Tag Archives: writing

Dollars and Sense

How much do you pay for coffee every morning?  Five dollars?  Seven Dollars?  And then, of course, you tip your caffeine dealer, right?  How long did it take that barista to make your drink?  Five minutes, perhaps, and if it is a busy day, add just a few more minutes.  You’re out the door and on your way, ready to start the day on the right foot. 

Now, let’s take a moment to calculate how long you are going to enjoy that hot beverage.  If you drink it in half an hour, you are sipping between 17 and 23 cents a minute if you pay between five and seven dollars, respectively.  Let’s say you nurse it for one full hour.  That is still eight to 12 cents every minute. 

Our society says breaking the bank for designer java is perfectly acceptable, but paying 10 bucks for a book is ludicrous.  And the author who wrote that book took much longer than five or 10 minutes to get it on that shelf.

It takes a lot of hard work – and money – to publish a book.  Step into the life of a writer.  Let us go to step one: the author’s (that’s your) head.  This is where it all begins.  Somewhere, somehow, you get an original idea, a spark of imagination, then the writing bug catches you.  You write vehemently for weeks.  Then, you inevitably hit that proverbial wall.  Sometimes, you can sit for hours and can only think of a few lines to put to paper.  It keeps you up at night, this block.  Sooner or later, you break through it, and, months later, you have it: the first draft of the manuscript.

After you break out and guzzle down that bottle of champagne, reality kicks in: you must edit it.  You look over it, fix the little grammatical errors, and change a thing or two here and there.  After that, you may look to a friend to review it and see what he or she thinks needs tweaking.  Voila!  It’s a masterpiece, right?  It is now time to share your brilliance with the world.  Not so fast.  You have to find an agent.  Very few publishers, if any, accept any works without agent representation.  You have to research and find an agent who represents the kind of work you have written.  Then you must query the agent.  This query usually includes a synopsis of the author’s work, and gives reasons as to why it should be published.  We will assume you get accepted by an agent (this process can be terribly lengthy, as some agents do not even consider writers who are not published), and he or she asks for a sample of your manuscript.

The sample you send to your agent is typically about the first three chapters of the manuscript.  If the agent likes what he or she reads, then the agent will ask for the entire manuscript.  The agent will now represent you, and submit and pitch the manuscript for publishing companies.  If you are a relative unknown, this part of the process can also be lengthy.  But, let’s say everything runs smoothly and a publisher buys the manuscript. 

You are so excited that someone has decided to take a chance on you, you can hardly think straight.  Then, you hear the word “contract.”  This binding document has the power to decide your future – and possibly your children and grandchildren’s futures.  The smart writer would do well to hire a lawyer at this point, someone who can read the legal jibber jabber of the document to benefit them.

The publisher likes the manuscript, but the editor sees some “minor changes” that need to be made.  What you get back are red marks and notes all over your amazing piece of literary genius, with paragraphs marked out entirely, and – you can’t believe it – even an entire page or two that needs to be omitted.  After the initial shock that everything you wrote is not pure gold, you put your nose to the grindstone and improve your work.  This could happen a few times, until the editor and you are pleased with the writing.  After that, it is a matter of waiting.  Waiting for the books to be printed and shipped to stores.  Once it hits the streets, it is up to readers to pick up the book and decide whether or not to purchase it. 

So, while you hold your 23-cent-per-minute tailor made latte in one hand, complaining that 10 dollars is an outlandish amount to pay for some “stupid book” you are holding in your other hand, please consider the time, work, and money invested in making the novel.  Which price is really more ridiculous?



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Of Music and Writing or On Inspiration

The word “music” is derived from the Greek “Mousike,” which literally means “(the art) of the Muse.”

I have decided that there are two types of people in the world: hearers and listeners.

For hearers, music comes as a happy escape.  These are the sorts of people who turn on the radio and listen to whatever happens to be playing and use it as background noise.  Hearers tend to be fans of “pop” music.  You know the stuff I’m talking about – those candy-coated lyrics with no meaning behind them, polished off with the facade of a Disney star that is distributed and sold in bulk to the sheep-like masses of the everyday consumer.  Ah, capitalism.

