Category Archives: publishing
A few days ago, my brother threw a vintage typewriter from the second floor window of the public library. The window a circular feat of glass-engineering, stained green and bubbled-out like a submarine porthole. The typewriter an indulgent gift from our parents, a rusted antique that had been meant as a decoration. My brother, however, could not be convinced not to loudly pound on the stuck keys.
When finally he could not deal with the defunct device any longer, he flung it through the window. Among falling shards of glass, the typewriter plummeted, its black metal pieces flying apart upon impact. The night the police escorted him home and dumped the remains of the relic on our front lawn, he collected the pieces and buried them in the back yard.
When he had dug a hole at least three feet deep next to where Skippy had been buried (he had collided with an ice cream truck), I shuffled out beside him and dumped the typewriter into the abyss. We kicked and shoveled dirt onto its black veneer, patted down the earth, and then as if my brother had buried his writerly ambitions, he retreated to his room.
My older brother, he was only seventeen, but prone to outbursts of incredible self-doubt during which he would rant about failure, about never being published, and that no one would ever accept his gift of genius and storytelling craftsmanship. I secretly harbored the notion he wrote like a mutant conglomerate of Stephanie Meyer and R.L. Stine, but I never voice this opinion. My parents naturally nursed his ambitions, deluding him with the promise of literary DNA.
Despite his dramatic funeral metaphor, I suspected he would be pitching his newest novel to me by the end of the week.
The Snyders– my family– were a strange folk who loved most of all to read and write. My dad– Carl Snyder or Papa Snyder– he was a literary critic and scholar at the local university, and he published books on books, on the theory of writing books, but he had never written a book himself. Despite this, we and the literary community treated him as a book expert. He looked regal as a gentrified sailor, his head a plume of white, his beard a snow-capped fringe he neatly trimmed every morning with a tiny electric razor.
When I was young, I often watched him trim his beard and wondered why he was so old, why his hair was white and my mother’s was brown. Brown naturally, before she starting having to dye it. When I turned seven, I learned my father was much older than my mother, that my older sister Agatha had a different mother than I. That no one ever talked about that openly or ever discussed the details of the couple’s demise deeply disturbed me. It occurred more than once that perhaps my sister had been adopted or dropped on the doorstep by grumpy aliens.
This concerned me at first, since my mother often commented that she loved Agatha’s name (a tribute to Agatha Christie, a great female mystery writer). My mother adored female writers with grit because she wrote a bestselling crime series.
The fact that my mother had published and my father had not– this did not escape the attention of my brother, who had begun the process of cataloging our lives in a journal. A black leather journal he kept hidden in the top of his closet next to his stash of booze and marijuana– like I wasn’t going to look in such an obvious place.
A gritty, but optimistic professional detective starred in my mother’s hit series. At first, the books had focused on the detective’s personal life, marrying her to a cute forensic scientist, then impregnating her with a new plot twist. Around the time I had been born, however, my mother found her voice and began writing the series in a darker direction. In the fifth sequel, the detective lost her child in a car accident caused by a sadistic criminal. By the end of the novel, her husband had even killed himself out of grief.
I’m not sure what happened in my mother’s life that forced her hand to execute such a thematic darkening, but the critics consumed the work like doves nip up Popcorn. Once she began writing the detective as more desperate, more outlandishly existential, the more popular her series became until she became a figurehead in the dark crime genre, the best-selling woman by far.
One evening, when my father was drunk, he taunted my mother that he might review her latest novel in The New Yorker, that the review would deflate her career and bring her to ruin. He had the power, he claimed, belching and nearly barfing. She replied calmly by calling his bluff, then Googling her own name and then my father’s. This I knew through their animated dialogue about the importance of “hits” or “reviews.”
When I turned thirteen, I began reading my mother’s series, but though I finished every one, all 28, I only continued out of respect for her. The drama dragged on for awfully long, creating repetitive sequels in which always crimes occurred so horrendous, I could not exactly imagine them on my own. Once presented, however, even the most grisly scene seemed trite, perhaps because violent insanity became the norm. At least I read her works; two years later, my father’s scholarly work remained dusty on my shelf.
After my sister moved out, she published a poem about my mother and father which compared them to angry flies debating whose shit tasted better. The poetry she published before going to a college in California, those verses were dark, very prose-like, and jammed with eccentric metaphors that just barely made sense. At college, she made the transition of talking deeply about her own life to talking deeply about other peoples’ lives.
