Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quit Messing With My Magic!

I've expressed this sentiment elsewhere, but I think it bears repeating. And yes, I know I'm bucking a trend. So be it. But I HATE having a novel in my hand that has, as one of its selling points, a note on the cover that indicates there is a "Reading Group Guide" included. Puh-LEEZE, people. Can we please stop this runaway train before it drives the few of us who DO read over the edge into the land of "No, thanks"? We bemoan the lack of reading in our culture as a whole. We worry about the generation coming up who may not be able to sit still long enough to read graphic novels in the future, much less books with no pictures in 'em. (!) We wring our hands over the fact that, in some senses, we're writing for a dwindling audience. Now why would any of these be true, if it weren't for the unfortunate phenomenon all of us experienced in school--the Required Reading Lists? Let's face it. Some of those books were just plain AWFUL. I'm thinking of things like Catcher in the Rye. Is there any good reason anyone would read CITR if they weren't forced to do it? Or The Great Gatsby? (Don't hit me, all you Fitzgerald lovers, but I'm sorry;I've read that book twice--the first time because I had to, the second because I was really trying to see why anyone would have to read it. Failed on both counts.) Some of the books actually were good, but those were few and far between. And, it seems, the moment an English teacher saw something kids might actually enjoy reading on that list it went onto the "optional" list, of which you were only allowed to read a few to "count" toward a grade. The rest seemed to have as a requirement that they be either a) depressing, b) full of foul language, depravity, or perversion, or c) both. If they had all the previous, they were considered great, meaningful, and enlightening to the students. (The singular exception being that if they were about the Holocaust--outside of the obvious "depressing" points, which no doubt would carry them anyway--they didn't have to have too much of the rest of the above, because they automatically were Important.) The end result of all this force-fed "literature" is twofold: 1) Cliff's Notes, which aren't bad in themselves as a supplement...but we all know that's not how most people apparently use them. 2) The end of reading, as we know it, once we are out of school and don't "have to" do it anymore. It's not just TV, the Internet, or other influences that have prompted people not to read. It's the stuff they're forced to read, and analyze, for grades. It's books with agendas, books with "themes" and "universal" messages, books full of allegory and satire and symbolism and metaphor and parallel universes and metaphysics and the Real Meaning Of Life, Which Is, Of Course, That Life's A Bitch And Then You Die. I don't BLAME people for never wanting to read after a steady diet of that stuff. Who would? Well, a few of us would. And did. We're the ones who came into school loving to read already, and we were too stubborn to let "education" take that fun away. Some of us get out of school still loving to read for pleasure. Still understanding what that's about. And still seeing the value in it. So what happens to us? We go to our bookstores and we stock up on some horking good reads... ...only to find them suddenly bearing a striking resemblance to textbooks, when we actually get to the end. Study guides. Study questions. "Suggestions for group discussion." WHY??????? Yes, I know there are book groups out there by the hundreds now. Many people I know have belonged to book clubs for years. They read Important Stuff, the best-sellers, Literature, the Oprah lists, whatever. And they talk about them. And there's some good conversation and sharing that goes on there. And no doubt they're enlightened by some of it...although truth be told, most of the people I know who go to book groups go there as much to gossip and eat chocolate as they do for intellectual/literary enlightenment. Or they go to compare the book to the movie, which is about the same as gossip. :-) But they also have a remarkable ability to come up with their OWN questions. Sometimes they have one or the other of the team take charge of leading the discussion; this is great. Sometimes people are encouraged to write their own discussion questions to share, which is also fine. Because that's what these people are doing with these books, because they WANT to. But how did we go from that spontaneous, creative exercise to publishers thinking that groups wanted PREMADE lists for them? And most of all, why do publishers assume that any reader buying this book will consider this list at the back an asset? Note to publishers: I READ FOR PLEASURE. Translate: if I'm going to get a deeper meaning out of a book, I'LL FIND IT MYSELF. YOU DON'T NEED TO LEAD ME TO IT. And I especially resent the subtext of these sections at the back of novels, as if to say, "Just in case you didn't get the point of what we're trying to teach you in this book, here's some help." I DON'T WANT TO "GET THE POINT." I WANT TO READ A GOOD STORY. PERIOD. I hate this trend for more reasons than one, too. Not only does it come across as arrogant, overbearing, and "instructional..." but it can absolutely ruin the end-of-book experience. I can't tell you how many times I've finished a book, gotten to what feels like the end, and then looked on the next page and seen SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR STUDY right after that beautiful, sigh-producing, satisfying ending. Do you know what that does to your story, people? IT REDUCES IT BACK TO PRINT AGAIN. It takes the magic and dumps cold water on it. Do you really want to have your reader yanked back to reality that fast? WHY? I hate the rumblings I've heard throughout the industry that, more and more often, authors are expected to supply these questions now. To me, this is missing the point of why most of us read fiction in the first place--and it steals the magic from the ending of the book. And that's just plain wrong. When I want a textbook, I'll BUY a textbook. When a novel is a keeper, I know why. But I also know what I get out of a book often isn't what anyone else is going to get out of it. I know, because nine times out of ten, I'll hear people talking about a book I've read and say, "It's a story about ______."...and I'll hear that and think, "No, it's not. It's not about _______ at all." So anything you put into a list of questions for me is only meant to do what? Steer me toward a conclusion you want me to draw? Again, WHY???? Note to my future publishers: if you require a list of questions, I'll give you one--and one ONLY-- for the end. It'll consist of this: "In 50 words or less, if you like, write down what the best part of this book was for you. The part that made you laugh, made you cry, or touched you in any way. Then sign it, put it in an envelope and address it to the author. She'll love hearing from you." And it'll be on a page SEPARATE from the end. With at least one blank page in between. If you insist on more, you'll write them yourself. And put them on a website, separate from the book. A place people can go to when they're ready. When they've already closed the book and eased back into reality, and if and when they want to think about it further. But you put those things on page 601 after I've spun a beautiful tale for 600 pages... and you've just robbed both me and my reader of magic I sweated blood to create. If you feel the need to do much do you really LOVE fiction? Or do you get it at all? Cantankerously yours, Janny

