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  • Writer's pictureGoran Yerkovich

Better Next Year: Ranked #2nd on Amazon's Hot New Releases - 3 Lessons I Learned Getting Published!

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

11/ 16/2023 Book Launch Event @ Massy Arts: BETTER NEXT YEAR. Sonja Larson, Goran Yerkovich, Joanna Baxter, JJ Lee

One year ago today, if you were to tell me that on Nov 24th, 2023 I'd be a published author in a collection alongside an outstanding group of award winning, best-selling, and highly recognized nominated authors in BETTER NEXT YEAR, and that our anthology would be competing for #1 position alongside CBC legend Peter Mansbridge on Amazon's Hot New Releases in Canadian Collections - I would have taken away your keys, called security, and shown you the door.

But all of the above is true. It happened. In fact it's happening right now. Thanks in part to three reasons. Three lessons I learned.

Getting Published: Part 1 - Listen to your inner Furby

Many of you may not know this but back in my early twenties I worked as a Film Critic for FFWD Weekly Magazine in Calgary. At its height, FFWD Weekly had a print circulation of over 30,000. But after a year on the job, writing scathing-mixed-potato-salad-type reviews of movies like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, I grew tired of being a critic. Even if I had some so-called 'gift' at writing reviews, who was I really to be judging others, having never created anything artistically substantial myself? So, I began my first (and only) Science Fiction manuscript. I wrote daily. Over 200 pages worth. I was on a roll. In my early twenties, I was a writer.

Then life kicked in. Adventure. Travel. Survival. I moved to London (no not Ontario, but England). I saw the world for the first time but financially I struggled. I worked on my Sci-fi manuscript at nights but eventually my writing practice sputtered. The manuscript was abandoned after one year in London. My self-belief had vanished. Then, after two years away I moved back to Canada, but to Vancouver this time - with big dreams again - only to find myself in a perpetual state of arrested development. In 2005 I spent most of that year sleeping on an air mattress while I worked a dead-end call centre job. See my short story "Furby Call Centre" in BETTER NEXT YEAR for more of these Hungry-Man-Dinner-powered-gravy-truths.

Then when I finally turned things around, I got addicted. Not to drugs. But to nice things like money, status, luxury. Objects that gave me a false sense of self-worth. But things, nonetheless, that left me feeling hollow inside. Friends had noticed I'd become a little too materialist, owning, and-I-kid-you-not: BMW cufflinks. My wife began to comment that I was drinking too much. Well into my thirties, my writers pen had been tucked away for over a decade. And as more time passed something unfinished began to fester and cook inside.

Until one non-descript saturday in June of 2016 when a new journey began. On that sunny day, which I can still remember like it was yesterday, I told my wife I'd spend an entire Saturday afternoon, four uninterrupted hours, at my desk, writing. I explained there was a short story in me I needed to get out.

The moment was life changing. It felt like a rebirth.

But the lesson wasn't about writing. It was about listening to the voice inside my head. The same crazy voice that told me to write about my "Furby Call Centre Christmas" back in May of this year, 2023. And to submit that story to Tidewater Press for publication in BETTER NEXT YEAR. Yes, this last link is to go buy the book again. An no, none of the authors are getting rich from these sales. In fact, neither is our editor. All his proceeds are going instead to a great local charity supporting underprivileged youth development. So buy the book!

Back to my point - this short story, which I wrote mostly from scratch in May 2023, during an an extremely busy time for me personally and professionally, was a lesson in this: no matter how busy you are in life - if something is important to you - find a way to do it. Make it happen. Listen to your inner Furby.

Getting Published: Part 2 - The term 'being gifted' Sucks

Today I swim regularly. Twice a week. I swim 1 km each time I hit the pool. Forty laps freestyle non-stop, back and forth. But I didn't just magically happen. I'm not a 'gifted' swimmer. Swimming like this took years of practice. There were years of doggy-paddled strokes to start. Yes, I'll admit it, back in 2019 I even signed-up for Adult-Swim-Lessons. During my formative years, in the process of trying to learn, I swallowed a lot of very suspect chlorinated water.

But here's the thing about swimming 1 km the next time you hit the pool. Anyone can do it. Yes, anyone can swim 1 km or much more if they want to, because I know someone who swims 4 kms for each of his swims.