Once poetry critics discovered her literary lineage, they began heralding her as the “Confession Poet of the Literary Life” which I thought was bullshit since she lied outrageously. Now she remained only a depressing scribe, having reconnected with my parents during those two years, like a poser Sylvia Path devotee writing sonnets in her own blood. What a totally morbid bitch, moping around and comparing everything to the fucking “abyss.”
Michael at least– my older brother– he had the decency to suck genuinely and not be praised for it. If even Michael could be published through his parental connections, I would certainly lose all optimism for the quality taste of the publishing world. Maybe at the age of thirty, he’d finally produce some picture book under a corny pen name.
Imagine the weirdest kid you knew, the one who makes up lies about who he is, throws typewriters out windows after they don’t work despite their initially futile condition, or cuts French fries with a knife and fork. If you know someone like that, you probably have met my brother.
And me? The youngest of the Snyder clan? I don’t really write, not really– I mean, I’m writing this, but I don’t write fiction. Or poetry like my sister. Or even criticism like my father. Like every kid without an interesting story and didn’t have the imagination to come up with one, I folded and decided to write a memoir.
Father stumbled through the front door, a pile of boxes under his chin, straining against his veined hands. He dumped the stack at the bottom of the stairs, gasped once dramatically, and called, “Get your arses down here. Your sister’s home.”
My brother scrambled downstairs first, scratching his bum and yawning. I followed, rubbing my eyeballs, figuring it was a mental illness to get up before ten on a Saturday. Course then I remembered Agatha came home today, hauling home from college more clothes than I owned in total. We lugged her suitcases and boxes and hampers brimming with underwear to the laundry room and loaded them straight into the washer, while Agatha blabbed loudly through the wall how difficult her final exams had been. And we hadn’t even finished school yet, looking toward another grueling week of school before winter break began.
Agatha hovered in the hallway. “Michael, I heard you broke your new typewriter. You know, I might write a poem about you. A crushed, young artist struggles to find himself and in an effort of desperate expression, breaks a fucking window with a fucking typewriter.”
“Stop that talk. Michael’s perfectly fine, isn’t that right?” My father did not wait for a reply. “And Agatha, don’t use language around Jackson. He’s impressionable.”
I wanted to speak up, but Agatha broke in. “He’s fifteen– I hope he knows what “fuck” means. Furthermore, I believe I use language any time I talk at all. Would you prefer if I spoke French?”
She could, she claimed, but not understanding or speaking French myself, I could not validate her fluency. Father blew her question off with a wave of his hand, then stormed into the den. “Damn it, Georgina, you can’t even say hello to Agatha when she comes home?”
“I know she doesn’t want to talk to me, Dad. She’s angry.”
“Yes, I am,” hissed mum’s voice through the wall. “That poem you wrote was very inappropriate, Agatha. The imagery, that was barbaric and untrue.”
“Damn it, the murder scene was a metaphor, Georgina. Anyways, I was just being ironic.”
Generally, I tried to avoid squabbles, but as research for my memoir, I decided to stick around, observe the events. Michael shook his head and tromped up stairs, his head down. Once he told me that he hated Agatha, that she taunted him and hated him because his mother was still alive and hers was dead.
Mum and Agatha were having a tiff again because she had recently published a poem in Harper’s about a metaphorical literary critic whose metaphorical wife died in a metaphorical car accident, and then he met a metaphorical new girlfriend. At the end of the poem, the plot unfolded to reveal the fiancé had designed the car crash as an elaborate scheme to marry a famous literary critic, she being a famous children’s novelist.
Agatha swore the poem did not depict mum because naturally my mum had killed no one and wrote not children’s books, but crime fiction. But I pointed out that her occupation, that was probably a metaphor as well. The problem with poetry, I felt, was you could never tell what was real, what was not. If you tell me, your heart is a glacier or a volcano or a wooden coffin, I begin thinking you should seek medical attention.
That night, we had a dinner, and while Agatha talked about her grades with my parents (they were concerned why she missed every biology class but no sessions of Yoga), I snuck upstairs to loot my sister’s bags. Not in a creepy way, not really, but once she got settled in, she would hide her writing, her poetry. She only let people read published work, polished lines stark and bleak, but some of the verse in her doodle-filled notebooks were riotously funny.
