Thursday, September 18, 2008

I hear your anger, and it makes the sound of a cliché

A handful of my trade book authors (I call all of the more than 300 authors who consult with me from time to time "mine"... make of that what you will) are angry -- furious with Big Publishing for not yet having the vision to accept them, and hurt by a process of submitting to agents that they often describe as "heartbreaking." They have come to me in frustration, in therapy, in tears.

Part of me sympathizes, but another part wants to know why such stress? Why not start with smaller bits and build up interest until a book is all but inevitable as an outgrowth of those more modest "gets"? When I suggest to these authors that they gain some creative yes-es, such as publication in regional newspapers or on regional public radio, or acceptance from various literary journals, their anger can sometimes rise higher. "Little" wasn't the goal! New York Publishing or bust!

Okay, okay, I hear that (I say to them in my mind), but what I hear louder is the cliché of that.

Many glorious careers start small. Others who soar in the literary firmament and who have multiple books deliberately return to their roots in order to keep it real, hone their craft, etc. The truly great are never too big to work regionally, to publish intimately. Remember the poet Jane Kenyon? She was a brilliant woman who could publish her work anywhere, but she chose (among other things) to consistently write essays for her local New England newspaper because she wanted her neighbors to read her work, and she knew that for the most part they did not read poetry or subscribe to The New Yorker or Ploughshares or whatever.

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