Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cookbooks

Setting aside M. Blowhard's admonitions about the futility of attempting to be published author (I think this post is a leap-off point to surf his opines on that. MB, if you see this, correct me if there are better posts of yours about this topic), I think everyone who blogs still holds a little secret hope that someday they'll publish a novel. Or, like me, they enjoy reading "cookbooks" (as a writing buddy of mine calls them) on how to succeed at writing, or die trying, even if they have no intentions of cranking out the Great American (World?) Novel. I've got some cookbooks you might wanna try.

I happed across this one on the "just in" shelf this year, and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I anticipated I would:
Rejection, Romance and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick

Ms. Resnick is a middle-tier author (that's not the correct term, but I don't feel like hunting down the actual one right now) who - get this - makes her living solely by writing, and has for a while. If I got a 10¢ royalty check for every time I've read some version of "only a tiny percentage of living writers make enough to live on," I'd be able to buy you and me a beer at happy hour today. Ms. Resnick maintains and proves that there are a bunch of folks who actually do it without hitting the bestseller list regularly.

The book itself is a fun read. Resnick has a fine sense of humor and a good style. Even if you aren't all that interested in getting published, you might just enjoy her insider's tale of success.

Oh, and here's her personal site.

I also perused You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing by John Scalzi. I didn't enjoy it as much as Resnick's, but it had some good chapters.

He culled a lot of this book from his blog, so give it a test run to see if you like his stuff.

And, Scalzi is kind of a cult hero as he has a poplar, award-winning sci-fi series. So, he, too, is the real deal. (I plan to read the series, so stay tuned for a review in about a year or two (my reading list ballooned from nothing to something this last month).)


So, dear readers, it looks as if the intrepid and the persistent still find their way into being published authors who are actually living the dream, as it were and such as it is.


But still....

Even if you were a big-deal, celebrated author in your own time, it has no bearing on how history will regard you. I point this out in the spirit of M. Blowhard in that one should really examine one's motives for wanting to put all the time and energy into concocting hundreds of pages of novelage.

At work we have a book-swap shelf where we avid readers leave stuff we're done with and cart away anything that entices. The title alone of Touch Not The Cat by Mary Stewart made me giggle hard enough that I snagged it merely to use as decoration on a shelf somewhere someday. Back at my desk, I was curious about such an egregious title and the person who would float it, and I discovered that Ms. Stewart was a big success in her own day, and is even credited with creating the genre of "romantic suspense". As you can see from the link to Amazon, some of her titles are still in print. But, have you ever heard of her before? Me neither.

While contemplating this post I serendipitously ran across a reference to Edna Ferber, another big deal author from the past you just don't hear about anymore. For your information and probable surprise, here's a short list of her biggest hits:

- So Big (Pulitzer Prize winner)
- Show Boat
- Cimarron
- Stage Door
- Giant (yes, that "Giant" - the one that became the movie with James Dean)

If someone with a title list that varied and popular has ended up in relative obscurity now, it sure sucks the wind from the sails of hope of making any sort of a lasting mark with one's stories no matter how well you do.


Oh well. Enough with the vagaries of fate. I discovered something interesting about Ms. Ferber I wanna share before I close: She never married or was known to even have had a sexual relationship. I find it of interest that someone of supposed virginity could write sweeping fictional tales that centered on the complexity of human nature. Seems you'd have to be acquainted with one of the central engines of drive and conflict in order to write about the human condition. (But then, one of her novels was entitled Gigolo though, so...)

5 comments:

Whisky Prajer said...

*splutter* "Never heard" of Mary Stewart?! Dude, check your geek bona fides! Her Arthurian quartet was must reading for my segment of our mutual tribe, back in the 80s. So far as I'm concerned, it's still the best of a very large lot.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Funny you should mention Ferber and the obscurity of once-famous writers. I was just putting together a Grand Reading List of literature (world, but heavily weighted toward Anglo-American) of books to read before I die.

Eudoxus and I were putting our heads together, but also consulting a fabulous old book, a guide to world literature from an era when you could make value judgments about greatness that would today only elicit snickers from Comp. Lit Depts. the country over.

Anyhow, the writer demurs from judging Conrad as great or not great, on the grounds that JC is still alive, and goes on to list various modern English writers on whom the jury was still out at the time of writing. From the "Too Early To Tell" list:

George Gissing
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Conrad
George Moore
John Galsworthy
D. H. Lawrence
Somerset Maugham
Arnold Bennett
May Sinclair
Bernard Shaw

Interesting to me was that the writer, a serious, well-read critic, writing during the lifetimes of most of the above, thought they all had about the same shot at greatness.

(After Googling to find out exactly who Sinclair was, I think a library trip for The Life and Death of Harriett Frean is in order.)

Yahmdallah said...

Well, OH, I don't have the temerity to suggest any books because between you and Eudoxus, I can't imagine you not knowing of a book that I'd recommend. I still stand by this old list, though, in case some of the more commercial stuff wouldn't occur to ya.


Whisky, I am chastened. It is odd that I'd not heard of it, particularly since I worked in a bookstore when the odious "Mists of Avalon" first hit, and for a while all the fantasy readers wanted every Camelot-related thing they could get their hands on. Heck, I even saw a few of them pick up books on JFK and scrutinize them before putting them back. This should've been something that was pushed, because even the T.H. White stuff was stocked during the craze.

And, after I'd told someone I wasn't all that taken by White's "Book of Merlyn", they had mentioned "the other Merlin books are better" but I didn't think to inquire as to which ones those were.

I'll put the set on the pile.

Sya said...

"I think everyone who blogs still holds a little secret hope that someday they'll publish a novel."

It's not so secret. I started officially blogging because of novel writing.

By "middle-tier", you might mean midlist.

I also second Whisky. If you've spent any time looking at the sff shelves at any bookstore, you would have noticed Stewart. But I'm not exactly a fan. I didn't bother to read the last two books.

Yahmdallah said...

And, ya know, ever since "Excalibur" the movie (with Picard as Galahad no less), I just can't seem to get into any other fictionalizations of Camelot. The movie kind of does it all for me. And I have a very fond memory of attending it with this amazon I dated for a bit in college. She was about 6' 2" (I'm 6' even), and beautiful. The other geeks in the line couldn't stop staring.