Monday, April 29, 2013

may gas

No matter how poor and "unparticipating" American workers get, it always seems like we cling to our automobiles. We call this want a necessity, and I've heard that even in Manhattan, where supposedly no one ever drives, most still own a car.

I remember the shock of first arriving at Temple University's campus for teaching and graduate classes in the late nineties, and my late twenties, having only been a driver and car owner for two of the eleven years I was eligible for such, and seeing the sea of student cars on campus. I learned to park in the gravel lot near Anderson Hall, which was full of aged clunkers and economy makes just like mine. 

It's been reported that the average car on the road today is nine years old, and I would not be surprised if the median vehicle is still getting older although my understanding is that favorable lease terms have helped get new auto sales booming again. Anyway, in old or new cars, we are still a driving people, and so many will be cheered by this May dip in gas prices to below $3. For some, commuting to and from work on wages already lost to transportation costs, it will feel like a blessing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

until they print more

Until Atticus Books prints more, this appears to be the last copy that already exists and would not be sent to you from Australia.

If anyone out there happens to stumble upon this blog, I have a few left that I could send direct.

Of course, once they print more, the usual discounts will be all over the web and readily available at a bookstore near you. Bezos, of course, is taking orders as we waste our Saturday on social media and surfing online.

Friday, April 12, 2013

a dead pynchon is as dangerous as a live one

Has Thomas Pynchon passed away, or is the twitter feed just playing tricks on me?

So my favorite living writer is dead. Is this true?

Rest, if possible, in peace.

Okay, this late breaking word just in that the Thomas Pynchon news may not be true because it was posted by a faux Delillo tweeter.

I'll leave you then, tentatively, with life, even more so, for TP.

In summary, let's plagiarize it as death on the installment plan but with 30% more life and heightened anticipation installed free of charge.

On the death topic, more than ever, we're all copycat criminals, no?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

always like that

And this very brief blog's answer, is that no, there was a time before e-books, and so this particular method of fleecing the writer, or any artist, is relatively new, but there have always been meaner fish out to gobble the innocent artists among us.
 
I'm thinking of Jack Kerouac and plenty of other famous writers (indeed, I don't have a list, but I'd assume many female writers had their financial winnings gobbled up by their husbands and fathers long before capitalist strangers could feast on their literature), along with Motown singers, who sold plenty of books or records in their lifetimes, even into the hundreds of thousands or more, and yet died broker than broke. On Mom's couch or Uncle Sam's bill or a combination thereof or worse.

So, yeah, no e-books, no e-scams from amazon, the publishing world, or anywhere else, but there have always been ways to screw the writer. And screwing the artist, is as American as apple pie, or at least as capitalistic as Christmas, or as full of cinemagic as the bright lights over Hollywood, or something like that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Author's Guild

Meanwhile, over at the Author's Guild, Scott Turow reminds us of how hopeless it is for all but the chosen few of the publishing world. Among writers, too, the middle class is rapidly disappearing, and winner-take-all, what I call the Michael-Jordan economy, seems to be the law of the land. And its literature.

Of course, whenever I bring this topic up with anyone, the usual first response is, more or less, "But hasn't it always been like that?"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An Interview with Nancy Peacock, Part 3

For a final question, I asked for Nancy Peacock's advice to beginning writers.

NP: There are two things I tell all beginning writers. They are my mantras and they carry me through every book I write. The first is "No one's going to do it for you." Meaning, if you want to write you're going to have to figure out how to fit it in with everything else you have to do, and everyone has things to do besides writing, even writers. The second mantra is "You can fix it later." Meaning, keep the story moving forward. Don't try to get page 1 perfect before moving on to page 2, and so on. Writing can be a very forgiving art if you understand that you have many passes at a particular story. For sure, get it as right as you can before you send it out, but know that this doesn't happen in one day.




And, yes, I've come to learn that both of these are true for me. Often when I'm on a roll with a story, I'll even skip words, leaving behind empty brackets because I know I need a dictionary or thesaurus, but I don't want to interfere with my progress. The best second "pass" for me becomes typing my first-draft handwritten scribble into a Word document.