Not that we usually shared writing, writers being entirely secretive creatures. Mum refused to show even Dad whatever novel she had been working on for the past few months.
I pushed open the door, tiptoeing across floorboards that threatened to shriek, thumbing through the spines of the notebooks laying on her bed. Opening the first, I leaned against her dresser and read the scribbled lines in the dark:
As I stare into the abyss, feeling my mind sink below the surface of the slithering sea
Agatha always mentioned the fucking abyss, as if she owned a luxury vacation home there.
I see myself staring back at me, a dark reflection
Closing the book, I sighed and muttered, “Well, that’s fucking boring.” I reached for her dresser, gingerly rearranging trinkets laid there. I pulled a crisp letter from the pile to read it and a sparkling ring toppled out– it must have been nestled inside the crease. The ring bounced and rolled into a pile of clothes on the floor. Abandoning the letter, I scrambled after the ring, my body drawing murderous screams from ancient floorboards. Agatha, Agatha would hear, would come running, I thought, as I tore through the dirty clothing to find the ring. Such a beautiful ring, not anything like Agatha might have worn. Shiny as a magpie’s ambitions, as expensive as an engagement ring.
Like an engagement ring. I paused.
Wrenching a warped bra from the pile of shirts, I watched the ring fly into the air. Like a swooshing basketball arcing as the seconds counted down. And I like a wide receiver racing to catch the ball as it plummeted to earth in meteorite-fashion. Plink, the ring fell onto the floor vent, rolled to the left, and fell into the darkness.
Nothing left to do but to flee the scene. I skirted out the door and managed to hop into my own bed as Agatha tromped up the stairs, screaming something back at mum like, “You haven’t written anything good in two years.”
My teeth chattering, I began to write longhand something about the abyss, about sisters, about how we lie to ourselves when we write, how we trick even our own memories of events we never understood.
Because he had to talk at lengths about his ideas concerning vegetarianism in his final session, Foer allowed in the first forum a more general discussion of his ideas concerning fiction. Readers of his fiction work pounced upon this opportunity to question him concerning Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated.
He began by answering a girl’s question about Oscar, the protagonist of Extremely Loud, whether or not he based that character on himself or someone he knew. No, he said, not really. Characters have to be believable, but not in a journalistic sense. “If I wanted to write a book that accurately portrayed a nine year old, I would have interviewed a nine-year old.”
There is a difference, though, he contests, between journalistic and novelistic truth. We as readers may believe exaggerations and oddities through a story because it serves a greater truth. “Fiction isn’t about the facts,” Foer said, “just about what you know without someone telling you.” He made a point to emphasize that books that resonate the most with us simply “feel true.”
Next he told an anecdote about the first time he talked with a fan in public, over a radio broadcasting show. He sat wearing headphones, ready to discuss Illuminated, when the first caller phoned up. “Your story, that’s the story of my family, something that tells my story—” This man must be just like me, Foer thought: a young Jewish man, reaching back in time for his heritage. The man continued “—as a sixty year old black man from Trenton, I thought nobody would get it right.”
This illustrates the innate universalism of personal stories. Even emotions we think that we exclusively express, the feelings we believe alienate, those are the things that unite us to other people from a myriad of backgrounds. Books connect us in a beautiful way. Foer learned, we are not always closest to the people who look most like us, not just people with the same skin color or ideas, but instead with people who share similar stories.
“Does it get any easier?” asks the next spectator, a fledgling writer. Foer shook his head. It doesn’t get easier, never does. In fact, he asserted, it gets harder with each book he attempts to write. You have to choose a story you’re willing to stick with for a very long time. He put it quite simply: “People who continue to write become writers. The others just stop.”
He addressed also the critical analyses of his work, at first calling BS on the whole trope. But he admitted that once a book leaves an author’s desk, it’s no longer only his. Once a book goes out into the world, it gets better because each reader breathes life into it.
Foer sets up this contrast: either “interpretation of literature” is nonsense, authors subconsciously place info into stories, or maybe books are flexible. Maybe books can mean more than what they’re meant to mean. This was a fresh insight—that just because authors don’t intend a theme doesn’t mean the book can’t have it. Readers are people who like to be provoked, challenged—they make a story more full by comparing it to their own stories. They add in bits until the story sprawls and is out of the author’s control; this is not a bad thing.
