The Yin and Yang of Writing, Publication, and Readership

If you’re a writer out there, or a practitioner of any art form, for that matter, what does success mean to you? And before we go any further, let me ask you to read this article.

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Another recent article, this one on writing, argues that publication is only a means to an end. But what is that end? It’s your readership. I believe this to be true. How many of you writers out there seek publication beyond friends, neighbors, readers of a similar perspective as yours, or from your geographical locale? Each step outward in developing a readership is valuable, so why are you content to sell to your own insular group? To people of your particular mini-culture? Or are you brave enough to take your writing to the larger audience out there, the one that doesn’t know a thing about where you-or your characters-are from, or why you and your writing matter?

But then there’s the writing itself. Is your writing compelling enough to Europeans, say, of maybe to a Japanese reading public, to have them want to read you and slaver after your next book-and the next?

So here we have two main problems writers face:

  • Is your writing good enough to attract readers from more or less alien cultures? Do your characters and your story display some thread common to readers in Poland and South Africa that will pull them in?
  • And how do you, daring writer, go about reaching these “exotic” readers? The article above recommends finding ways to plant your books in cities such as New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, that have a cross pollination of cultures, where readers aren’t so insular. The article argues that MFA programs do that, as does developing a relationship with a known writer, publicist, etc. who has those connections.

The problem is-and here the issue is having a growing readership at your disposal-that there are ways to develop your writing to be read world-wide. But those avenues don’t in all likelihood open you to a wider audience. Many teachers are writers themselves, and as I’ve found, not a few are jealous of their own audience, unwilling to share that audience with someone they might view as a competitor.

But the problem has a “Part B,” and this is my constant complaint about MFA programs, writing conferences, seminars, and the like. They may offer the brass ring of reader-laden connections, but, particularly MFA programs, they don’t offer legitimate ways to develop you as a writer. For instance, let’s talk agents: One agent may read part of your manuscript and, based on his/her connections, like/dislike certain things. Another agent may react in an opposite way.

This, then, is the state of writing, publishing, and reading these days. But so that this not be considered a rant, I’m seeing good writing in abundance these days. So there must be ways to bridge the above implacable forces.

How? Sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. That’s because every manuscript from every writer is likely unique in style, vision, and impact on readers. Thus each must be developed and managed uniquely in a book industry that has little interest in such a unique approach.

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A Self-Published Book Success

For those out there who haven't been able to land that big NY book bonanza, this should feel like a fresh westerly wind.

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Editor’s note: This book review tends closer to an endorsement than we would usually publish. The reason for this is that the book under review is atypical. It is unusual, at the least, to review a self-published book that is nearly three years old. This book, we believe, merits continued attention. There is a growing body of evidence that it is a remarkable work of fiction that has been unjustly ignored.

via The Millions

 

Assaying the Litmags

The Gihon River Review
– Spring 2010/Volume 14

 

I used to find literary magazines in my mailbox regularly,
and I don’t anymore. That’s a shame. For the world's struggling writers,
litmags are bread and butter. Or, more properly put, they’re our likeliest outlet.
While they don’t often pay, they offer most of us the only shot we have at
publication, outside of self-publishing ventures.

 

However, litmags also afford us the opportunity to be read
(mostly by other aspiring writers), and some in the pub industry regularly read
these publications, too. In fact, an agent contacted a writer friend of mine,
offered her a chance to submit a novel, because he’d liked what he’d seen of
her writing in litmags. Admittedly, that’s a rare occurrence, but it does
happen.

 

A couple of weeks ago, the Gihon River Review landed in my box. I was knee deep in preparing
for a writer’s conference presentation, and with a stack of books to read
already growing, I found myself reluctant to dig into Gihon.

 

But I’m glad I did. Gihon
publishes the usual fare – a few short stories, even more pieces of poetry, and
one non-fiction piece. It’s part of the writer’s game to try to figure out what
litmags prefer in the way of tone, point of view, and subject matter. Gihon is harder to pigeonhole than most:
other than an obvious preference for first person point of view pieces, the
work they usually take is varied in tone, subject matter, and voice.

 

I haven’t reviewed a litmag in a while; when I have in the
past, I gave my wildly personal opinion (with no apologies) on which piece in
each writing category stands out. So I’ll do that again here. But keep in mind, such
preferences are more nearly what causes your own juices to flow, i.e., what
you’d probably write on your own, and how you’d write about it.

 

Non-fiction usually gets something of a pass in the critique
department; the story’s already there, probably the tone as well, leaving it to
the writer to add voice and a few structural flourishes. So it shouldn’t
surprise that Lucille Lang Day’s piece, “The White Swan Motel,” stands out.
Something of a surreal mystery, akin to gothic Southern writing, it doesn’t show its mystery until the end, and in an effective but offhand
fashion.

 

I enjoyed the three fiction pieces in this issue – that’s a tribute to the editors, I think. So it was harder to pick a favorite.
After a few hands of rock-paper-scissors, Richard Jespers’ “Ghost Riders” won
out.  The piece’s presentation was
flawed a bit by some odd typos, surely from software translation. Jespers
handled with tact and literary grace the story of an idealistic preacher who confronts his congregation  – and his family – over the presence of
a child molester in their midst.

 

One poem, with the sort of overlong title I can do without,
“A Poem From The Vandalized Blackboard Age of Western Civilization,” by Ken
DiMaggio was far and away more mature in voice and subject that the rest.

 

All three of these writers are seasoned, with significant
credits on their resume. Talent is most often, as I suspect it is with these
writers, a matter of perspiration over inspiration, mileage over brilliance. Gihon’s editors should be applauded for
sniffing these out.

 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars