A work of art is like a gem. Important elements of the world are compressed together to create a concise and beautiful artifact. Like the notes of a song, every word is important to a written work’s aesthetic appeal, not one too many or too few. Marc Fitten uses this description of art in a writer’s workshop he teaches for students at the UTC Meacham Writer’s Conference. “Bathe in art”, he tells them. “It’s important to experience artistic expression outside of your own expertise. If you are a fiction writer, go to poetry readings and fine art exhibitions.” There is a social dialogue mingling amongst all of the arts. Though each of us may have an independent form of expression, we must keep others works in consideration when creating our own.
At only 35, Marc Fitten is the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, Atlanta’s oldest literary magazine. This is the Marc Fitten that puts on a suit and attends the mandatory meetings.
How did he become so successful, so quickly? By avoiding New York, the place to be for the publishing industry. With only a high school diploma and four years of travel behind him, Marc knew he wouldn’t stand a chance against the Harvard graduates, so he decided to stick with Atlanta. He walked in off the street, asked The Chattahoochee Review for an internship, and the rest, it seems, was fate. The universe or some higher power orchestrated his bosses’ lives to allow him to climb up the corporate ladder to where he is today.
But the corporate ladder usually isn’t that easy to climb. Of all the interns that the Hooch sees, says Marc, many will leave and go about their lives. Another large percentage just won’t make it or can’t handle it. You just have to have the personality for it.
The most somber message he has, however, is for aspiring writers: “You’re not special.” Donning his figurative editorial cap, he elaborates. Everyone is talented, at least in his or her own way. What sets you apart from others is your determination and who you know. You just have to keep sending in manuscripts and making connections until you catch a break. And knowing people doesn’t always amount to a guaranteed publication. Marc is an editor and it took him almost eight years to get his novel, Valeria’s Last Stand, published. Publication, he says, is a business transaction. Art is only “ecstatic” while you’re creating it. After that, your work is a product, and you have to make strenuous efforts to sell it.
So how can aspiring writers help ensure that their work is notable and relevant to the artistic community? Read. Pinpoint those authors who inspire you to write. Read, not only, all of their works, but the works of writers that shaped them as well. Engage in an ongoing literary dialogue, attune to the nuances of your niche and the expectations of your audience. At least that’s Marc Fitten’s personal aesthetic style, and he just got a book deal.
Interview by Kristen Ayscue & Ashely Ledford (2009)
For more information about Marc Fitten and his publications, click here.