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Being Jessica Fletcher"

Some time ago, there was a rather successful movie called Being John Malkovich. Several people I knew saw the movie; I didn’t. But the concept, as I understand it, was that the cast of the movie spent time literally “being” actor John Malkovich, being in his skin, being in his life, for a limited period of time. They experienced life as someone else, another actor, within the same movie. Yeah, the concept is pretty surreal, and so was the movie—again, from what I understand. Whether it “worked” or not, cinematically, seems to be a matter of some debate. A more interesting question is, does it ever work in real life? Now, your first knee-jerk reaction to this might be, “Oh, for pete’s sake, of course not. You can’t be somebody else. Besides, it’s not good to even try to be somebody else. You need to be yourself. You need to be true to your own muse, your own drummer…” etc. Yatta yatta. You know the drill. And partially, that’s right. Hey, that’s what we teach our kids, mostly so that they get the message that we really don’t want them to become the kid down the street with the spiky orange hair and multiple body piercings…er, I mean, so that they’ll be happy being themselves. And it’s generally good advice, unless you really don’t know who you are, in which it’s kind of like a chicken-and-egg thing. You need to try on different personas until you find the one that fits your skin. But one day I found myself, literally, having grown remarkably close to someone else’s persona—and it wasn’t a bad thing. A surprise, yes. But a good one. And something I definitely have decided I want to pursue much further. Let me explain. I am a great Murder, She Wrote fan. I wasn’t a fan of it at the very beginning of the show—I listened to too many people saying, “That’s not real. She’s supposed to be a writer, and they never show her actually writing anything!” So for awhile, I didn’t watch it. But my inlaws were fans of it, and I saw it at their house a couple of times, and …well, long story short, I soon became hooked. Yeah, the scriptwriters caught on that they needed to show J.B. Fletcher actually producing work and/or at least appearing to go through the motions of some of the actual writing life, and they did show her hammering away on her old typewriter, then a computer, eventually. But their attempt at a semblance of a wave at realism wasn’t what connected me to the show, in the end. Other things did. I love a good whodunit; I love the “cozy” sort of mystery that they took and made uniquely American (a nifty trick, with a British actress in the title role :-) ). I enjoyed the small-town feel for the show, the continual development of characters (in all senses of the word), and pretty much the whole world that these writers created... …to the point that one day, I said out loud, “When I grow up, I want to be J.B. Fletcher.” Think about it. She was a retired English teacher, which meant she probably had a pension. She might have even had her deceased husband’s pension as well, considering he was a war hero and all, so she had no money worries. She lived in a gorgeous house with small-town roots, where she was a local celebrity. She supported herself by being a best-selling author; she had more “nieces” and “nephews” (who can forget Grady Fletcher?) than any woman should have, everywhere in the world. She made friends like breathing, she always knew the right thing to wear, the right thing to say, and the right way to stand her ground without becoming either a shrew or a doormat. She traveled, she enjoyed life, she kept up with technology and the latest things in the world without letting the pace control her, and she had people all over the country who loved her. So it's no wonder I would latch onto someone like that as a role model...fictional or not. I was struggling to be published in the first place as a novelist, never mind being a bestseller. I was far from self-supporting; I had been raised in a family that was almost pathologically antisocial. I hated my real cousins, and I certainly didn’t have many “adopted” ones I could claim. In short, there wasn’t much I had in common with J.B. Fletcher. At least not at