I don't know if everyone remembers the SNL skit, Mo' Monee, Mo' Monee, Mo' Monee, but it was written by a writer.
In 1995 I won the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Emerging Writer's Award. The prize: $11,000, a trip to NYC where I spent three days on 8th and 8th in Brooklyn, riding the subway into the city. I gave a reading. I was recognized my second day, in Flatbush. All in all it was a party just to be near me.
Two things were said to me after I won, by close friends (at the time):
1. You'll never get that published. No one who wins that award gets their book published.
2. $11,000 for 11 pages. Dude, I wish I could make that.
So far that's the only money I've won. I've earned an occasional 50 bones for a contributor's fee, and more free copies than I can give or trade away. So, to date, that Astraea money breaks down to $687.5 a year, or $12.28 a week. As the years go by it will continue to decrease, unless someone buys it.
So, what's my problem? If I sucked I might give it up. But my rejections (which I have in three different files: agents, presses and individual pieces) all come down to market. "This is good work, but I can't sell it." In a lot of ways I have the best rejections: "my writing is a wild pony that refuses to be tamed."
"I'm audacious." Who's going to touch A Woman's Body, the piece I won the Astraea award with. Yes. Which still has not been published, but is under consideration (again), at this moment.
I took the piece to the Art of the Wild. The teacher (a very respected and well published author, with a big house--residence and press) said, "Reid's piece will be easy to find a publisher for." That was in 1996.
I send my work out, typed, doubled spaced and polished (hints I picked up from the recent Poets & Writers issue on Writing Contests). I even research presses, agents, and publishers. "Alas, not for me." I have a good query; I get a good number of "call backs." But even the Native Writer's Series on Storytelling, after reading my latest novel (Urban Nizhóní) about Arikara, Mandan, Hitdatsa and Navajo artists, written in the oral tradition, said, "I just didn't fit with their theme."
Which is why I always write about content.
This money issue is steeped in the dirty water of content. What people want to hear and they way they want to hear it. Most especially the gatekeepers, who seem to believe every one is lazy and stupid. As I've said before, I'm with Kafka, if the writing doesn't break your head open, then what's the point.