Listeners, on the other hand, have a deeper appreciation of music.  To them, it means something more.  Listeners seek to find the special type of music that moves them to create something wonderful, whether it be their own music, a painting, or a poem.  Just like anyone, listeners can be found everywhere.  However, one particular type of the listener often comes to mind: the one who is typically tucked away in a local coffee shop that sells fair trade, organic coffee in a concrete jungle filled with high rises, or on any university campus, sitting in a quad playing guitar in between their liberal arts classes. 

As for me, I fall into the latter category.  Ever since I can remember, music was always in my life.  My father was a musician, so up until he left, there would always be some sort of melody in the house.  Usually jazz or Rat Pack.  After he left, there was not a tune to be heard.  That is, until I discovered that my father’s love of music was something he passed on to me.

I am no musician, and I have never claimed to be.  But there is something that comes over me, much like a fire spreading, when I hear a particularly beautiful song.  It is much more than just some vocals backed up by instruments.  Music reaches into the very depths of my heart, somehow turning on the proverbial light bulb in my head.

I was recently asked one of those “worst-case-scenario” questions that went something like, “If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which would you choose?”  While neither sense would be particularly appealing to lose, I answered that life would be very dull without music.  I did not actually answer the question directly, but it did spur the conversation.  Apparently, I did not choose the “correct” answer.

I took music classes throughout my grammar and middle school years, and often begged my mother for piano lessons and an acoustic guitar, neither of which I ever received, but have since picked them up as an adult.  What I did get were CDs and stereos. 

In high school, I started focusing more on writing.  I did not take any music classes, as I was entirely preoccupied with submitting some haphazard manuscripts to places I had never heard of.  I was disheartened when they were not accepted, but now I thank them for not publishing me.  I would hate to be associated with such hurried and ill-written work (do not even get me started with my poor character development and imitation of style).

It was not until university that I brought the two arts together.  I found that listening to music was very soothing while cramming for my exams.  Then, when I was writing a paper, I had some music on low volume.  Listening to the words, my creativity became even more vibrant.  I can’t believe it took me so long to figure that the two are an inseparable pair.

Now, that’s the only way I can write, but only to certain music.  For about the past year, I have been having an intellectual love affair with a certain singer/songwriter/all around brilliant musician.  I cannot hide it.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am talking about none other than the immensely talented Missy Higgins.  Her smart lyrics enveloped into melodious ballads are my oxygen when I go to work.  Her music floats around wherever I go, and I have managed to accomplish quite a lot while listening.  I do not know how or why I came across her music, but I am thankful that I did.  Perhaps questions like that are not supposed to be answered, but to consider myself blessed.  And I do.

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Love Letters & Heartache

Love.  The most powerful four-letter word any of us will ever know.  It has infinite power over every single being.  It makes sane people go mad.  It makes those who were once smitten, bitter.  It has the power to control; to make those in love follow their hearts across cities, states, countries, oceans, and continents.  All in the name of this one, primal, emotion that every man and woman seeks to fulfill.

For writers, though, love can be somewhat different.  Being in love for a writer gives us an amazing opportunity.  It allows us to write some of our most intimate works.  We get to write love letters.  We have the chance to pour our hearts out to the most important people in our lives.

I will never forget the first person I wrote myriad letters.  She was, at the time, the most mesmerizing person I had ever met.  I was so in love that I could not think straight.  So, of course, on went the letters.  I wrote tons of sappy scribblings, put my soul on to paper.

At first, she was flattered and taken aback by my simple gifts to her.  Not long after our young love began, she moved away for university, so my letters became all the more imperative.  I would receive calls and messages telling me how wonderful and beautiful the letters were (keep in mind, this is before everyone had technology at their fingertips every second of the day).  Then, as any young love story goes, it spiraled downward.  My letters to her never ceased, but her interest in me did.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder; but, looking back, I say out of sight, out of mind.

Being sensitive and feeling deeply are practically prerequisites for being a writer.  So, for a while, I was bitter.  My heartache was so deep, I was sure I would never recover.  I wrote a lot during that time.  It is peculiar what heartache can do for a writer.  I am fairly certain I have at least two books written in my journals from that time.

Thankfully, I am over her now.  I have moved on, both in my life, and in my writing.  I have found that heartache is the best catalyst.  Sure, I have had my muses in the past, but being so intensely heartbroken over someone for a writer’s inspiration is equivalent to chicken soup for a sore throat.  In fact, I am one heartbreak away from writing an international bestseller.  You read that right: break my heart, and I will have a book out by the next year, or at least a rough draft.

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