Jun 27

Chapbook or Magazine Publication? Which is Best?

Real life-question: Poet has a sheaf of excellent poems, all unpublished. Should she skip ahead & enter them as a manuscript in a chapbook competition -- or first try to print individual poems in journals, and THEN do the chapbook thing?

Answer: No journal wants to publish poems that appeared first in a chapbook. I'd try first to publish individual poems in as many local print journals as possible, setting a deadline of one year; then -- no matter what the result -- I would make a chapbook ms. Local journals will further your work much faster than will national publications. How so? See next blog entry. Send to 'em all. Don't enter contests, just send the poems. And send simultaneously!

Think you have some good poems? Get a bunch of them out to your local journals by Dec. 15!
May 05

I Get Strangely Lucky

Teo Macero was a composer and musician, but is best known for producing Miles Davis' classic albums -- hands-on. By cutting (with a razor blade) and splicing tapes, Macero turned the recording studio into a creative instrument. He was invited to St. Louis in 1996 and I took his picture on black-and-white film, and not very good pix at that, just making a businesslike visual record of the luminaries at the first Miles Davis Conference.

I didn't capture the man's genius. He looks like your Italian granddad or grocer taking an afternoon off to play bocce ball.

Somehow a halftone of one of those photos, printed in an obscure newsletter, got scanned into the Internet. It has been online at the music site furious.com for years, with my name on it as a credit. Mr. Macero died on Feb. 20 and I got emails from as far away as Germany from jazz fans and obituary writers wanting permission to reprint the Macero photo. Like I care! I wish my name weren't on it! I retrieved 7 original b&w glossies of Macero out of an archive and scanned them at 300 dpi (better than the halftone dots) and put them online at flickr.com, licensing them for public noncommercial use through Creative Commons. (I also use CC's free license system to copyright this blog. And you should use it for anything you put on the Internet.)

With a digital camera I would have made much better pictures, in color, without the flash, which doubled the difficulty of any photo assignment. But in 1996 those things were science fiction. (At left you see the Sony Cybershot, 1997 -- with its floppy-disk storage.) It's odd that this one obscure photo I made, justly forgotten, should interest anyone 12 years later. Let that be a lesson to us all: Published is forever.
Feb 10

When Three People Show Up...

Wednesday night when it was 9 degrees outside I and two other audience members got to question the heck out of Bobbi Smith, author of 54 books with over 5 million copies sold. Her story about the best writing advice she ever got: She wrote her labor-of-love first novel in her basement and writing it had been so much fun it made her truly sad to come to the end. At work (at a bookstore) she was shelving psychology books while crying about this. Her boss asked her what was wrong. Bobbi told her. The boss said, ""Write another one, stupid!"

Wearing her trademark rhinestone pin saying "Bobbi," Smith sat with us, read us some early efforts and told us she writes Westerns because NYC says no romance fan wants to read about the Midwest, or even any Western state except Arizona or Texas. Wyoming does not cut it. We talked about digital, about vampire books, about agents. I don't think I've ever been so close to someone so creative as to invent 54 full-length novels, even if they're not the lit'ry kind I read (exclusively, mind you!). She said a romance-writers convention had once held a Hunk Contest, and the winner got to be on the cover of a romance novel, and it happened to be Bobbi's, and she did her book tour with him, drawing tons of fans smitten not with the novel but with the Hunk.

Above all, she said, "You have no control." Luck. Publishers' and agents' whims. Audience whims. Cultural and technological shifts. Her new book is digital only, and not by her choice; by her publisher's.

If you have ever sought an audience, doubtless the little-to-no audience has happened to you. I have seen a poet at a bookstore bravely reading to empty chairs. Once I read poems in a restaurant on a night raining cats & dogs. There were no diners. The audience: a friend from work and a man who had a crush on me (note: I later married this guy). I have given "workshops" on the topic of, say, writing tone and style, and had two people show up. I have taught classes of two (who stuck with me after others dropped out). Each time I doggedly went through with it. Slightly sick at heart, but it was my own expectations that did that. This happens at last to everyone. But show up and do your job (or your show). We can control only what we do; we can't control results.