The Story Behind “On Plotting the Dime Novel,” by Kathleen Glassburn

K_Glassburn_blogToday’s post is written by Kathleen Glassburn. We published her conversation with Laura Madeline Wiseman—On Plotting the Dime Novel —in our Spring 2015 issue.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by all the options. I’m talking about the deluge of email invitations and announcements. I often wonder: Should I do this? Should I sign up for this? Should I stop everything and re-write a story to submit to this contest or this publication? Should I go to this conference? Responding to everything that piques my interest leads to fragmented efforts.

I never had this problem before I started sending my work out. Up until that time, I wrote for myself, got an MFA for myself, and spent a lot of time working on my craft for love of the endeavor. At some point, it seemed right to start submitting. I told myself, “I’m not going to get hung up on publication.” HA! It’s gratifying to see your name in print and to know that someone, somewhere, likes your writing enough to publish it.

When I go a long time without acceptances, it’s disheartening. No matter what, I keep on scribbling or typing, trying to be as true to my vision as possible, avoiding topics just because they seem hot, writing and submitting stories that honestly speak for me. One practice that I’ve found helpful is to write about whatever I’m contemplating doing in my daily journal, then to wait for that feeling of rightness that tells me to go ahead. It takes the pressure off and sorts through the deluge.

This is what happened with The Santa Fe Trilogy and my subsequent relationship with Laura Madeline Wiseman, whose interview is included in the Spring Issue of Compose Journal.

My fictional story, “A New Plateau,” inspired by an actual trail-riding accident, was one of a kind. I received a message from the editor of a Boston publication where I’d submitted saying that they didn’t have a place for this type of story, but Red Dashboard Publishing was re-introducing the dime novel. Perhaps they would be interested. A day or so after writing about this in my journal, I sent my story off to Red Dashboard. A short while later I received an acceptance as well as an invitation to write a trilogy. Both these stories and the interviews that followed have opened up new possibilities.

Which brings me back to Madeline. She had a book of poetry, “The Bottle Opener,” published as a dime novel around the time that mine was published, and she got in touch with me, wondering if I would like to be interviewed. I felt honored that someone of her expertise wanted to ask questions about my take on writing. Then, it was my turn. I interviewed Madeline. Both interviews provided me with a way of putting into words, in the form of answers and later my own questions, ideas I’d gleaned along the way. And, I learned a lot about Madeline’s process and values from what she had to say.

I try to talk myself out of feeling overwhelmed. I try not to worry about “all the options.” I’m not a patient person by nature, but I have learned to wait for this sense of rightness that directs my writing life.

About the Author

Kathleen Glassburn earned an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. Her works have been published in Amarillo Bay, Cadillac Cicatrix, Cairn, Crucible, Epiphany Magazine, Lullwater Review, Marco Polo Quarterly, RiverSedge, SLAB, The Talon Mag, The Writer’s Workshop Review, Wild Violet, Wild Woman Rising, and several other journals. Her story, “Picnics,” was a finalist in Glimmer Train‘s Best Start contest. She is Managing Editor of The Writer’s Workshop Review.


  1. Kathleen knows what she’s talking about. I like this: HA! It’s gratifying to see your name in print and to know that someone, somewhere, likes your writing enough to publish it.

  2. Chris Duggan says

    Nice post. I think many writers can relate to this on a number of levels. For one thing, there are so many opportunities where writing is concerned, but we must choose carefully so we can balance our writing with work, family, and other activities. What’s more, submitting is such a rejection-oriented endeavor that it is easy to get discouraged. When the rejection emails roll in, I try to tell myself it is all part of the process of finding the right audience for that piece.

  3. Great post, Kathleen. All of your points resound with me as well.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Again, it’s always nice to see that someone reads what I have to say!

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