August 5, 2011

Made It Moment: Bryan R. Dennis

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 2:05 am

An Epitaph For Coyote

Some of you already know that during my long journey toward publication (or the sale of my novel at this point) I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. When you are trying to break in, you will knock on any door–I started to knock on things that weren’t doors at all. ABNA is a pretty nice, wooden, door-looking thing to try. The contest is fun–kind of like a long American Idol–and holds the promise of great reward. For me–given that I never won, or even progressed terribly far–the best part of it was the writers that I met. But for Bryan R. Dennis, the contest gave him something more.

A Made It Moment.

Bryan R. Dennis

My made it moment came when An Epitaph for Coyote made it into the semi-finals for Amazon’s 2008 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Before that happened I wasn’t sure whether my writing was any good. Teachers, family, and friends have always complimented me on it, but I’ve never been good at anything else — ask all my former employers. At the back of my mind a small, yet persistent, voice of self-doubt told me I was no good at writing either. Writing, went the voice, is just what you suck at least. But in light of the contest, and after positive reviews from complete strangers, I could now ignore that self-defeating voice and report back to those same teachers, friends, and family members that maybe they were right after all.

Or maybe that year the crop of contestants was just unusually bad.

See, there’s that voice again. It never really goes away. Guess I’ll have to live with it. But now that I think about it, that might actually be a good thing. Without that voice sitting on my shoulder like a nagging old spouse, I might not have the impetus to keep pushing myself to improve. Because of that voice, I revisited Epitaph after the Amazon contest concluded and spent the next four years polishing it, all while writing a second novel and dozens more stories.

Of course, the voice isn’t the only thing that gets my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I also think of my family, who always encouraged me, my brother, who accomplished much in his short life, and finally, a certain coyote I said good bye to once, on my way to work.

I won’t let them down.

Born and raised in the cornfields of Illinois, Bryan enlisted in the Army upon graduation from High School and served his term overseas. Afterwards he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and enrolled in UNLV’s college of business. It took a degree in Accounting, years of daydreaming in cubicles, and a collection of stories piling up on his hard drive to learn he is a writer and not an accountant. His writing style is influenced most by screenplays, of which he is a voracious reader. Chandler, Carver, Hemingway, Bradbury, Bukowski, and Murakami are also heavy influences. He currently resides with his family in Las Vegas, Nevada.


  1. It’s nice to know that all the self-doubt happens to others, and that it’s a good thing for some – spurring them on to become better writers. It’s wonderful to see someone who’s very humble about their work be recognized. Great moment, Bryan. Thanks, Jenny, for providing it!

    Comment by mountainmama — August 5, 2011 @ 4:53 am

  2. Gee, I thought I was the only one who heard voices. Mine tends to sound an awful lot like the wicked witch of the west from the Wizard of Oz. “You’ll never get published, nahahahahaha, and your second novel too!”

    But I’ve also learned to shush it, ignore it and just plain tune it out. You’re right, it never goes away but we can always turn the volume down.

    Comment by Karyne — August 5, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  3. Thank you so much for posting this, Jenny. It’s nice to know that there’s a supportive community of writers out there. And if I can ever help you with something, please drop me an email.

    Comment by Bryan — August 5, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  4. Self-doubt used to sleep with me, but I finally kicked him out and got down to the business of writing what I wanted to write. It paid off! I guess if we formed a club we’d have a lot of members. :-)

    Comment by C. Lee McKenzie — August 5, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  5. What a great interview. Bryan’s Made It Moment will hit home to many authors, and hopefully help us to ease up on ourselves a bit.


    Comment by Sandy — August 5, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  6. Great post.

    Self-doubt is a killer. Any time I get a bad review
    self-doubt booms through my head. I’m learning to ignore the bad reviews and focus on the reviews that actually point out where I can improve my writing. :)

    Author & Sídhí ‘news’ reporter :)

    Comment by Jodie B. Cooper — August 5, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  7. It always is such a heart-melting feeling when someone makes it. Bryan R. Dennis also sounds so sincere, I will most certainly have to track him down and follow him.

    Comment by Lynette Ferreira — August 5, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  8. My most glaring recent moment? After publishing, I had a dream that an agent was talking big things to me about my book, then I overheard him talking complete trash about me to someone else. One of those dreams when you wake up knowing exactly what was behind it.

    “after positive reviews from complete strangers, I could now ignore that self-defeating voice”- This really resonated with me. Even the most honest of friends won’t always tell you EVERYTHING. Great post.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    Comment by Paul Dail — August 5, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  9. “Or maybe that year the crop of contestants was just unusually bad.” rofl! Congrats on being a finalist–that really IS big news. So shut up, inner critic!!

    Comment by Savvy — August 5, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  10. It is nice to know an account becomes a writer by putting down his daydreams cubicle on paper. I can understand that because not too long ago, I was an engineer working in a cuble day in and day out for 15 years. Writing definitely made my life much more interesting and fulfilled.

    Comment by Lisa Zhang Wharton — August 5, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  11. Great inspiration.. tweeted and like this piece… #9 Comment by Savvy is good.. don’t let those negative thoughts come and take away the joy of the moment.. just graciously accept winning with gratitude for the rewards of hard work!

    Comment by Carra Riley — August 7, 2011 @ 2:14 am

  12. The ABNA can certainly be a kick in the pants. It helped to give one of my novels, The Guns of Mars, a bump toward publication. Being able to say you made it to the semi-finals in such a contest can certainly bring positive attention to your work.

    Keep in mind, editors & agents also hear that voice you think is in the back of your head. It takes the right attitude and angle to pique the interest of professionals. Anything that gives you confidence in yourself is beneficial to success.

    Comment by Martin T. Ingham — August 7, 2011 @ 6:11 am

  13. I think contests like ANBA are so helpful, because even if you fail in the pitch round, there is a sense of completion: I wrote my pitch, I wrote the book, I made the deadline with all my submissions completed to the best of my ability. I did fail in the pitch round this year, but I felt like a winner anyway because I made those deadlines! The people I met and the connnections I made were far more important than I ever imagined! I wish Bryan great good luck with his work, and find the title of his book intriguing!

    Comment by Connie — August 7, 2011 @ 10:24 am

  14. Wow…reading the beginning of that post was like listening to myself talk. I can completely relate to feeling like writing is the thing I suck at the least. Congrats to you, Bryan. Best of luck in all your future endeavors!

    Comment by J.M. Cooper — August 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

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