Monday, September 21, 2009

How's This Writing Thing Working For You?

Have you ever wondered how your books are doing out there in the world, "among the English" (as was noted in a popular movie a few years back)? Oh, sure, there's evidence in bits and pieces. But unless you have been Skyped on OPRAH, invited to speak at the Library of Congress---or, better yet, at the U.S. Mint---or are meeting the U.S. Poet Laureate for dinner this evening, the evidence is, shall we say, probably a bit sketchier. I'll just mention a few of the key indicators here.

For example, there is the quarterly royalty check. I've heard those things can go as high as $19.83 right after a school book sale. Family support is also critical. I once got a brief note from my Aunt Susie that she is holding two copies of my book for an autograph one day---you know, when I make the trip down to Tierra del Fuego where she is setting up a lending library among the Tierra del Fuegans.

Sales rankings are also a nice metric to reflect on, especially during the week immediately after the book is released---that's when there's a chance the one copy you bought on line to "prime the pump" will trigger a rank placement under one million. I used to let the rankings thing get me down but not any more. It's much more fun (read "less depressing") to declare the gargantuan number as actual sales---as in "Hey! Last week I sold 2,785,738!" I've decided not to worry too much that the royalty check is six months late, what with the almost monthly increase in postage rates of late. No doubt the check is so heavy it's permanently stuck in the "insufficient postage" loop.

Of course all those measures are important. I mean, I cherish the single comment from Bengladesh on my August 11, 2003 blog entry about my inspiration for writing my book on ants. But when I really want to know how my books are going to do or what impact they might have, it's best to get out there and put them in the hands of a child. Do a book reading or sign your books at a little table in an indie bookstore.

Watch the kids as their eyes scan over a display of books, flitting from one cover to another until they actually pick one up. Will they linger on the inside pages? Do they turn to look for Mom or Dad nearby to ask a question or show some particular discovery they have made right there in the book?

Yeah, there's a chance the book might go home with them on that day, with the author's well wishes and an autograph scribbled on the inside cover. But that really doesn't matter. I would rather the book speak to the child and that it might leave a lasting impression. Who knows? It could happen.

Here's to making those connections.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bend-ward Bound

Hi, folks STOP

Just a short note on my way out the door, bound for Bend, Oregon STOP

A group of artists and authors who are published by Guardian Angel Publishing is gathering in Bend (and Redmond, OR) for a GAP-West "Meet and Greet" plus a group book signing at a Barnes and Noble store in Bend on Saturday, September 19 STOP

Looking forward to seeing everyone and reading to the kids STOP

More news to follow STOP

Kirk out


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Whatever Happened To "Writer's Cramp"? Will It Soon Be Replaced By TD

You don't hear about "writer's cramp' much these days. Sure there is plenty of "carpal tunnel" to go around. But writer's cramp almost seems to be a thing of the past.

I remember as a kid hearing the phrase "writer's cramp" all the time. And I recall experiencing such an affliction often enough myself, especially when a lengthy writing assignment was due. With the advent of typewriters and keyboards, one rarely hears of writer's cramp anymore. We've moved from what was typically a short-lived pain in the inter-digital muscles that could be relieved by simply putting the pen down, to structural syndromes that linger long after the writing has stopped.

Fortunately, I don't yet suffer from carpal tunnel issues. However, rather oddly I have noticed a consistent inability to write using pen and paper for more than just a few minutes at a stretch these days---mostly, I think, from being out of practice. After all, how much actual writing do we do anymore?

My planner entries (yes, I still use a planner with real paper inside) are usually one-liners and they are short one-liners at that. Occasionally, I jot down a reminder to myself or maybe even leave a note on the counter so my wife knows where I've gone and what time I'll be home. But for the most part, I don't do much longhand writing anymore and my penmanship has suffered as a result.

I think it's a matter of exercise---or lack thereof. The hand and finger muscles are literally out of writing shape. I used to write journal entries daily and all my letters were written longhand. Even first drafts of lengthy papers and reports started with a hand-written rough draft. Now, short notes are about a much as I actually write.

But maybe "writer's cramp" lives after all and is just waiting to be rediscovered. All it takes is writing a couple pages longhand and there it is as if it had never left....

In a related language artifact, we call ourselves writers when, in fact, we generally don't do much actual writing anymore. And I don't know that there is a good replacement word or phrase---perhaps creative typers or creative keyers (as type-writers are vitually a thing of the past). Then again, maybe "author" is the best word after all because it covers a multitude of tools an author might use....

Just remember, the tool does not an author make. It's the product, however crafted.

P.S. Don't you wonder how soon it will be before we will see the first novel "written" in .txt.... Personally, I plan to avoid too much texting---I hear textual dysfunction is a bugger to get rid of....