Sorry – I get a little childish around this time of year.
October is my favorite month (besides January – mine and Poe’s birthdays!)
I LOVE HALLOWEEN & I LOVE POE
This year, the 170th anniversary of Poe’s death. This is not necessarily a good reason to like October, but it is part of what makes October so memorable.
So… 170 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe visited some friends at a pub, saw a doctor who suggested he not travel, then boarded a train, forgetting his trunk, mistakenly left with the Doctor’s cane, to pick up his “dear Mother,” Maria Clemm. She was to come and live with him and his new fiance, Elmira Royster Shelton.
The rest, we know, is surrounded in mystery. I was interviewed in June regarding my thoughts of what happened. Thank you to the members of Super News Live.
Since the publication of my book Eddy, I’ve read at the Poe Museum at his birthday celebration and published a few other books. This year, I’ve scheduled a number of readings and signings for October in honor of my love for autumn, halloween, and Poe.
Come and see me if you can.
I wish we were notified when our books were on sale! It seems Amazon in their infinite wisdom and monogolopy heart put my book on sale. I don’t mind. But I’d like to let people know.
$1.00 Stories on sale for $2.45. Great price!
Cris was a best selling author, but he’s worried it was merely a flash in the pan lucky streak. He’s having trouble coming up with anything new. When he meets a homeless man selling stories on the streets – he’s sure the guy is not the author. He will do anything to prove something to himself, to the world, to the strange man who lives on the edge of society.
Conjure images of the old David Banner/Incredible Hulk, “You won’t like me angry.” That’s the way I feel when I’m not writing. Not that I’m angry – I just feel, “you won’t like me when I’m not writing.”
When I’m not writing, I’m fidgety, distracted, and I don’t sleep well. There’s too much going on my head for me to relax.
Do other writers feel the same?
An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” Considering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?
This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.
For most writers, getting a contract from a traditional publishing house is the golden biscuit, the grand reward after a struggle with run-on sentences, superfluous commas, and tired clichés. Many people will then spend years looking for an agent, and then have an agent try to place their work with a publishers, big or small.
But here’s reality: unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you’re almost certainly not going to receive the red carpet treatment you’re no doubt envisioning. Once upon a time, not a long time ago, self-publishing was considered the literary outback, the place for hacks. Now, in an ironic twist, we just may be witnessing the reversal of fortune. The Bix Six seem to be wallowing in their formulas. Meanwhile, much fresh thinking is coming from self-published authors who build their followings online. So rather than wait for your genius to be appreciated, here are six reasons you should consider being self-published:
- You are your own editorial voice. While every self-published work should go past the eyes and red pen of an experienced editor, ultimately you can write and publish what you want. You don’t have to deal with an editor or agent who wants a happier ending, a younger protagonist, or the locale moved from Pittsburgh to Paris.
Your hired editor may suggest changes, and you should listen. But ultimately you stand or fall on the product. You won’t have to deal with the agent who refuses to read a manuscript because she never looks at anything that begins with dialogue, or one who says she won’t consider a novel written in the first person, or one who says the work cannot have a “Prologue” or an “Afterward.” Ask yourself if a reader ever put a book back on the bookstore shelf for any of those reasons and you’ll begin to see how silly and random the process can be.
- You set pricing and distribution. Ever wonder why some really great book has not been reissued, forcing you to buy a beat-up second hand copy? The publisher decides distribution, pricing, and how long the title will be in the catalog. If they don’t want to keep it in their catalog, there’s nothing the author can do.
With self-publishing, your works can live on forever. Or, if later on your freshman effort embarrasses you, you can make it disappear with the click of a mouse.
- You control the book’s cover design and artwork. This may be intimidating for some but it’s liberating to me. While some professional cover designs are great, others are simply terrible: a stock photo, the title centered above it, the author’s name beneath it. Not surprisingly, artwork like that tends to go to the lesser-known and novice authors.
If you’re unsure how to design a cover (and it involves a lot more than putting your title over a picture and your name on the bottom), google some freelance artists who do it. Study their work and contact the ones you like. If you don’t want to shell out the cash, and you have access to some design tools yourself, find covers of comparable works and study what you like, then try to imitate it as best you can.
- You can fix mistakes. Even some very big, very famous novels have typos in them. Or formatting errors. When it’s your own work you can go back and fix the mistake, then re-upload the file. With traditional publishers, your mistakes remain, oftentimes even in second and subsequent editions.
- You promote your work the way you want. Don’t think being published by a big house means jaunts to NPR interviews and author events at prestigious venues. Most houses do nothing to promote the majority of their authors. You have to do your own marketing and PR (an art in itself), so you might as well own and control what you’re working so hard to promote.
- You can write the next novel you want. The curse of traditional publishing these days is even if you are a smash hit, they will want more of the same. If your goal is to write a second novel that’s different from your first, you may find doors shut to you. Despite claims on websites that agents and editors are looking for “fresh,” “new” voices, most are really chasing trends; that’s how they keep their jobs. Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity for you to be you, and today’s self-published books look every bit as good as the product of the Big Boys. Rather than write your one-hundredth query letter, why not consider a faster, more streamlined way to reach readers?
John Grabowski worked in advertising, television news and public relations before daring to write his first novel. Entertaining Welsey Shaw was praised by Kirkus Reviews for being witty, fast-paced, and “filled with flirtatious banter.” A collection of his shorter fiction, Violet Rothko & Other Stories, will be published in September 2019. authorjohngrabowski.com
I spent much of my time in grad school trying to please a certain teacher and understand the secret formula for a short story.
Up until that time, I’d only written novels (or novellas), longer pieces of work in which I developed the characters and followed a plot. These felt full and complete.
Writing one small selection vexed me.
So I read and read and researched and attempted one time after another to create a successful short piece.
I suppose there is no formula and no one right answer, which is what I was looking for – the correct answer.
Of the things written in grad school, the one instructor I attempted to satisfy deemed them mostly unworthy.
It wasn’t until near the end of graduation that an instructor said “half of that story was the best he’d ever read.”
He didn’t tell me which half.
However, almost all those stories have been pulled out, dusted off, and accepted with few edits. Hence – dear teachers – they were good! I had learned something; I had accomplished something. (I must be doing something right, over 30 published in the last few years!)
There may not be one right answer, and there’s no secret, nor is there a hidden formula. Short stories need to get to a point, need to have conflict, need to show a budding of growth – perhaps.
Many posts in writers’ groups and questions in writerly gathering surrounds the fear of family or friends finding out what they are writing.
Surprisingly, some of these are fiction writers. Although many are memoirists, poets, fiction writers and essayists are also concerned with offending someone they know.
My response to this is: They’ll probably never recognize themselves! The truth is many people see themselves far differently than others do.
Furthermore, studies show that we remember events differently; to be more accurate, we remember different details of the same events, and our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to think.
Legally, in memoir, if names are changed, there is little a person can do if they do recognize themselves. One attorney told me: They’re welcome to write their own version of the events.
Fear should never hold a writer back. A small change in details or location can allow for some question if someone does think the story might include them.
Even if you think you’ll never publish it – write it. You’ll feel better!
Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.
I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.
I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.
However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!
Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.
All readings are good readings!
If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!