Few people can brag about being a published author, but this isn’t the case for former University of Utah student Michael Smith. Smith graduated in accounting in 1995 and earned a law degree in 2001 from the U. “Bluebird,” his first full-length novel, is set to publish the beginning of next month by Anaphora Literary Press.
In his own words, “Bluebird” is a “literary fiction about a man who, following the death of his son, inserts himself into a small-town political battle about water rights.” The idea wasn’t established in a day — it took a few years for Smith to ultimately decide to write “Bluebird.”
“So, I had written a couple of shorter books. I wrote a novella and I wrote a YA novel and a bunch of short stories and, I don’t know,” Smith said, “I guess like everyone I had this vague ambition to write a full-length novel, so about four or five years ago … I just sort of made up my mind that that was what I was going to do and kind of set [myself] to the task.”
Now, after an almost four-year writing process, “Bluebird” publishes Oct. 1. The first two years involved writing, the last year and a half included revising and editing and every year encompassed various Salt Lake coffee shops.
“I sort of had this fantasy … kind of like Hemingway or Joyce, kind of like the idea of the life of just kind of being in a coffee shop writing and working and stuff, so I did a lot of writing in Salt Lake Roasting Company, and like Nostalgia and then the Cafe on 1st,” Smith said. “I don’t know, it’s just a good place for me to write.”
Smith isn’t the first author who sought out coffee shops and diners. Many successful writers seek small cafes to relax and write in. Take J.K. Rowling, for example. She wrote “Harry Potter” on napkins in a small diner. Even in this relaxing destination for writers, they still feel their fair share of writer’s block. Smith often experienced this sort of wedge while writing “Bluebird,” but he struggled through it.
“Mostly it’s just painful, like just kind of sit there and force yourself to write a sentence and then another sentence and then work your way, you know, and then after three or four paragraphs you kind of get back in the groove,” Smith said. “Sometimes — I kind of realized this after the fact — I don’t think I can really write as much as I did, I don’t think I can write every day. I don’t think I have that much to say or that much to offer, so towards the end I felt like I just had to have more actual life experience in between. Just like, not write for a few days or a few weeks, like go see movies, talk to people, read books, like, you know, try to challenge myself and then it felt like it was a little bit easier to write.”
Writer’s block wasn’t the only struggle he encountered while writing. Smith repeatedly met rejection by publishers who offered no instruction or constructive criticism. Nearly 200 times, he was denied without any explanation. Smith wishes they would’ve given him some sort of direction.
“It’s like taking a test at the end of the year … like oh, is this good or am I the worst student ever?” he said. “You wanted somebody to even comment at all to say … this is really bad for all these reasons, in a way would’ve been helpful, but instead they just say no … so you’re just left wondering what could I have done or am I even in the ballpark.”
For “Bluebird,” publication isn’t a concern anymore. Smith has crossed the playing field and anticipates the release date of his first full-length novel at the beginning of next month.
“Bluebird” is available for preorder from Barnes and Noble here.