IFW Published Author Maria Longbrake NEW

Maria Longbrake

Published in: Discretionary Love, Grande Dame Literary Journal, Mutha Magazine

Maria is a graduate of Institute of Writers. View Course Catalog >

Welcome to the Winners’ Circle where we celebrate the success of our IFW and ICL published graduates. Today we are celebrating author Maria Longbrake!

Maria LongbrakeTell us a bit about your path to publishing, from idea to submission to published.

I carry a pen and paper everywhere. A conversation, an interaction between strangers, a scene—almost anything—can spark an idea.

From there, I brainstorm and draft. That first draft is always clunky, but if I stick with it, I can usually find my way. After a few drafts, I ask someone else to read my work. Meanwhile, I research publications to see where my piece might be a good fit.

After I’ve considered feedback and arrived at my best work, I send it off with a tidy cover letter and cross my fingers!

How long have you been writing?

I began writing a few years ago. Although I never considered myself a writer in my early years, I have always been observant and had plenty of ideas. I decided to explore through a beginner’s class in creative writing in 2019 and found the Institute for Writers about a year later. I enrolled in Breaking Into Print in early 2021, which I completed in just over a year and a half.

What’s your favorite genre to write and why?

Grande Dame LiteraryI have focused on short fiction, although I enjoy personal essays as well. Our everyday lives are brimming with inspiration; writing helps me make sense of it all. Fiction is also a wonderful creative outlet. Who doesn’t love a great story?

Please list the course or courses you’ve taken with us.

Breaking Into Print

How has taking our courses helped your writing and/or career?

Breaking Into Print has been a game-changer. Donna Ippolito’s feedback has been invaluable. My writing has improved, and I finished with a better understanding of the business of writing—how to write a cover letter, how to submit a piece, and the sanctity of word count.

My greatest rewards, though, have been confidence and possibility. If I can go from being a new, unpublished writer to seeing my work in print, I know I can set my sights on larger goals, such as a novel. I will always be learning, but Breaking Into Print felt like my launchpad into a writer’s life.

Have any of your class assignments been published?

I am happy to say that I’ve had publishing success through this course. Hooray!

Discretionary Love2021 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, Personal Memoir-Vignette: Second Place for “Holy”

“Snake Eyes” Discretionary Love, 1/30/22

“The Time is Now” Grande Dame Literary Journal, 6/8/22

“Le Cirque de la Vie” Potato Soup Journal, 7/29/22

“The Box” Faith, Hope & Fiction, 11/2/22

“Mama Bird” Mutha Magazine, 11/10/22

POST Breaking Into Print:

2022 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, Personal Memoir-Vignette: Honorable Mention for “The Middle House”

“The Middle House” was published in HerStry after winning Honorable Mention in the 2022 Soul-making Keats Literary Competition, 4/5/23

Do you have a favorite writing tip you’d like to share?

Budget time for editing into your writing process. Ideally, we have time to step away from a piece—for an hour, a few days, maybe longer—and return to our work with fresh eyes. I do my best editing when I’m not rushed and have time to process any needed changes.

If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of writing advice, how far back would you go, and what would you tell yourself?

I haven’t been writing for very long, so I can’t go back too far! I would say to myself, and all new writers: there is room for everyone, and publication is entirely possible.

What do you think are some of the most important qualities a writer needs to get published?

Faith Hope FictionCourage, a healthy dose of humility, and persistence. As creators, it is easy to feel vulnerable. There is bravery that comes with subjecting our work to someone else’s opinion, whether it be for editorial feedback or submitting for publication. Humility helps us see past the sting of rejection or a different opinion, which are part of a writer’s journey. Finally, writers persist. Whether it’s for a piece that hasn’t found a publishing home yet, or a very rough first draft, writers return to the page, day after day.

Please tell us the best or most valuable thing you learned from your experience with ICL and IFW.

When I was notified that my personal essay, “Holy,” had won second place as a memoir-vignette in the 2021 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, I was speechless. The opportunity to read an excerpt alongside other winners was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! There I was, alongside “real” writers, sharing my work with an audience. For me, what felt impossible was suddenly within reach thanks to the Institute for Writers.

Soul-Making Keats CompetitionKind words, publication, and awards are quite validating, just as rejections can sting (less now than in the beginning!). The point is to know your work, know your market, and be willing to thoroughly research publications. These are the most valuable lessons I took from Breaking Into Print. Also, keep showing up and sharing your work, because writing has the power to connect, heal, teach, and entertain. You may be surprised by your own power!

Maria Longbrake writes short stories and personal essays under the pen name, Maria Hanley. Thanks to the Institute for Writers, she believes she can tackle a novel someday. She lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband, three sons, and two cats. You can follow Maria on Twitter and Instagram @MHanleyWriter.


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