Books, Foer explained, are not the party—they’re the invitation to the party. Where you go and what you do once you reach the party is the choice of the reader.
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until this episode ends. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. Except for the dying part, because I doubt I’ll die in the hour it takes to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the most intense show ever, for this Sunday night and all the Sunday nights to come.
Why am I stoked for Game of Thrones?
If you have reading this blog for any length of time, you have probably noticed that George R.R. Martin’s series Song of Ice and Fire has caused me to develop a quick love of fantasy, specifically his fantasy. After watching the first season of Game of Thrones on HBO, I tore through the series like a Dothraki arakh through a man’s gut. At the moment, I am beginning the fifth book. So far, it is vying for favorite status.
My current favorite of his series is book 2 entitled Clash of Kings. With five different kings in Westeros, war ensues, Lannister against Stark, brother against brother, ward against lord. The story line is far more engaging for this reason, not that series one was uninteresting. Only that season two will include more fighting and wars. Particularly exciting is the Battle of Blackwater. I am quite ready to see Tyrion Lannister in battle again, though not be bumped on the head during the first minute.
Speaking of Tyrion, viewers will see much more of him this coming season. While his adventures on the Wall and as Catelyn’s captive are certainly interesting, he begins controlling much more in the second book because he has become Hand of the King. His movements during this book become very important to the final outcome.
Also, a key player in the upcoming series is Theon Greyjoy, a minor character in the first series. He will travel to the Iron Islands of his birth to confront his fearsome father Balon, his rash sister Asha, and his devoted uncle Aeron. Except that Asha will be named Yara in the upcoming season and played by Gemma Whelan.
There are many new key players to watch including Brienne of Tarth, Melisandre, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, and Ygritte the wilding. But who these characters are and their significance will be explained soon, quite soon, come April 1st. Look at pictures here!
Another new character I’m excited to see portrayed is Davos Seaworth, who turned out to be one of my favorite characters. His origin and general dedication really touch me, somehow. He will be played by Liam Cunningham who I’ve heard is quite a skilled actor.
Concerning casting, there is one aspect that excited me much. Two veterans from the British drama Skins have been cast. One we’ve seen in Season One as Robert Baratheon’s bastard Gendry, who also plays a much larger role in Season Two. Joe Dempsie plays Chris, a directionless screwup, on Skins, while anorexic, half-psycho Cassie (Hannah Murray) will be playing Gilly, a pregnant wilding who has sex with a crow (metaphorically!) and her own father (unfortunately, not so metaphorically).
In the casting alone, there is much to be excited about. The stories we will see unfold are quite epic, I promise. Much blood, I promise. Much ringing steel, I promise. Some dragons, those too. Treachery and death and love, all those, they are coming. That this show will be fantastic, that is as sure as winter itself. Winter is coming, but perhaps it’s not such a bad thing for us.
As much as the art of writing has changed over generations, so has the perception of the writer. Let us crank up the Dolorian again to travel back and look at how the common people viewed writers over the ages and how writers viewed themselves. Could the persona of “writer” have changed that much from the dawn of time?
Speaking strictly in cavemen terms, writers were pretty progressive. They used symbolic language to communicate stories that we have read millions of years later. Such brilliant narratives as: I found mammoth, I made spear, I kill mammoth, and I eat mammoth. From the invention of fire to the first use of clubs, cavemen scholars documented their primeval progress on cave walls. Even before words existed, man possessed an innate need to tell stories, which we surely have not outgrown today.
Once language, written and spoken, was formalized, writers of stories became better well-known. They were the wise men of their day, scholars and preachers and philosophers. These were storytellers who could actually read and write. Playwrights such as Socrates, philosophers such as Plato, scientists too: all these were celebritites because of their skill at the written word.
And yet in the recent past, writers have been viewed not as elite people but lowlife bums too lazy to get jobs. They sit at home collecting unemployment checks while writing about their drug addict lives. We can see the writer crouched over a rusty typewriter, tripping on Benzedrine, chain-smoking, and naked.
The Beatniks of the fifties inspired this attitude towards writers. They were poor people trying to connect with a mystic way of life through drugs. Rather than tell legends, they wrote about their own lives. But they were also glamorized as enlightened and hedonistic. Living life to the fullest. Though sometimes pretentious and overly “ironic” by today’s standards.
