“I’ve decided to become a novelist.”
Cue several mental reactions from me.
(1) “Yes, and I’ve decided to perform an appendectomy.”
(2) “Oh, that was my mistake – I didn’t ‘decide’ to become a novelist.”
(3) “Shut up. No, really SHUT UP.”
Followed by actual reaction which is produce a forced smile and stay very, very quiet until I have counted to 10.
You’d be surprised how often people say something along these lines. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve heard it too. Maybe you too have sought some sort of relevant education and / or training and have put in long hours at your keyboard / notebook trialing and erroring. Maybe you have sought out other writers’ advice and have read endless books in your genre. Maybe you’ve ripped apart your manuscript and re-written all 60,000 words of it, then ripped it apart again. Maybe you’ve researched the market, learned about query letters and bios and cover letters and partials and fulls and the synopsis; don’t forget the dreaded synopsis. Maybe you’ve jumped through seventeen hoops to meet all the submission guidelines of each and every possible agent and / or editor – “Page numbers in the top left hand”, “Page numbers in the top right hand”, “Indent all paragraphs”, “Don’t indent paragraphs”, “Write a 250-word synopsis”, “Write a 15-page single-spaced synopsis”, “Compile a target market evaluation of the genre you’re writing for and assess how your work will fit into it using comparisons to three other books currently on the market” (yes, I did that one). Maybe you’ve spent hundreds (maybe thousands but I don’t want to think about it) of dollars on ink cartridges and paper and envelopes and manuscript boxes and postage – don’t forget postage – to submit your work all over the great, wide, English-speaking world.
Maybe you’ve done all that, and you still aren’t published, and somebody has walked up to you and said they’re unfulfilled with their career and it’s not all that and they need a change and “I’ve decided to become a novelist.”
And, if all that is true, you’ll know how I feel when I hear it.
So, please don’t say it. Just please, not that. You can try “I’ve decided to work on my writing,” and you can even try “Do you have any suggestions?” To which I will smile – genuinely this time – and say, “Yes, start writing. Put pen to paper. Then come back and talk to me after your first 10,000 words.”Filed under From Tudor, On Life, The Publishing Industry, The Writer's Path, Uncategorized, Writing as Career | Comment (0)
Is image everything, or is it just irritating? I tend to think the latter.
When I see the number of times my (mostly female) Facebook friends update their profile photos, I do find myself wondering (sometimes a tad judgmentally, I must admit) what compels them.
I find that women around my age, in their fourth decade, generally are posting pics that show us what they are DOING – family holidays, interesting garden shots, etc. On the other hand, women still in their first flush of youth are, it seems to me, generally showcasing what they LOOK like. Again and again. And again.
Rightly or wrongly, I thought I was showing a subtle maturity by throwing up a single profile pic that serves on my various web platforms, and then ignoring the whole issue for the next two years. But it seems that I can’t get away from the image question that easily.
First, there is research showing that even we writers, who used to be able to get away with fairly deplorable fashion standards, now have to pull up our sartorial socks if we want to be published, thanks to multimedia marketing demands that reward the more photogenic amongst us (please don’t ask me for details on the report; I deep-sixed it in despair promptly upon reading).
Then there is the fact that, paradoxically, my youngest is accusing me of vanity for NOT updating my shot … in his mind, it means I’m trying to hoodwink the world into thinking I’m forever young(er).
Then there is the whole how-accurate-do-you-have-to-be-to-still-be-considered-truthful dilemma which we memoirists juggle daily. Should my new, vastly shorter hairdo be reflected in my profile pic lest people think the existing long-haired photo constitutes some kind of James Frey-esque sham?
Like I say, image is irritating. But just in case it’s everything, I’ll take the plunge and update my pic … as soon as my son shows me how.
Filed under From Peggy, On Life, Organizing our Writing Lives, The Publishing Industry | Comment (0)
One thing I learned at the knee of Ivan Coyote (my mentor during my time in the SFU Writer’s Studio) was to consider telling your story in ways that go beyond paper and ink.
For her, that included live storytelling, commissioning musicians to compose songs based on tales from her grandparents’ lives, slide shows behind her on stage, etc. For others, it might mean writing a digital novel with enriched audio-visual content at the click of a mouse. (For one experiment in the digi-novel that didn’t sit well with me, see here.)
For many of us, the thought of imagining new creative, multi-media combinations and collaborations is equal parts thrilling and exhausting. The creative possibilities are exciting; the learning curve and time required to get one up to speed on new technologies and market niches, sometimes daunting.
But if you’re intrigued with the thought of telling stories in new ways, here’s a market for you: Fox and Bee (a two-person creative industry run, literally, out of a cottage) has produced a $2.99 app called In Common: Bikes that pulls together bike lore, quotes, trivia, photos and nonfiction, bike-related stories from all over the world. They’ve even thrown in a bike courier delivery game that’s curiously addictive.
