Location: marengo, il, United States

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Daily Beat

There has been a good amount of discussion going on over at another writer-friend’s cavern on the subject of getting published. This friend* of mine entertains dreams of such worthy aspirations, as do many of us that huddle around the home fire he keeps going there. The ambiance he provides is warm and friendly, and interspersed among the sharp wit and humorous banter that often occurs after any one of his articles or stories hits the airways of Blogdom*, one is left with some serious points to consider, well after departing. He is an intelligent man, and for many years has given this notion lots of thought.

It is a perplexing and elusive journey to be on, getting published, and I know this after spending a few days browsing through a 2005 copy of Writers Market, a thick and comprehensive tome that claims to be “The #1 resource for writers since 1921”. My volume now sits and gathers dust on a bookshelf in the communal area of my own cave.

But I learned of this informative book years ago (working as a paste-up monkey in another crazed field of magazine layout, infested with ego-driven editors and prima donna art directors). The new copy, along with its wise advice, has in its current version some personal interviews with noted journalists, among them the humorist, Dave Barry. For his part, he offers some thoughtful and sobering insights into the puzzle of how to succeed in this confusing market. In other areas, the news can be almost disheartening with its harsh realities of the publishing world exposed. The field is not for the faint-hearted, nor the thin-skinned.

The business is strictly dollar-oriented, and cares little for the artist or feelings or beliefs held dear. This is where the balance is set, and with the torrential amount of books that hit the stands every month, this is a good and sensible thing to be so harsh. We will never agree that all books that do get published are worthy, but who has time to read every new offering to begin with?

So here I sit in my cave, pecking out letters one at a time, stringing words together into some sort of order, fancying this one or disdaining that one, and where does it get me in the final end?

All I can say is that the challenge of making the white screen go grayer with some amount of electronic ink is something else to behold, and it sure beats watching pixels dance on the other light box, the television. At least the fun I am having gets a few responses from others whom must certainly feel the same way.

*You will be able to identify him by the comments he leaves here.

*Appropriate Word substitute for hopeful writers: Bludgeon


Blogger Gone Away said...

When I came to America I decided that, for the first time, I was going to call myself a writer. Before that time, not so many months ago, I had not dared to assume the title because I felt that, until one is published, it is a meaningless thing to say: we all write, after all, in one way or another.

But it was clear to me when I arrived that, for a considerable amount of time at least, I was going to be able to do nothing else but write, since Uncle Sam would not allow me to take a job until he had accepted me as a permanent resident, for fear that I deprive an American of employment. This seemed a reasonable attitude to me and, besides, it fell in with my own desires, for I have always wanted to write yet found that employment drained me of the energy to do so.

So I find myself in the position where "writer" is an apt description of me, since all I do now is write. Perhaps and in the unlikely event of publication, I might graduate to calling myself an author.

This business of attempting publication does indeed require a brave heart and a thick skin. My problem has been that I have the heart to begin the attempt, but not the skin to survive it long.

About ten years ago a period of unemployment gave me the time to write a book and I had a go at this publishing game. I tried six or seven publishers and two of them liked it but claimed their lists were full (this is called the "gentle" method of rejection), one asked to see more, and the rest sent form letters of rejection (this means they did not bother to read what I sent).

I had some correspondence with the one company that was interested but then received a letter that I took to be rejection. It destroyed me for six months and I could not even look at the letter again during that time. In the end, however, I did re-read the letter and realized that it was not, in fact, rejection but more like the opening to a conversation about changes they wanted. By then, of course, I had missed the boat. Employment swallowed me for the next few years and I never tried again for publishing.

But coming to America is like a brand new start. Not only do I have the time to take on the work of finding a publisher (and it is work: the composition of letters to publishers and agents is just as crucial as the writing of any book), but my wounds from the past have healed and become covered with thick scar tissue. I have learned my lesson and think I can take the slings and arrows a bit more philosophically this time.

Most importantly, greater age has given me a more Harry-like stance in the matter. If the book gets published (and let us not forget the small matter that follows after that: does it sell?), then well and good. If it does not, then I have lost nothing and will continue to blog away to my hearts content, knowing that the good company I have found in such activity more than compensates for the loss of foolish dreams.

And I have two titles now, for I am both a writer and a blogger.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Jodie said...

What can I say, I am a writer. I have no trouble putting things down on paper and my head is full of ideas but where oh where would I send it to be published. i can not and will not conform to what the market wants. I'm just grateful I have found blogging, at least now I have somewhere to put my stuff out in the public domain.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

I write, but I'm not a writer. I was tired of writing for the craft, or as a means of information. I have done years of story-telling, essay-writing, and pleasing pretty much everyone but myself. Now, the things I write are just for me, a blueprint of myself, a keep sake for later, and that's what satisfies me about blogging: the ability to look back, and enjoy.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Harvey Young said...

You have put the ring of truth to this whole art of writing. We are writers, and until or when we are published, we perhaps hope to be authors. Yet, there has been no greater joy for me to find myself among these unpublished writers, or as Gone has added, Bloggers.

For now I write because I choose to write. If published, all the better. But I will continue to write. I only hope that I will continue to be able to count this small circle among my readers.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

I yam what I yam, says Popeye.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

To all of the above, amen.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

And amen again, to both of our great writers, and our great poet.

2:06 PM  

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