While some writers are scene as wild like these, others are seen as recluses.
Think of Salinger or Pynchon. While some are poor, others are rich.
There once was a time when writing was the past time of wealthy aristocrats. Famously, in 1818, Lord Byron challenged his visitors at Lake Geneva to write a gruesome story. Each took turns trying to scare the wits out of the others. One such story that came of this was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Some writers speak as nobles, others for the common man. During the Industrial Revolution, portraits of the common man came into vogue. People saw working conditions from a working class man’s perspective. We saw inside of factories, the evils of corporations run wild with greed, and the daily strife of living in poverty.
Then there are the Romantics, writing expressively about their emotions, about their torments and loves and loss and horrors. Then come the realists who take scientific views and incorporate them into stories. They are intellectuals writing factually about things that will make them look smarter if the right professors read the books.
The war-torn writers write about how battles scarred them, about their emotions being drained. About the absence of a meaning to life. About horror and blood and brutal, pointless violence. These men we viewed as lost souls, writing as emotional release. Penning those feelings that were pent up for years after wars.
We have seen writers in a variety of ways for so long: as highly influential literati, as common men spinning common tales, as the Lost Generation, and as hipsters telling stories ironically.
Today, these perceptions have all meshed so that there is no one perception of “writer.” The only true thing tying us together is our burn to write, our need to tell stories. We cannot clearly define ourselves any longer. We are novelists, vocalists, bloggers, and poets. We are idealists, realists, poor, young, old, wealthy, calm, and angry.
There are no literary periods anymore. All we have to offer are words, trying to describe our own human condition. Perhaps the public sees us in a myriad ways.
But in truth, we are only humans struggling to articulate our own inability to articulate our struggles.
Since the dawn of typewriters, there has been an evolution in how writers write. Some say that to speed up how fast someone can pen a story will only lead to more bad writing. That can be true, to some extents. Wen u typ rilly quick, u tend 2 mispel words or just sound stuped.
It has been argued that since writers can write faster, they have to think too fast. And they do not pay enough attention to what they’re actually saying. They’re just banging out words, like I do whenever I write a blog post. A robotic writer-churner of words, processing word vomit thirty terabytes per second. How exactly has writing evolved?
We’ve gone from pen-to-paper to type writers to laptops to tablet-sized writing devices. It seems we can write anything and anywhere, so how has that affected the art of writing?
A long, long time ago, the printing press was invented. Before that, the Bible and a few other texts were the only things were read because monks had to devote their lives to transcribing those thousands of pages. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had to write every Harry Potter book by hand for each individual reader. It’s likely she would not have sold as many books.
No one was very literate. All the townspeople relied on the priests to interpret the Bible for them, which of course caused some obvious problems. Church leaders could say things like, “God says to give me all your money and your wives. Seriously, it’s in The Bible.”
There was something else impressive about these books: their ornateness. Some might take more than a year to pen own, perfectly. And then they were filled with incredible illustrations, rewritten every time a book was reprinted.
Then, when the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in around 1440. This exploded literacy because more people could afford books. Bibles and scholarly works were available to more people, so more people began to read. Of course, this lead to the Protestant Reformation and a change of religion, but this isn’t about religion. This is about writing.
Before, storytellers acted orally. A story might be passed down through generations, as was Homer’s Odyssey and the Arabic classic 1001 Nights. But when the printing press came along, writers could get their stories out there which gave rise to what we call today “the novel.” Not only did texts of science, philosophy, and religion bloom, but so did works of fiction such Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The books published were more widely circulated and read by more people.
This increased the flow of ideas, so by the time the 1600s come, everyone is reading books and sharing ideas. This is end of the Renaissance era. Writing is entirely about ideas, so this is important to what I’d like to talk about next. In 1868, the typewriter was born, which revolutionized writing. Before, writers were affected because more people could read what they wrote. But this device made writing available to more people because it was faster and more efficient. Like a mini-printing press at your fingertips. Writers loved typewriters. Even today, a typewriter seems a universal symbol of the ideal age of writing.
Things have changed, but have they changed for the better?
Today, I sometimes take notes in a journal and at other times with my Nook. Soon, I’ll buy a keyboard attachment so without the hassle of carrying a full laptop, I can whip out the device and type away whatever I’d like to. Even in the backseat of a car at night, I can still make notes and write. Amazing, huh? Try to do that with a typewriter. This has also changed WHERE we write (which can certainly affect the story itself), but that is a discussion for Part 2.
