Writers of every stripe, self-published or working on it, brand-published, with minimal support, or else cut loose by a bankruptcy, the rug pulled out from under, we all need stroking and advice and a place to vent. Discouragement is a permanent part of our lives.
I fear this is what Carl Reed is experiencing right now. He’s written great stuff. He’d acquired some industry connections – last I spoke to him he said he’d just had lunch with an agent. But he has not made it out of the shadow, into the sun, not even in a small way. I google him up, I get nothing. I see links to Amazon, and to old interviews on Book Country, but nothing new. I don’t know how that web discovery thing happens, I can’t even think of what it’s called, but if this title pops up in a search and someone who knows Carl sees it, maybe we’ll get some info on him, or even a visit.
Think down the road. You’ve tried and tried, put your heart and soul into it, and nothing shakes out. What do you do? Keep plugging? Reclassify your writing as an absorbing hobby? Give up, like Arnbar, my friend from Book Country? Who writes beautifully, with a Mel Brooks-style commercial potential, my only criticism of his work was that it was too much of a quip-dependent stand-up routine. I couldn’t see it working for a novel. A novel of one-liners isn’t going to cut it.
My own coping strategy – I’m not kidding, folks – is I am convinced my work will be read down the line. Decades hence, even. That does me, does me just swell. The good thing about being a dead author is, I won’t have to give interviews. (I’m a raging introvert.) I’m not counting on making any money, so I won’t be disappointed there. I don’t yearn to be traditionally published, luckily, for I don’t think my thing has the necessary wide appeal. I feel for all you who chase that dream.
To put your all into a project, and wait and wait for a breakthrough is a soul-stomp indeed. The advice is, move on, start another piece, so that when you hit, you have two, three, many things to sell. That can keep you going for a good while.
Short stories, I don’t believe they have an impact until they reach a critical mass with wide distribution, or they are goosed by a well received novel, at which point we find them in big mainstream magazines. I was introduced to Irwin Shaw around 1960 by a story in Ladies Home Journal, I believe it was, that was quietly sexy (for 1960), drawing outraged letters to the editor. Filth! Trash! Filthy trash! Cancel my subscription! If you want a laugh, the title was: A Year To Learn The Language.
Major exposure is a coup, certainly. Lesser, as I’ve said, I’m dubious. My cousin by marriage Jim Meirose has been published in many literary journals (looking at his list again I see they are not the big names I thought they were), and has been interviewed several times in Central New Jersey newspapers, and he writes gorgeously and tastily, but still struggles, much as we do, looks like to me.
He’s got his style in hand, he told me he feels no further need to discuss writing. He must feel the same about marketing, or he would have barged in here by now. He’s interviewed and submitted and queried, worked it, for twenty years, first part time, now full time. He retired from the corporate world, probably with a nice pension, one of the lucky ones, two or three years ago.
His wife, my blood cousin, came out of a fervent Catholic family. That whole crew, it was the this society, the that society, the Catholic Young Adults, the whole nine yards. If anyone is in line for a miracle, it’s them. It takes something of a miracle, I’m afraid. That’s why we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we fail. We’ve fought the good fight, done something grand.
All together now, with feeling: To dreammm . . . the impossible dreammm . . . dee . . . da-a-a-a . . . dee-dee . . . dee-dee-dee . . . da-a-a-a. Hey, I feel better, how ’bout you?
The people who make it, how do they do it? Some go low-bar. Known quantities sell, dirty in particular. But not intelligently dirty, that may be Meirose’s problem. I’ll let you know after I read Eli The Rat. I expect it to be a smart, raunchy, rollick. If it’s not, I’m going to be bummed, for my sake, and for his. I want to be able to tell him that I think he’s brilliant, maybe get invited down (he’s two hours south) for a barbeque or something.
I accepted the Facebook friend request of one Jim Meirose, an author. I soon realized I was talking to my long-lost cousin. (It was blast-from-the-past Marybeth who’d contacted me, using his account, she hasn’t one of her own.) That side of the family and mine had not interacted to any great degree, lifestyles being the big divide.
Jim seems to be unwilling to interact with me as an aspiring author. He’s a minor celebrity in Central NJ, probably hounded for advice. Maybe he’ll engage with me as a reader.
It is great to be a part of this community, so full of wisdom and understanding and a ton of fun. Fun will keep us afloat, until our ship comes in. When you get downhearted, talk through it here. When they beat me up* in Wix Design Experts on FB, I trot over here and make light of it, easing my distress considerably. If, despite my efforts, Cousin Meirose continues unresponsive, ditto.
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, kids. Until next time.
I’m kicking around an idea: Talk Dirty To Me . . . If You Write Like Henry Miller.
I guess I’d have to read 50 Shades. Gotta think about it.
* One annoyed Expert said to me, You don’t know much. How’d you get into this group? I told her, I warned Brett I’m no expert, but he looked at my site and liked it, a lot. That seems to have shut her up.