and experiences yielded much better results than back when he started out and mimicked the prose of the Greats. 

Maloney described how his once romantic notions of being a tortured artist gave way to a more practical approach to sharing his work with the world. He admitted that he was unashamed of chasing down authors and anyone else in the literary community to ask questions, get feedback and promote his own work.

When it came time to pursue print publication more seriously, Maloney credits his distinctive features (bright red hair and considerable height) and his persistence in building connections and borderline interrogating publishers and published authors for his ultimate success.

Writers @ Work aims to demystify the writing, promotion and publication process. Maloney’s humility and honesty showcase the importance of self-advocacy and an indomitable spirit. 

Becoming an artist requires hustle and determination, and often lacks glamor. If you want to find success, Maloney says that, “The most important thing is that you’re hungry.”


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