Tag Archives: connecting with readers

Is Anyone Out There?

Photo: NASA

One of my lifelong interests is stars, planets, galaxies, and everything about them. Today, I saw an article about seeing the light from galaxies that were formed over 3 billion years ago. They are so far away from us, it has taken 3 billion years for their light to reach us. Distance in the universe often confounds my imagination. I was thinking, in response to that article, that the blinking lights in the night sky that have always fascinated me are not necessarily single stars but probably entire galaxies. Those tiny blinking lights. Does sentient life in those tiny blinking lights ever look to their sky and see us?

As a writer, I often feel like a tiny blinking light in a massively gigantic universe, and I’ve struggled to find how to be inviting as a writer and encourage readers to read my stories. After all, as a tiny blinking light I am most likely an entire galaxy of planets, stars, black holes, and stardust. And I’m really not 3 billion years away, I’m right here. My stories are right here, too. But how would I ever know if anyone came to visit?

Is anyone out there?

Hope Clark, in her Funds for Writers newsletter several weeks ago, wrote about her perception that nobody is reading anymore. She has that perception because she’s not receiving the responses that she used to receive — at her blog, via email, with book reviews. If people are reading, she’s concluded, they’ve stopped “talking” about it.

Photo: Marina Shemesh

She has a point, but I’m not certain that I agree completely. It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that I’ve considered responding to an author about a book of theirs I’d read. Before that, I read and read, and it never occurred to me to try to reach out to an author to let him or her know how much I enjoyed their work. Now that I’m an author myself, I know how it feels to read a person’s review of my work, or to have a reader comment here, or to send me an email. It’s wonderful to know that my work has been read. Like most writers, I don’t like writing and sending my stories into the black hole at the center of our galaxy and never knowing what happened. Up until 10 years ago, though, I would have said isn’t that to be expected?

Now, we have so many ways to connect with people whether or not they are strangers.  One of the things that I learned over 10 years ago — and it made me want to find a cave somewhere in which to write — was that writers must be accessible in some way to publicize their writing. Traditional publishers expect writers to market their work as well. So writers need websites and/or blogs. They need author pages at all the places online where books are sold, and they need to be an active presence on GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media they can find time to join and be a presence on. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

One of the things I decided to do, though, to be a presence as a writer is to write reviews of books I’ve been reading. I read voraciously — new and old books, fiction, nonfiction, good and bad. I post my reviews at GoodReads, and then if the book is relatively new, I try to also post the review where others will see it and can immediately buy it, like Amazon and B&N. What a difference it would make if all readers took a half hour (or less) after reading a book and reviewed it online? It’s not a big deal, either, and doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning review. Just what you thought of the book and why, and if you’d recommend it or not.

Writers will know then that their work hasn’t disappeared down a black hole, and they are not alone, a tiny blinking light far away in a black sky.

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More on the Meaning of Publication and Other Thoughts

Writing completes me.  The process of revision gives me a profound sense of visceral satisfaction and joy.  As I’ve been working on Perceval’s Secret this week, I finally feel immersed in the revision process.  And amazed at my writing.  Some sections strike me as naive and immature in their logic.  Other sections have blown me away with their subtle nuances and layered meaning.  Getting to know this novel again is like being its therapist.

These feelings have triggered more thoughts about publication.  I’ve realized that if I could, i.e. money were no object, I would be quite content to write everyday for 8 hours for the rest of my life.  I love the process, especially revision.  Unfortunately, life intervenes, often in a brutal way.  Hunger is no fun.  Been there, done that.

Back on May 14, 2011, I explored from the accomplishment of craft angle what publication means.   I continue to agree with all those thoughts.  Some writers write for publication in order to earn money.  Publication can mean a paycheck.  I’d be even more of a fool than I am to pretend that I wouldn’t love to be paid for my creative writing.  But money isn’t everything, or at least not everything that matters.

I write for myself.  I write to learn about the world, people, life.  I write to learn about my imagination.  I write to learn about my mind and my abilities.  Writing is a job but much more for me.  My fictional characters are like real people to me, real friends (or enemies).  When I write, I’m telling the story to myself.

Publication, then, is sharing the story but also a piece of myself with it.  Publication is about reaching out to people who I hope will want to read what I’ve written and making connections with them through the characters’ stories.  Readers can spot dishonest writing, too.  So, I must honor my own high level of integrity when I write because dishonesty will push readers away.

The fictional stories I write are not autobiographical.  What I share, what any real writer shares, goes beyond mere events and relationships in my life.  I’m sharing my imagination, what’s important to me, as well as a little bit of heart and soul.

I decide each week to publish an essay at this blog.  When I decide to publish Perceval’s Secret, I’ll choose sharing, reaching out and connecting.  I can only hope the readers will want to read it.

USPS 

The US Post Office made the news this past week regarding office closures.  This venerable service teeters on the brink of bankruptcy as a result of delivery competition as well as internet competition.  This past June, I wrote about the loss of real letters in our communication lives now and how that will affect historians in the future.

The USPS needs to make changes in the way it does business, what it charges, and for which services.  If it needs to go through a re-structuring bankruptcy in order to accomplish this, so be it.

How does this affect writers?  Many agents and publishers still require writers send submissions by regular mail.  USPS has delivered my full manuscript also for a very reasonable rate.  I can imagine a time when I must pay much more for them to deliver my manuscript to an agent or publisher.  Will UPS and FedEx compete?  Of course they will.  I just hope that it will continue to be possible to send letters and documents by mail confident they will arrive on time and in good condition.

It saddens me that the USPS is going through these “growing pains,” forced to discover what role it can play in the future.  It saddens me that postal workers have received pink slips this past week.  But I do not believe the USPS is obsolete…..