Fox and Bee’s goal is to give us a global sense of how a common object is used in different places and by different people. AND (here’s where you come in), they have a call out for submissions on shoes. You have until July 1 to produce a nonfiction piece that’s between 500 and 2,000 words. Here are the rest of the submission guidelines.
Part of the proceeds from the app go to micro-financing loans through Kiva. That’s just one of the reasons I like the attitude behind this creative duo’s offering … so if you want to be part of the multi-media world (but don’t want to learn the techie part yourself), consider doing some sole-ful writing for Fox and Bee!
Filed under From Peggy, Memoir, Sites We Like, The Publishing Industry, Uncategorized | Comment (0)
Sadly, I am here to tell you there is no such thing. Not in the writing world, anyway. There is not even such thing as a reasonable-amount-of-money-for-the-actual-amount-of-work-you-put-in. No, I’m afraid the closest you’re going to get is to receive a not-insulting-sum-of-money-that-is-fair-given-market-conditions-and-that-gets-paid-to-you-on-time. That, my friend, in the freelance writing world, is pure gold. That’s also why your parents wanted you to go to med school or law school – or pretty much anything but j-school…
Speaking of j-school - I graduated in 1996 and freelancers were getting paid more then than they are now. So did I pick a winner or what?
This little lesson on writing and money comes courtesy of one of the spam comments the blog received this past week (spam central we were, around here). Here’s the comment:
We need internet writers desperately. After checking out your website, we want you on our staff. We pay out $35-$50 hourly. Our top writers are pulling in over $90K a YEAR, writing part-time. Please stop by and see us.
I am here to tell you this is hogwash! Pure, 100 per cent, complete and utter hogwash (I would use a stronger animal reference here but I’m making an effort to clean up my language). This statement is simply not true.
There are lots of sites like this out there telling you they need you, and you can make lots of money in your spare time, and you just have to register with them (oh, and pay a small fee) and the work will roll in, pour in, deluge in and you’ll be able to pick and choose your assignments and then lean back in your chair and eat pitted cherries all day while you peck out your stories and the cheques also roll, pour and deluge in.
Really? You really think this is going to happen? I’m not asking if you wish this would happen or if it seems only fair and right that this would happen but I’m asking if, deep in the recesses of your heart and mind you believe this to be true. If the answer is still yes then I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.
I could go into lots of details and give you all the good reasons and logic as to why things that seem too good to be true really are and also remind you there is no such thing as a free lunch (unless your mother makes it for you and then you still have to listen to a diatribe on your good-for-nothing cousin and the mistakes he’s making with his good-for-nothing life and, pretty soon, you wish you had just paid $5.99 for the deli special). Anyway, I could do all that but one of my most favourite bloggers of all times – the wise and mysterious INTERN – has already done a fantastic and funny job of it here so I invite you to read it for yourself.
Of course, in the interests of maintaining a fair-minded and egalitarian blog, I definitely invite you to write in if you can prove me wrong. If you really have pulled in over $90K a year, writing part-time, by all means let me know and I will happily bathe in hogwash.Filed under Contests, Markets & Events, From Tudor, On Life, The Publishing Industry, The Writer's Path, Writing as Career | Comment (0)
Much as I love my gadgets, I tend to fall on the side of those who staunchly prefer a book printed with dead-tree technology, even despite that grim imagery.
But when it came to subscribing to the Globe and Mail recently, I opted for their ‘Globe2Go’ edition, which is a facsimile of that day’s print paper that is downloaded wirelessly to my iPad. I just couldn’t justify bringing three dailies to my doorstep.
Have to say, I REALLY like getting my morning paper this way… not just to my doorstep, but my bedside. Currently priced at half the cost of the print edition delivered to one’s door, it has value-added features such as hyperlinks that take you to referenced webpages, the ability to print an article in plain text or its graphic form (which I appreciate) and the ability to share an article via email or social networking sites.
I’ve always read newspapers along with the rest of the family at breakfast, but once I’m up and out for the day, the chances I’d return to my Vancouver Sun or National Post were pretty small. But with the Globe on my iPad, it travels with me and gives me a much broader range of possible reading locations (including at the bathroom sink while brushing my teeth or in the car while I’m waiting for someone).
As an avid newspaper reader, a former reporter, and a firm believer in the vast benefits that the press have over more sensationalistic, sound-bite TV news outlets, I have great hope that our print media will survive and flourish in the new digital world. Now that I’ve got a foot in both camps – subscribing both to the printed page and online offerings – I hope I’m doing my bit to support the health of the industry overall.
And on that front, good news released last week from the Vancouver Sun, which writes that its total readership is up 2.7 per cent since 2007, with both online readership and once-a-week print copy purchasers both increasing in the last year alone.
