There are no guarantees in life. If a formula existed for becoming a best-selling author the market would be flooded with best-sellers to the point that “best-seller” would cease to have the meaning we presently give it. I’m certain there are successful writers who followed a path to fame and fortune, who sought publicity first, placing the goal of being a “best-seller” above the deeper goal of communicating profoundly with other members of the human race, and I’ll bet some of them are quite satisfied with their choices, but it would not be my advice to you to follow that path. Perhaps a better goal would be to write books on subjects and themes you care deeply about. Dig down into your material, dig down into your understanding of yourself and of the world. Understand that there are mountains, beyond mountains, beyond mountains, that the superficial has its place but may not be as enduring, or as gratifying as the longer view. Write what’s in your heart, write what’s on your mind, and if it becomes a best-seller, you have that, too, to celebrate at the end of the process.
Over the course of a lifetime we accomplish so much. What seems like a great achievement to some people might seem quite small to others. And what seems quite small to some might seem great to someone else. When one looks back over a lifetime, perhaps then it is possible to get some perspective. Certainly my marriage and family feel like a very great achievement. My publishing career, also, fills me with awe when I take a step back and look at it. My friendships have felt very significant in the measure of my life. If you wrote each thing you accomplished in a single day on a slip of paper, if you did that every day over the run of your lifetime, if you put all those slips of paper into a hall the size of the hall pictured above, if you randomly pulled out one slip of paper each time you were asked such a question as this, any of those slips of paper, any of those achievements would be a valid response to this question, don’t you agree?
There are multi-year college level courses to answer this question. But I’ll try to give you a brief answer. 1. First you need a good idea and some ability with language. 2. Then you need to dedicate time each day to writing and revising your idea until slowly it evolves into a marketable manuscript. 3. Finally you need a publisher who believes in your book as much as you do. The publisher does the work of actually publishing your book for you and distributing it. It’s hard work, it’s collaborative work, it’s joyous work, it’s heartbreaking work; it’s exhausting, consuming, and the odds against making any kind of profit are unimaginably high, but if you have a bit of grit, a love of language, a familiarity with story shapes, a story to tell, and a fair measure of luck, you might be fortunate enough to publish a book some day. Good luck!
At last, MY THUMB arrives in bookstores. Written for those who derive comfort from a thumb, for those who love someone who derives (or once derived) comfort from a thumb, this book celebrates the unique bond between our darlings and their digits.
And just in from the medical community:
Compared to children with neither habit, those who sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were far less likely to develop sensitivities to common allergens, according to a report published Monday in Pediatrics.
This inquisitive lad is Asher, my great nephew, the inspiration for MY THUMB. Notice, the just-turned-seven-year-old has kicked the thumb-sucking habit.
On Mother’s Day weekend the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus performed their 20th anniversary concert. We’d been rehearsing since late Winter and all the music was written by our choral director, Rebecca (Becky) Graber. Above, I caught Becky and our sound engineer, Julian McBrowne, during a consultation. You can hear nearly the entire concert by following the link below. Let me know if you can spot me. Here’s a clue. I’m an alto. When the lower voices are singing alone, look carefully in that section for someone in orange.
Most definitely. That’s one of the reasons I write. You might try writing when you’re feeling that way. Perhaps it will help you, too.
Yes. It is different. The writing process is different. Word choice is different. Literary techniques, also different. Weird as this sounds, even the physical and emotional orientation of the author toward the book is different.
This is an entirely inadequate response to this deceptively simple question. I welcome readers and writers to add their two cents.
Join a writing group (either on-line or around a real table–or both). Travel, when you can, to writing conferences where you will meet interested (and interesting) fellow writers, editors and agents. Perhaps you will make a connection at a conference that will lead to an invitation to submit your work. Make note of the houses publishing books you admire. Consider how your work might fit with those publishers’ lists. Let editors know why you would like to work specifically with them. And keep writing! If you spend all of your creative energy waiting to hear from editors you will miss the opportunity to perhaps generate something even more exciting and polished than your present project. So get to work on your next manuscript while your first one is out to market. I wish you all the best of luck in your quest.
Life is a challenge. It tests us each day, whether we’re aware of it or not. Some days we disappoint. Some days we do so much good. Most days are a mix of the two.
With each decision we make, we have the opportunity to grow. It takes courage to live. But the rewards are so numerous and so diverse. They can be as minor as a “good job” offered by someone you respect. Or something more public like scoring in a game, or performing at a recital.
It would be foolish to submit an assignment if you hadn’t done the work. It takes courage to share that assignment with your peers even if you know you’ve given it your best.
Have the courage to make mistakes and then the courage to learn from them. Reading provides an excellent space where you can witness characters making choices and suffering through the consequences of those choices. How many times have you wanted to yell at a character, “NO! DON’T DO THAT!”?
Listen to that voice when it’s trying to guide you. It is very wise. It will help you to be brave without being foolish.