Authors among us: Professor Pogach shares advice

Life has a way of humbling you.

As Michael Pogach and Abigail Michelini have come to know.

Pogach is a current professor, who’s written “The Spider and the Laurel”, a dystopian thriller when Indiana Jones meets the Hunger Games. While Michelini is a former professor from NCC, who writes poems.

Through a grueling process and countless hours of writing millions and millions of words, they have both become published authors.

“I told myself that if I didn’t find a publisher by the end of the year, I would put the book away and take a break from writing,” says Pogach.

Life tears you down, right before it’s about to pick you up.

At least that’s what happened to Pogach. He explained, “I ended up getting a publishing offer in the last week of December.”

Each writer has been through some tough times, Pogach says he encountered hundreds of rejections until he finally decided to take a break and that’s when his publisher came along.

He’s spent hours and hours writing, reading and editing. It’s as if he could wallpaper his office with rejections.

Writing is an art. For some, it is invigorating. For others, it can be discouraging. The key is to never give up, no matter what side it shows you. “Don’t quit. There are so many people who don’t find success until later in life,” says Michelini.  

Pogach has created The Laconic Arts and Literary Magazine. Michelini moved away and now resides in California.

Both Pogach and Michelini have worked day and night to get to where they are now. It wasn’t easy. Becoming an author isn’t easy. But then again, what in life is easy?

Writers see some tough times. But, when it comes to writing the tough only makes you enjoy and appreciate the good even more.

Each success is a huge success.

Every writer has something they learn from others and from themselves. Learning their own process is something every writer searches for.

“Learning my own process, the search for publication, and doubt,” says Pogach as he explains some of his struggles.

Pogach says, “I’ve done much to improve the first part. The second part, the querying process in search of an agent or a publisher, remains difficult for me. It’s time consuming and rejections make it difficult some days to find the energy to keep at it. But it’s a necessary part of publishing. Last, doubt is always a struggle. I doubt my first draft, and I doubt my fifteenth draft. I doubt my next book will be as good as the previous, or that it will find a publisher. I doubt I’m good enough to even try to write a story or a novel. But the doubt only makes me work harder to overcome it.”

Becoming an author takes determination and persistence, because the motivation won’t always be there.

“Trial and error, persistence, and a lot of feedback from friends and colleagues,” is some of the ways Pogach overcomes the struggles. “Persistence is probably the most important part of it. It’s been said that around 95% of the people who start writing a novel, never finish it,” says Pogach. “Persistence, from Day 1, is key. You’ve got to want it bad enough to keep doing it even when the motivation isn’t there.”

“I don’t know that there’s ever a finish line. There’s always another project, poem, or publication to chase,” says Michelini.

For writers there’s always something more, another word, another sentence, another thought, another draft, another poem, another book. There’s no end to creativity and there’s no end to imagination.

“I think the struggle is always there, but that doubt makes me a better writer because I am not satisfied with the first draft,” Michelini boasted.

Both Pogach and Michelini agree that giving up is not the answer. There will be doubt, there will be hardships.

But, the time will pass anyway, so keep writing- Michelini

“My first published short story started as a grad school project, and I revised it probably thirty times,” Pogach said.

“Then I submitted it to about 40 literary journals before it was accepted for publication. A couple years, and a few other published stories, later, I decided to try writing a novel.”

It took him two years to write the first draft, and then another almost two years to get it into shape for publication.

“Then the querying process to find a publisher began. My first novel was rejected over 100 times before I was offered a publishing contract,” said Pogach.

It was as if he could drown in his rejections before the sunlight shown through.

“Rejection is part of the process. You can’t escape it. Every author has been rejected, even JK Rowling and Stephen King. You’ve got to remember that rejections are not about you. They’re not personal,” he reminds us.

Learning his own novel writing process was one of the hardest parts, along with the querying process itself. “Now it takes me about 1-2 years to write a publication-ready novel. It’s still a long time compared to some authors, but it’s significantly quicker than my first novel.”

Pogach had a strong support group.

Ever since he was young his parents have encouraged reading. “I remember as a kid, if we were at a store and asked for a toy, the answer was usually no. But if we asked for a book, the answer was almost always yes,” he said.

Pogach explained that you can’t be a successful author if you don’t read.

“Then, my mentor in grad school, Dr. Richard Wertime. He pushed me harder than anyone else ever had, both academically and creatively. I never would have become a professor or an author if it weren’t for him,” said Pogach.

“And finally, his writers’ group. “We’ve been working together for more than ten years, and their feedback and encouragement has been invaluable.”

Why does Pogach feel it is important for people to learn the English language? Well, Pogach answered with:

“This question assumes that I do feel it’s important. The better question would be: Do I think it’s important for people to learn English? And the answer is: It depends who you’re asking about, and where, and for what purpose.”

There is no finish line.

“Each story or novel that gets published only makes me want to write another. There’s no deadline, and there’s no “it’s too late” moment,” said Pogach.

His first short story was published when he was 34. “My first novel was published when I was 40. I am now working on both my third and fourth novels. Every success only increases the desire for more.”

But how does Pogach stay motivated?

“Well, first I don’t write every day,” he says.

“I’m a professor and a husband and father. I’ve got lots of other things going on in my life. So, I usually get to write (or work on the other aspects of writing, such as: revising, querying, marketing,) only 2-3 times a week,” he says.

“But in a way that’s good, because those days I’m not working on a project make me impatient for when I can get back to it.”

Routine is part of it, too.

“I know certain days each week have 3 or 4 hours set aside for me to write, so I can get geared up to do so. And I always start a new writing day by reading and revising the previous draft or chapter I wrote. This lets me do some revision, and it gets me fired up to write the next part. But mostly, it’s just the desire to see the book or story finished, and to have the chance to get it published and hold it in my hands. There’s nothing like holding your brand-new book in your hands the first time,” Pogach said.

Pogach has a three-book contract with his current publisher, and he is working on the third book for it now.

“I also have another complete manuscript that needs to go through a full revision before it will be ready to offer to agents and publishers,” he says.

“After that I’ve got an outline for another novel that I hope to be able to start writing early next year. In the meantime, I have a short story under consideration for an anthology that I hope to hear back from very soon. And I am going to look at putting together a collection of my short stories in the near future.”

A few choice words from Pogach to any aspiring writers.

“Read more. Write more often. Revise mercilessly.

Find yourself a writer’s group or critique group that you can trust.

And finish the story.”