Typewriters seemed the natural evolution of recording words, but the next leap changed things forever. Writing words in a digital form. Ala, a word processor. This changes HOW the writer writes, literally. On Microsoft word, if I suddenly don’t like a word, I have to only delete it. But typing on a typewriter, I may have to use white-out or trash a whole sheet and start over again. This forces the writer to do the thinking in his head rather then on the computer. He must compose the perfect sentence first before typing it out, “thinking as he goes” as many computer-users do. Then again, does it not seem easier to type it on an erasable surface such as a computer screen?
Why are some writers obsessed with the old times?
Ernest Hemingway stood beside his typewriter to give him better creativity. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on his typewriter using a single scroll. E.E. Cummings used his typewriter to accentuate his poetic style in his famous “Grasshopper poem.”
Writing has been inexorably changed! AGHAST!
I can go back now and delete the entire post without having wasted tree’s lives. What madness hath these computers brought upon us?
We can write anywhere and anyhow we want now that we use computers to write instead of paper or a typewriter. Unless you still do write out entire drafts on paper or are nostalgic enough to use a typewriter. Honestly, I usually write poems and short stories first on paper, even sections of the novels I’m working on. But to write an entire novel on paper seems ridiculous, pointless even.
Yet changing the way we write, we change the WAY we write. We write with a different psychology. Because we write faster, we think differently. We are allowed to write much later into the night, so we write differently. Perhaps the ability to write at any time has diminished how much work we actually get done!
What do you think about this evolution in writing? Has the ability to use new writing implements proved helpful or detrimental to our writing processes? Is the future the way to go, or should we fall back upon what has served us in the past? How are you affected by the change in writing tools?
Tune back in soon for an extension of this conversation on the evolution of writing and writers.
Talking about my book is just weird. It’s not that I haven’t memorized a spiel to tell people when they say, “I hear you’ve written a book, what’s it about?” At one time I even considered printing business cards to give to people, so high was my fervor to promote my book which has yet to be published. I started this blog with the sole intent of marketing hardcore. This has actually worked, since I’ve slowly gained a readership who is loyal and very nice. Some even like my writing!
Having a Twitter and Facebook page– those things are easy. Facebook has singularly helped increase my views on this blog by a tremendous amount. But marketing a book has to do with more than posting incessantly about blog posts and book signings. Eventually, you’re going to have to talk to people in real life about what you have written.
“Hey, I read your blog. I saw that you wrote a book.”
“Yes, I…. yep. I sure did.”
“Cool. So when will it be published?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I don’t really have a contract or an agent.”
“Oh, so you haven’t sent it off to the publishers yet.”
“Well, it’s not that simple… you see, you have to…”
“What are you talking about? How did Twilight get published then?”
“I don’t really know. But you see, first you need an agent…”
“No, you don’t. Just self-publish. Like my mom did when she wrote that western-erotica. You should totally buy it. It’s called Cowboys and Aliens 2: Cowboys Come Again.”
“Wow. Well…… that certainly sounds interesting. Is she very successful in selling it?”
“Six people have bought a copy, so…”
“That’s why I’m not sure I want to self-publish.”
“Well, what’s your book about?”
*Sigh* “Well, it’s about, well…… um, a serial killer. But he’s actually a pretty good guy. Except he’s a terrible person. And I guess I still want people to feel pity for him or at least sympathize with him. And it’s also about a lot more characters, and it tells their stories. I guess it’s rather complicated. Oh, and some prostitutes die. I guess there’s something in there about how murder is a fad. Or maybe… yes.”
“Well, right, I’ll totally buy that whenever you decide to send it off to the publishers.”
Sometimes it seems downright impossible to explain your own work. I’d rather explain sex to a four-year old. We get nervous, ready to show our genius we are to our friends and cohorts. But then all that comes out is mush that doesn’t make much sense at all. I wonder what some authors told their families while writing their works. What did Thomas Pynchon say? What about David Foster Wallace? Or David Mitchell? Everyone would say, what were you thinking? What exactly are you WRITING? At some point, I guess we all have these problems.
