26 February 2009
Will e-books take over the world? Will the publishing industry go the way of the music industry? Most writers hope not, and many readers too. I just, for example, got the estimated page count for Long For This World from my publisher (288), and a little thrill shot through me. Pages. I started to imagine and wonder about paper stock, dimensions, font…
But the good news, of course, is that literature will be more accessible to more people in more formats. Theoretically. We’ll see (cautious optimism / managed pessimism, etc.)…
25 February 2009
The recent press on Caroline Kennedy’s awkward bid for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat has me thinking about awkward self-promotion in general. At a party shortly after CK’s announcement to seek the seat, a guest recalled that, when asked about it, “She folded her arms over her chest…and disappeared into herself—a characteristic gesture.”
When I encounter other artists who seem perfectly at ease promoting their work — and promoting it aggressively, either in person or via any number of on-line venues — I think wow. I think how do they do it. I think, a little, ew. When I send out an email announcing something — this blog, a reading, a bit of good news — I feel, a little, gross.
I don’t think Caroline Kennedy has low self-esteem — not any lower than your average person anyway.
Caroline Kennedy’s friends are always saying how normal she is, and it appears that they are right. Normal people do not run for the Senate.
A political consultant who is also a friend of CK’s said, “Most of us have modesty impulses—you don’t want to brag—and you have to learn to defy these basic human impulses and say, ‘I am the greatest, and here is why you need me for this job,’ and do it without any hesitation or any doubt. Which is inhuman.” Or maybe super-human?
I think sometimes that, for artists, there are two distinct kinds of ego: the ego to create, and the ego to promote. If one has the ego to create, but the primary audience is the self, then the ego to promote doesn’t much come into it.
Last week I got my first taste of awkward publicity. They say no publicity is bad publicity, but… awkward publicity might be the exception to this. My high school class secretary somehow got hold of a stock bio I use for things like readings or teaching; it includes publishing credits, awards, etc. (I think I’d included him on the e-mail list when I sent an announcement for a reading last summer; attached was a press release, which included my bio). So that bio got printed, in full, in the alumni class notes. It read like a commercial. It read like I’d sent it in to be included in the class notes. To me, it read like ew.
At some point, self-promotion becomes less about ego and more about survival: if I do not sell books, I cannot support myself as a writer. Ms. Kennedy, however, was not in survival mode, because fortunately for her, she had a pretty good fall-back plan: she now gets to go back to being Caroline Kennedy.
And you know, I begrudge her not; in fact, I’m thinking, if I had had that fall-back plan, I probably would have done the same.
23 February 2009
Today, I learn about permissions.
I’d hoped to use an excerpt from a Louise Gluck poem for the epigraph to Long For This World. The author (me) is responsible for securing reprint permissions, so after reading over (three times) a document from my publisher which describes how to do this (I’m still not 100% clear on the legalese) I find the Rights & Permissions page at Farrar Straus and Giroux (Gluck’s publisher) and discover this:
We do not allow editing or re-titling of any selection. Your selection must be reproduced verbatim, as a continuous, uninterrupted excerpt, without alteration, deletion, editing, abridgement or condensation.
Well, darn. The entire poem would be too long for an epigraph.
The part of the permissions-explaining document which I understood very clearly was this:
For poets who have been dead more than 70 years, you do not need permissions.
I have no idea who came up with the 70 years rule (or why); but it’s a good thing I had Rilke (1875-1926) in mind as a backup.
17 February 2009
“It’s not that he’s a Luddite — he buys songs on iTunes and does late-night YouTubing like everyone else — or a misanthrope who believes that art was better in someone else’s day. ‘I know there’s great stuff out there. But I don’t want to be influenced by stuff that’s going on around me. I’m more interested in consuming stuff that’s stood the test of time and the hard work of filtering has already happened…’
“For Mr. Ward… success has been a slow and steady build. In the decade since he moved to Portland to record his first album, he has supported himself through music — a reflection of the city’s livability as well as his career as a sideman.”
It’s all happening in Portland these days, isn’t it? I hope the city is able to keep its DIY soul for years to come. Speaking of which, check out my friend Elizabeth Dye’s blog. After grad school, where we first met, E. decided she wanted to “teach herself how to sew.” Now she’s an acclaimed fashion designer and co-owner of The English Dept, a boutique in Portland.