Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, February 19, 2007

On Being an unsuccessful writer: part one

(A blog entry divided into three parts.)
(Because H-man said so)

Unsucessful meaning I earn no money from writing and must work full-time doing something else. Unsuccessful meaning nobody in New York wanted my book. That after an initial bout of publishing essays, poems, and stories in my late twenties and early thirties, I have since published nearly nothing. Not for lack of trying: like every other would-be literary sort, I sent out dozens of queries to agents, short stories to various journals. Lots of agents bit, asking for partials and even full manuscripts; one picked me up, sent my book round, then decided she needed to do something else and left the business. The journals all rejected my work.

Along the way the internet spread its tentacles, giving rise to blogs and online publishing and the current publishing morass we find ourselves in. To pursue the old-fashioned way of New York Agent/big house/hire publicist/hope against hope? Self-publish? Take up blogging? Hang it all up in favor of something less demeaning, like auto detailing?

My experience with the agent knocked me on my ass. I lost confidence--not in my ability, but the possibility of ever seeing the novel in print. Subscriptions to Poets and Writers and blogs like Miss Snark's only worsen things. There are so many people out there who Want To Write. The stats, when not numbing, are depressing.

Another thing happened along with the internet: literary tastes changed. Postmodern fiction is all the rage; experimental novels are popular. Memoirs are flooding bookshops: suddenly, eveyone has an amazing, unique story, lost siblings or parents who lived whole lives never disclosed to spouses or children, who, invariably, write it all up. Chick Lit is followed by Mommy Lit which is now leading us to the fresh hell of Daddy lit.

All of this a fancy way of saying the playing field narrowed for writers like me. There are still wonderful books out there, but everywhere you look, another bookstore is closing or another article is pointing to fiction's demise.

For a long time I bargained with myself: I would publish one thing before turning thirty-eight. Before turning thirty-nine. If all else failed, I would quit writing by forty, a milestone less than a year off.

Forty loomed (it still does). Much gnashing of teeth and wailing. Poor Hockeyman bore the brunt of it.

"Start blogging." he said.

I complained and whined a little more.

That was last summer. My elderly MacIntosh conveniently chose this time of troubles to die. Hockeyman made me a list: a MacBook. Something called an Airport Extreme. A few other equally inscrutable items. I took them to the computer store, handing the kid behind the counter the list and my credit card.

"Don't you want to try out a few different things?" He asked.

This was like asking me which spaceship I cared to fly. Just give me one of everything on the list, I said.

He gave me a look that said dumb middle-aged broad, ran my card, bagged my purchases. I took it all home to Hockeyman, who set everything up. Here I am. Blogging.


Anonymous probabilityZero said...

You'd be surprised how effective blogging can be :D

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere!

February 19, 2007 11:06 PM  

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