But Nancy's first one, "No one's going to do it for you," is enough to get me back to the story right now.

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Interview with Nancy Peacock, Part 2

Nancy Peacock and I continue our conversation related to her memoir about supporting herself by cleaning houses while writing and publishing novels. Here's one of many quotations I've appreciated from the book: "I think that in the beginning of my writing life I believed that writing, publication in particular, could, besides making me rich, also make me invulnerable. It might have been the stupidest thought I ever had, because there is nothing, with the exception of love, that has ever made me feel more vulnerable than writing and publishing."

I'm glad she adds publishing to that thought, the reminder that a couple poems or stories out and about online, or even a printed novel, doesn't relieve us of the vulnerability we feel as writers forging ahead, or falling behind, on some creative project or other.

In fact, though, in beautiful weather, at the South Carolina Botanical Garden, I had a chance to immerse myself in her memoir in the early evening, and, as a reader, I didn't feel vulnerable at all; rather, I enjoyed it very much.

But here are some of Nancy's additional thoughts from our interview.

AK: Do you have regular writing habits (for example, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. five days a week) or do you work your writing around your other obligations (your teaching or your housecleaning, for example)?

NP: The only house I clean these days is my own, and I don't do that much. But I do have to earn a living. I try to put my writing first. It helps that I am naturally a morning person - so I get up early (5:30) and write for one or two hours before anything else. If I am not working on a big project - a novel or a book of essays - I tend to be more casual about it. But I love it when I am working on a large project, and am keeping that early morning schedule.
 
AK: How long does it take you to compose a rough draft of a full manuscript?

NP: It depends on the book, but a first draft usually takes one year.
 
AK: How long does it take you from first rough sentence to final polished draft?

NP: Usually 2 to 3 years.

AK: Do you know many, or any, successful novelists who also have full-time “careers” and children? Does it seem like these are luxuries a contemporary American writer cannot afford or the exclusive realm only of our few “rich and famous” writers?
NP: Most of the writers I know also have jobs. Many are teachers at universities, but I also know lawyers, tech writers, secretaries, counter help at a garage, ministers, scientists, mothers, bartenders, etc. I live in an area where you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a writer. But I also live in an area which is very academic. I did feel pretty alone when I was cleaning houses for a living - and although I've met writers who cleaned houses at some point in their lives, I don't know of any who were doing it during the time their books were being published.

AK: What are some of the other more interesting writer's day jobs that you are aware of? In your literary circles in North Carolina, how are writers surviving if they aren't teaching school?

I always wanted to work several different jobs (knowing that each was temporary) simply so I could write about them. I've named some jobs above. Some of my own have been milker on a dairy farm, bartender, cocktail waitress, carpenter, newspaper delivery, drum maker, costumer, exercise instructor, stall mucker, locksmith, hardware store clerk, drugstore clerk, grocery clerk, baker, and housecleaner of course. They were all interesting, and although I may have hated some at the time, I always observed what each was like, and I could write about any one of them.

AK: I have several friends who are struggling in this economy, and I know of many others are having a hard time of it. From your perspective, does it seem as if this “recession,” or whatever we should call it, is any worse than what we’ve been through before as a country?

NP: I think it's worse in that the culture seems a lot meaner now than in the past. I think classism is much worse. I think there's very little respect for hard work, and that too many folks assume that anyone who doesn't have a desk job is not intelligent. But everyone is intelligent. Everyone has something they are smart about. Most people have many things that they are smart about. I think a lot of our problems could be lessened if only we respected each other more.

AK: Stay tuned, as there is possibly a Part 3 on the way.
 

Clemson Literary Festival 2013

University City's own Pulitzer Prize winner, Jennifer Egan, leads the charge into Death Valley for Clemson University's Sixth Annual Literary Festival.

free copies of Fight for Your Long Day

Over at The Next Best Book Club, you can win a free copy of Fight for Your Long Day. This giveaway will run through April 8, and then the book discussion at goodreads will occur during the last two weeks of May.