That's the profound lesson I learned from a friend at my local pool named Barry. Barry swims 4 kms each time he hits the water. When I first met him, I was tired and frustrated from my 200 metre swim that day. I'd entered the sauna and Barry was seated next to a few other swimmers when I overheard something about how far he swam. I asked Barry to reconfirm, which he did.

At the age of 67 years Barry - who still doesn't look over the age of 55 - said with complete and genuine modesty that he swam 4 km each time he hit the pool. And while I looked at him in complete astonishment he made it very clear anyone can do it.

This is what I tell strangers or friends who seem impressed with my swimming. Because it applies to anything you decide you want to do.

Put in the work. Put in the hours. Enjoy the process. Always enjoy the process. Do it because you love it. But have the discipline to keep going, to get up early, or stay up late because it matters to you.

I now write six days a week. Sometimes seven. And I'm not retired. I never inherited a slush fund. I still work a corporate job too. This year juggling work, university (see below), and writing, fifteen hour days were not uncommon for me, and I suspect the same applies (or more) for many of my fellow classmates.

That's why the term 'being gifted' sucks. It fails to explain that the only real way we learn in life is through trial and error of failing over and over again. These are our bad first drafts, corrected thanks to the discipline of daily practice. #davidgoggins.

11/16/23 - Better Next Year Book Launch @ Massy Arts. JJ Lee at full force in person and on stage

Getting Published: Part 3 - Become a Blockwatch Captain

Okay this last part isn't about being a blockwatch captain. We need to start this section a little different. I think there's something poetic in a 45 year-old-man being called an 'emerging' writer in two separate anthology publications I've been lucky enough to be included in.

It's poetic I was included in an SFU Anthology collection called "Emerge '23" where, back in October of this year, we were all introduced at the Vancouver Writers Festival as emerging writers. Or that I'm listed in "BETTER NEXT YEAR" as a new emerging voice - because the truth is I started my journey a long time ago without getting noticed.

So the third game changer I want to share, for anyone who might be reading this article having already embraced the elements above - is that sometimes hard work and wanting something badly is not enough.

The third epiphany is about realizing when it's time to seek out your community. What I'm talking about is not just connection, but being humble enough to ask for help.

Help for me, in a roundabout-way started with me becoming Block Watch Captain in our neighbourhood (don't laugh - it's true). This led to advice I should attend the Surrey International Writers Conference (SIWC) in October 2022, where I saw a full page spread for SFU's The Writers Studio, and where I met JJ Lee, a former CBC Fashion Columnist, Art Critic, Producer, and Governor General Nominated Author of Measure of Man: The Story of a Father, a Son and a Suit.

JJ Lee became my Author-Mentor at SFU's The Writer Studio in January '23. I was fortunate enough to make the cut. To get into his bi-weekly workshop. To be part of his small non-fiction cohort class of eight students he mentored throughout the year. Under JJ's mentorship I learned (and am still learning) just how crucial Writer Voice, Point of View, and Tone are in connecting with a reader.

I also learned (and am still learning) from my fellow classmates: Bridget, Jonathan, Jesse, Lubna, Kim, Jen, Lucie, and of course Joan. Thank you all for who you are. For what you do. Thank you for the personal stories you shared over this year. Thank you for your honesty when the time came to tell each other something we wrote kinda (or really) sucked - which is how, in the end, all of us improve. See final quote below.

11/14/23 - SFU's The Writers Studio Non-Fiction Group -Last day with our Non-Fiction group. Missing Jesse and Jonathan.

I also feel privileged to have been part of the SFU The Writers Studio (TWS) Class of 2023. Andrew. Emily, Laura and the rest of the SFU staff, and to all the guest authors, the publishing team and volunteers - thank you. I hope you know (which I think you do) that your program changes lives.

To our wider class, our classmates across all the various genres - what can I say. We need one of our brilliant poets here to help me find the words. I look forward to seeing you all at Story Slams and TWS Reading events very soon. It was bittersweet for TWS'23 to end, but one year from now, and I hope many more to follow, we'll all have each other to lean on in good times and bad.

Lastly, to my non-fiction cohorts, and our wider TWS class, I look forward to sharing and celebrating the many victories to come. There will be many, this I am 1000% sure. But as writers, this insane path we choose will come with countless inevitable defeats too. And when they come we'll be ready. As ready as we can be. Because this is the path we choose.

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strength. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

- Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yes. I just finished with an Arnold Schwarzenegger quote.

Until next time, stay inspired.

Goran Yerkovich



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