Tuesday, June 28, 2016

About Author Branding

The world of commerce pushes brands. Now, I hear, we must even brand ourselves if we want to make it in any arena.
If you haven’t heard of author branding— don’t believe me. Just internet-search these two words. We are no longer artistic vehicles for good literature; we must write and continue to write the same kind of stories. Or, put another way, we can write what we want, but being successful depends on writing the same sort of material.
We’ve heard of actors lamenting they are offered the same sort of role over and over. Some famous authors say they are deemed capable of one genre only, and we chuckle at these poor successful souls who have what many desire: success in an impossibly competitive field. But at the same time, we shudder at the rigid educational tracking of a child, or the stereotyping of a person by race, or the judging of an individual by nationality. Now that is just awful. Right?
Fact: In 1900, L. Frank Baum published two books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors. Yup, the very same L. Frank Baum. Good thing he didn’t know about branding.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This Way—NO—That Way

What to do when trusted critics give advice that contradicts your sense? Anyone who’s ever asked for opinion on their work has been there.
Early on in my writing for publication I turned down an offer to revise and re-submit from a small publisher. Reason? They wanted a different ending to the story. A perfect and happy hanky-dory ending didn’t suit the story, I thought. It wound up being published by another publisher who asked for revisions, but saw the merit of the ending as it was.
Although I don’t regret staying with my vision then, I would do it differently now. This is how I approach revision suggestions today: I try it.
It’s painful and even feels wrong at times. But I have learned that trying to re-fashion per others’ suggestions is never a waste.
Best case scenario: you love the results.
Worst case scenario: you, and maybe even the suggester, wind up agreeing the re-direction was a dud. I have learned a lot about my stories when revising, even with clenched teeth.
Most likely it will be some combination. But like the Green Eggs and Ham fellow, you will know a whole lot more if you try it.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Teach Our Children Well

On this day, June 14, in the year 1642, the first compulsory education law in America passed by Massachusetts.
There are some amongst us who believe the laws should not interfere with parental choices, or that our government should not be invested in general education of the young, but they are outliers. Most of us recognize that the difference to all our lives, and the future of our societies, lies in support of education. Some of it must be done communally.
Let’s put it this way: without compulsory public education, communally supported, we will find ourselves where some third world countries are: parents paying daily to send their young to be schooled, and if one week the family’s short of puls (Afghani pennies) or Tambalas (Malawi pennies) – children must stay home that week.
Private education should always be a choice, just as we strive to make the public education as good as we can. But leaving it to the whim and sometimes meager pocketbook of parents should not be an option.
Obviously we who write, and cannot imagine a full life that doesn’t include reading, want a society that values this.
So today calls for a celebration. This day three-hundred and seventy-four years ago, (let me think… that’s eighteen score and seven years ago. Now doesn’t that sound learned?) some of our nation’s founders, before there was even a notion of becoming a nation, started us on the road to something truly grand.

So as the summer vacation starts all over the land, we rejoice that there is what to have a vacation from.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why We Write*

*--Otherwise known as the other Big W Question

I’m re-reading a lovely collection of successful writers’ accounts, called WHY WE WRITE. It serves as a nice break between revisions, and for some reason I believe I deserve a break.

I enjoy the take of these incredibly talented and phenomenally successful folks on why and how they do what they do. From my humble perch, I recognize the process, and feel closer to some than to others.

It was something Armistead Maupin said about the “why” that struck not only a nerve, but turned the light switch to illuminate, at least for me. I quote:

I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

Life’s journey is understood in stories. In fiction we can organize the twists, and make the hairpin turns be more than pointless moments of extreme anxiety, but part of the whole. Everything fits, all for a reason, and endurance is heroic.

I also love that Maupin used the word symmetry. I’m a sucker for symmetry. I had spent many years working with traditional textiles, and getting comfort from their use of symmetry.

18th Century embroidery from Karabagh

I have a writing friend who is a master puzzle-maker. Puzzles work this way as well; everything fits, and one thing ties to another. The anxiety of solving a puzzle, persevering while mulling the clues, can be exasperating. But in the end every square is filled, everything in place, and, to use a famous quotation from Robert Browning—

God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.