Kudos to all who are putting their best creative foot forward in a challenging, changing media climate.Filed under From Peggy, In the News, The Publishing Industry | Comment (0)
I love love loved two of today’s columns in the National Post newspaper. (That’s probably an example of ‘girl’ writing.)
Barbara Kay and Jonathan Kay were each asked to respond to an International Women’s Media Foundation in Washington survey lamenting that the number of women who write opinion pieces is far lower than the number of males who do so.
Both Barbara, a gifted opinion writer herself, and Jonathan, one of the National Post’s other op-ed regulars, wrote convincing reasons as to why this might be so. And it doesn’t have anything to do with patriarchal conspiracies.
It boils down to choice, that thing that we have a lot of these days. And there are sound reasons why many women may not choose to immerse themselves in the thrust-and-parry world of hard-hitting op-ed writing.
Of course, many women break the mold to smithereens, but it doesn’t mean that the mold doesn’t exist. Check out Barbara’s views here, and Jonathan’s here. (I have to say his description of a ‘columnist personality’ fits one or two males I know to a T!)
Vive la difference, I say. What say you?Filed under From Peggy, In the News, The Publishing Industry, Writing as Career | Comment (0)
Okay, I know living ‘off the grid’ generally means going without electricity and phone and essentials of that nature, and I can’t say that I was doing that on my recent holiday in Colorado.
But I was living without benefit of internet for most of that time, and that brings with it withdrawal symptoms of its own. Specifically it meant that I couldn’t post to our blog (thanks for carrying on a one-sided conversation for a while there, Tudor!) and it was odd not to be able to google on demand (but quite restful, too.)
One of the benefits of living off the web, though, was the reading time that it freed up. While in Telluride, I visited the local bookstore with a view to seeing what I could discover in the way of literary journals not often seen in Canada.
On spec I picked up a copy of The Sun, an ad-free magazine that’s been published by the same man for over three decades. (For an inspiring story of his perseverance and the magazine’s resulting success, click here.)
It’s the only lit mag I’ve read cover to cover, and after I did that I went to the local library, checked out their back issues and read those, too. I read all the short stories (I rarely do that with my New Yorker subscription), got drawn into interviews I didn’t know I’d be interested in, and wolfed down each issue’s short, themed contributions from readers.
I’d never heard of the magazine before, but now I can see why it has a loyal following of over 70,000 subscribers (plus one, as of this morning!) It pays its contributors, puts out an issue every month, and does so without benefit of advertisers. What can the rest of the publishing world learn from founder and editor Sy Safransky? For starters, perhaps, the importance of readability; a quality that many journals sacrifice in favour of being ‘edgy.’
I know there’s a time and a place to push the envelope. But my money, literally, is on the power of a well-told story.Filed under From Peggy, On Books, Sites We Like, The Publishing Industry | Comment (0)
You know those writing books you buy, all excited, and then you read the introduction, all excited, and Chapter One, all excited, and then you somehow put it down and never pick it up again … let alone try any of the suggested exercises or writing prompts? I have shelves worth of those.
But at the moment I’m in the middle of powering through Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, and devouring it like a fast-paced novel.
Most of us don’t need a magic writing prompt to put the wind in our sails; we need to believe in the value of writing and of writers and even, sometimes, to feel that there are people out there who understand us and our somewhat illogical willingness to forego cash flow, sleep and leisure to wrestle words out of our head and onto a page that perhaps no one will ever read.
Thanks to her long career in New York publishing, Betsy Lerner ‘gets’ us, and describes writers back to ourselves in a way that is both reassuring and inspirational.
She also weaves in quotes from other literary sorts, such as this oh-so-true one from Martin Amis:
“(Writers) develop an extra sense that partly excludes you from experience. When writers experience things, they’re not really experiencing them anything like 100 percent. They’re always holding back and wondering what the significance is, or wondering how they’d do it on the page.”
Ring a bell with any of you?
For more self-revelatory tidbits, check out Lerner’s book, published this year by Riverside Books in a newly updated edition.Filed under From Peggy, Inspiration, On Books, The Publishing Industry, The Writer's Path, Writing as Career | Comment (0)
Here’s what arrived today:
Thank you for your idea.
However, after careful review by our editors, we regret that we are unable to use your idea.
Thanks for thinking of us.
(Major National Magazine which shall remain nameless)
And, yes, my name was spelled that way.
Just another day in the life of a story-pitching, out-there-trying writer!
Filed under From Tudor, The Publishing Industry, The Writer's Path, Writing as Career | Comment (0)
A while ago I gave my strong opinion that writers shouldn’t take stuff for free and then write about it.
Well, it seems I’m not the only one who finds it an interesting topic. Peggy just pointed out to me that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. has now brought in guidelines (effective December 1, 2009) which state: “Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”
Failure to do so, could result in fines up to $11,000.00 USD.
Interesting…From Tudor, In the News, The Publishing Industry, Writing as Career | Comment (0)