A story by and for millennials

U of W alum takes the 21st century high road to release his novel

After seven years, University of Winnipeg (U of W) grad and author Jonny Symons was tired of waiting on a publisher to take a chance on him, so he took matters into his own hands.

Symons released his novel online using Amazon.com’s self-publishing service, which he says changes the game for writers, because anyone can be published.

“I mean, it’s still subjective. You can be a published writer, but you can still write garbage,” he says. “It’s changed in the way that anyone can be published, but it still ultimately comes down to whether it’s good or not.”

In 2005, Symons walked into his first creative writing class at U of W. He had no idea his first assignment – to write a short story – would slowly but surely evolve into a 324-page novel, entitled Take Me Out Tonight, over the next three years.

Take Me Out Tonight is set in modern day Winnipeg and follows the lives of three millennials as they try to find their place in a world where pop culture and social media are constantly infringing upon their relationships and lives. 

Symons refers to his novel as fund-amentally a millennial book, as it deals with coming of age in a digital world.

He says he found early success. His drafts were getting positive reviews from his peers and professors and, in 2008, he received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to further motivate him to complete his manuscript.

By 2009, Symons had completed his manuscript and was ready to shop it around to publishers.

Over the next four years, Symons would submit Take Me Out Tonight to 22 different publishing houses and, of those, 16 requested his full manuscript. 

Unfortunately, although Symons received positive feedback from many of these publishers, he felt that he was always too big of a risk for these companies to bank on as a young, unpublished, first-time writer. 

To him, the process was very frustrating. 

“It was a case of being always almost there,” Symons says. “It was a big reality check.”

After the 22nd rejection letter, Symons had to take some time off from writing. But he eventually went on the internet.

Symons lists Dorothy Parker, Leonard Cohen and Philip Roth as some of his biggest literary influences in writing the novel. 

Although, interestingly, Symons cites music as his biggest source of inspiration.

“It’s more influenced by music than it is by literature. If I was writing from a certain character’s point of view, I would listen to a certain type of music,” Symons says. 

Since self-publishing his book, Symons has found that in the 21st century, he is not only a writer and publisher, but also now has to be his own publicist.

Take Me Out Tonight can be found on Amazon.com as a $2.96 Kindle download. 

Published in Volume 71, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 27, 2016)

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