Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Shy Tribe

Almost all the writers I know personally are introverts. Few of us were tailor-made to "be public." But the very act of seeking readers means putting our inners out.
My not-writer friend (I’ll call her Alma) told me she had always imagined writers wrote for themselves. I disagree. Those who write for themselves have drawers full of diaries and manuscripts. But if a writer is seeking publication, they are not writing for themselves. We want to engage. We want you to know us through our characters.
In other words- we are a living oxymoron. {Some would say we are the other kind of moron, but that’s another post.}
I remember how very awkwardly awful it felt when my first publisher told me they expected me to have a website. The editor offered to help me develop it. But his vision was wa-a-ay too scary for me, so in a defensive move I quickly put up what I thought was a palatable version I could live with. It helped that DD made it as a holiday gift. It took her all of two hours, and there it, or I, was.
But then, OY. I was on the Internet. I mean my name and my picture. I had trouble sleeping that night.
Alma said it was nice, though. To me it felt like an aging dame in a bad wig wearing rickety stiletto heels. Sort of like a Rula Lenska, if anyone remembers her. But Alma, who had a non-writerly website for years, assured me few people will ever look at or see the site.
While this sounds contradictory, it was a soothing thought.
Other shy writers told me they had the same funny feeling, but got used to it. They too confirmed that few will visit the site, and I was safely still pretty private. One likened it to wearing a wristwatch or a wedding band, and forgetting about it.
Gradually it happened to me also. I not only got used to wearing my modest site, but my second publisher, who encouraged blogging, got a veteran “webby.” I can confirm that you get used to it and, because few people visit, you can maintain the illusion that you are still in your slippers and pajamas.

Wait a minute, I actually am.
[It occurs to me that maybe the explosion in self-publishing isn't just a function of digital publishing, but also of the option of digital promotion. Our Shy Tribe can now put our selves out there from the privacy of our attic, and pretend to ourselves we are not really doing it.]
And Alma is convinced I secretly love it all. Maybe she knows something. Overcoming any fear is rewarding.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spelling and Writing

To quote my favorite storyteller: I ain’t no grammarian.
I have long marveled at the gaping trench that sometimes opens between the mysterious art of storytelling and the craft of writing.
Why are some writers competent technicians but lackluster storytellers? Why are some storytellers grammatically challenged?
Must the great ones be stellar in both aspects? Why?
{I suspect there are too many WHYs up there^.}
Back to my favorite storyteller, Ms., Fannie Flagg. (Yes, the Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ© and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven Fannie Flagg.) There’s a quotation from her that has been a flag-post of sorts for me: I can’t spell worth a nickel, but no one can tell my stories the way I can.” Fannie used a saltier word for ‘nickel,’ but I’m not so pungent.
As it turns out, Ms. Flagg is dyslexic. She’s also a genius and a national treasure.
Maybe my point is that great writing is much more than technique. My father used to say that editors were invented to place the commas, but writing was vision first.
Like the old dilemma of whether to start from plot or character, both vision and technique matter. Try drinking nectar without a cup! But if it must be weighted, I’d tilt toward vision. A vision-less great technician is like an empty cup. Nice, sturdy, and leaves you thirsty.
This may be my excuse or justification of daring to write even though I’m grammatically challenged.
Fair enough. Now tell that to Fannie Flagg.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What is this thing called LOVE?

The famous refrain of a famous song struck me today, as I was enmeshed with heart-frenzied imagery. You can’t step out the door on Valentine’s Day Week without someone selling you love for a dollar. Or for five, get a dozen.
Cheap love, that.
Got me thinking- what is this thing?
A two-thousand year old Talmudic saying came to me. My ancestors were answering. So many years between us and their answer still made perfect sense.
If your wife is short, bend down and listen to her.”
{Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 59a}
Sounds simple, and in the end it is. Love is a feeling followed by an act. Not always convenient, nor intoxicatingly fun. Not lusty, nor heady. Neither grand nor shattering.
Love is the act of extending to another.
In that way I can grasp what the pious say when they speak of G-d’s love for us.
This week I will bend down or stretch up to listen. It doesn't cost $$$. (Though it may cause some pulled muscles.)
And if what you tell me is that you could use some chocolate, maybe wrapped in red foil and molded like a heart, I will get if for you. Hey, that’s what I’m here for.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Years ago I read a writer’s account of what an insatiable beast the craving for success can be. If you get a positive rejection, you need to have an acceptance. If you have an acceptance, you need it to be from a large publisher. If you get a contract from a large publisher, you need to have great reviews. If you get great reviews, you need to have fantastic sales. If you have great sales, you need awards. If you have great sales, glowing reviews, are published by the largest publisher, and have awards dripping from your lapel, why oh why isn't one of those The Nobel???
Back to what success really means to me- do good work and stay sane. Success!