Bad News, Good News
April 12, 2007 | Written by admin
Bad news: I woke up this morning and discovered that Kurt Vonnegut had died. One of a handful of great American novelists who appeared in the 60′s and 70′s (along with the likes of Tom Pynchon, John Barth, and Saul Bellow), he was probably the most influential novelist of young writers in that era. Funny, acerbic, at times wildly inappropriate — well, I loved the man’s writings. Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions were wonderful novels that entertained, educated, and offered a new perspective on the world. Sure, I didn’t always agree with his politics. But the world of writing is a worse place without him.
Good news: A friend of mine sent me an amazing article from the Washington Post. Imagine this: a newspaper takes Joshua Bell, one of the world’s foremost violinists, and plops him into a transit mall to play for passers-by. Nobody recognizes him (well, almost nobody), and only a couple of people have enough of an educated music ear to stop and listen…and be amazed at what they’re hearing. It’s a great story, especially for writers who pour their life into their work, only to discover that word doesn’t get out, maybe the publisher doesn’t work that hard, and sales are slow. That’s life as an artist. Read the article and see what happens to a guy who normally makes $60,000 an hour playing for top echelon audiences. Here’s the link:
More good news: There are a bunch of really good bloggers for writers out there in cyberspace, offering wisdom to writers. One of them is Sandra Glahn at Aspire2.blogspot.com. She was just tagged as one of the best "thinking bloggers," and I encourage you to take a look at her work. Other blogs I like are Gina Holmes’ Novel Journey, Lisa Samson’s Author Intrusion, Claudia Burney’s Ragamuffin Diva, J. Mark Bertrand’s blog, and…dang…I’ve probably just left someone off the list, and they’re going to be mad at me. Dave Long’s Faith in Fiction is good, and I like Mick Silva’s blog, even though I don’t always agree with their perspectives. Randy Ingermanson’s site is great. About twice a month I post on a site called The Master’s Artist, and I happen to love it — one of the few sites I check daily (along with the Atlanta Braves, CNN, and Ameritrade). The good news is that there are a bunch of great places to go and learn about writing, to interact with ideas, and to talk books. Check out some of them.
Even more good news: Sherry wrote to ask me if there are any online writing groups I like. There is one: The Writers View, which is a yahoo discussion group. They have a panel of experts (I got on due to a clerical error) who toss out a question twice a week, and you’ve got more than a thousand writers who participate. They’ll talk about everything from editing to book proposals to magazine contracts, and I’ve learned a ton from the participants. The panelists know their stuff (don’t miss the wisdom of Lynn Vincent and Don Otis), not everybody agrees with each other (Cec Murphey is the resident curmudgeon), and you’ll find it’s a great place to bat around ideas. With that many people, some of the advice is awful, of course, and I get tired of the people who want to over-spiritualize everything ("I write because God told me to!"), but overall this is a wonderful group — the best daily writer’s gathering I’ve ever known. Check it out.
And a last bit of good news: Things are happening in the book world. Some of it is bad (Vonnegut’s death) and some of it good (the last Harry Potter novel is about to release), but this isn’t a static business. Distribution patterns are changing, there is writing content everywhere, and this is truly the Golden Age of publishing. AND every publisher is looking for great writing. So if your desire is to move forward in publishing, focus on becoming a great writer and there could be a future for you.
Mair sent me a quote that I just have to share. It’s from Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude, and she tells me it has become known as "Merton’s Prayer." Have a listen:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.