Some poets are named BARDS. Some are named POLAR BEAR. That’s right. There’s a British poet named Polar Bear and he’s pretty good. But what’s in a name? My poet-friend’s poet name happens to be Catherine the Great. What do you think of that? I’m a bit scared to throw on any sort of adjective after my own name, especially not one like Great. Her son’s poet name is Josh the Awesome (this kid is ten and already killin’ it. I guess I’ve got serious competition in the young poet department).
So, should I have a poet name and what should it be?
Derek the Dork?
At readings, I generally put down random names. It’s not that I don’t like my name. It’s great as an author name, but there is something cool about having a special poet name. I mean, what if people referred to you as Polar Bear? How FRICKIN’ COOL. At open mics, I would call myself the “Metaphor Magician” or “Derek Calypso Natural Lemonade Berry.” Sometimes, I’d put rude names that were a lot of fun to hear spoken aloud such as Seymour Buttes or Mike Hawksmall.
But I have gotten over these petty pranks and decided to create a real poet name. A stage handle. Why? Because it’s fun! Though, I’m sure not everyone agrees. Hear what poet and rapper George Watsky has to say about it:
So, before the weekend is out, I will announce my all new POET NAME! I’m still trying to decide. Also, I’ve been sending off my poems. Should I place my stage name or real name along with the poems? Just wondering.
If you have any suggestions for a cool name (keep in mind my work), please share!
Now, I’m aware that a lot of publishing companies practice some crazy principles and are habitually slow and outdate. Which is why I’d prefer to be picked up by an indie group (also because the content of my book might be highly inappropriate for the majority of the reading public).
But this one guy, Sebastian Marshall, may have crossed a line. Read his rant here: http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/an-open-letter-to-simon-and-schuester-ceo-carolyn-reidy
Basically, this guy badly bad-mouthed Simon and Schuster. Seriously, read this. It gives a grisly insight into all of the dirty going-ons at big publishers, but also… it probably lost Sebastian Marshall a job. But maybe he’ll get famous for going out with a middle finger. Only time will tell.
What do you make of this?
Would you ever give your boss the “F” off and then blog about it?
Mind you, his advance was 65,000, about 50,000 more than a normal advance.
Because I would love to be.
You don’t realize you’re making a mistake, until suddenly you do.
Just like that time you accidentally waited six hours in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World only to realize you were actually instead in the ticket line for Universal Studios, so long that it stretches across Orlando and through Disney World as well. Standing at the counter, you realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time fighting for something you never wanted.
Maybe that to me is what a law degree is. Or any sort of degree other than one in… English.
No law degree hides in my possession at the age of 17, but the possibility for one does. At 17, everything seems possible. I could still drop this writing gig and became a neurosurgeon. I find me asking myself, why not? Why not a doctor? Or a lawyer? Or a politician? I could make a difference, couldn’t I?
But I don’t want to. At least, not that way.
The only real problem with wanting to be a writer is needing to be a writer. Once you start, it’s not something you can just stop. It’s sort of a very healthy addiction. Maybe not for your wallet, but…
Not many people can make it just as a writer. Especially not at first.
Even armed with creative writing MFA’s and publishing connections, a writer still has to worry about surviving off the money he or she makes. And what can you buy with dough except maybe the flour to make more dough for bread and maybe water, scarcely? Sounds harsh, right?
But besides the hundreds of exceptions you can spill out, think on the thousands, nay, millions of writers making not diddly squat. Unless you write about boy wizards or in-love vampires, you need another career.
Which is something I have always battled with, since I only want to be a writer. Not that everyone really WANTS to do their jobs, only… I figured by now I’d be famous and rich enough not to work another day in my life. And if I am that disappointed by what I haven’t achieved by the age of 17, then maybe I’m shooting too high.
So what now? What am I to do for the rest of my life while pursuing a literary career? Becoming an English professor sounds cool, maybe first a high school English teacher? The country needs more, better teachers, right? I can TOTES do that.
What sort of jobs have literary men held in the past? Well, let us take a peek…
Dickens worked in a blacking factory at the age of eleven. (I think I’ll pass)
Shakespeare worked as a schoolmaster.
Oscar Wilde, before writing much, was a perpetual college student.
Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, worked as a boxing stringer for the Associated Press.
Chuck Palahniuk worked as an intern at a radio station before writing his first novel at the age of 30.
Many writers don’t start out writers. They don’t grow into adults already established and published. That takes years. So, yes, writers must also have real jobs. I know….. it disappoints me too.