first… But then, things began to happen. I got a job doing corporate newsletters in which I was forced to exit my "comfort zone" and learn how to "schmooze" (something I actually enjoyed, but was afraid of). I took my own stab at technology: I tackled a computer for that job, for the first time, with fear and trembling—then dove in and began to enjoy it. I joined AOL, became a Community Leader and began hanging out in the Writers area, then began mentoring people (not quite an English teacher, but close!). After receiving dozens of mentoring e-mails asking the same questions, I started an online workshop, ASK THE MENTOR, which fast became one of the most popular places to hang out online. In the process of workshopping, I made friends of other hosts and chatters alike; I coached people, critiqued work, and found myself on the receiving end of quite a few nice compliments for my efforts. And then…I had a friend visit from Texas, a friend who co-hosted with me on AOL…and took a vacation later that same year in which my husband and I stayed with another workshop hostess, this time in Louisville, KY. It didn’t dawn on me until much later(when I was busy pitching my newly sold novel to my online friends) that delcaring wishes out loud can be a powerful thing. :-) I had a community of people across the nation with whom I was close enough to stop in and visit, should I be in their neighborhood. (In fact, I was told point blank that if I didn't stop and visit, I'd be in big trouble!) I had an extended family both from school and from various work connections; people whom, literally, my daughter didn't know we weren't related to until I told her. I was a successful writer—not financially independent, but successful in various corners—who had won a national writing award, had published a book and several magazine articles, had written a newspaper column, was a regular online teacher and was actually presenting at writers’ conferences… When I realized this, I sat down and grinned a lot. I still have a bit to go to “grow into” that persona. I do live in a great house in a small town now; I need a better figure (J.B. Fletcher is tall, something I will never be...sigh) and a better wardrobe; I need more tact and composure; I need a tougher skin at times. On the other hand, I have handled myself pretty well in a controversy in which I was, however briefly, a "lightning rod" both online and in my professional organization. I’ve performed so well as a book editor that I’ve netted kudos and tangible rewards alike; and I still mentor and encourage writers all over the country…several of whom I plan to get to know a lot better. So I’m getting there. I’m, slowly but surely, moving toward “Being Jessica Fletcher.” And the best part is, I don’t have to step over dead bodies to do it. So who would YOU like to grow up to be???? Worth a little daydreaming, Janny

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Football?

You know, it probably is time to start thinking football after all. :-) And while I'm not packing for Miami yet, it is going to be so fun to watch da Bears in an NFC Championship game again. (Who woulda thunk it?) (Answer: us.) With my Michigan Wolverines doing not-so-good in the Big Ten, and dem Blue Demons sort of so-so in the Big East, I don't have *too* many basketball distractions. Except, of course, for my Bulls.... Thanks to my friend the Termagant, at any rate, for bringing some enjoyable images to mind! More on the actual stuff of *writing* later.... Janny

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Fool and His Money...

...or her money, as the case may be, often part company in the name of "publishing." And yes, ladies and gentlemen, we will soon get another chance to part with our money if we so desire, just for the privilege of calling ourselves "published" authors.

Cheryl Dickow, a Catholic nonfiction author, has just started a new venture called Bezalel Books, offering the opportunity for Catholic fiction writers to have another place and outlet for their manuscripts. She (rightfully) bemoans the lack of a Catholic presence in inspirational fiction, which is presently pretty much dominated by the Prod end of things...something many of us Catholic girls have been complaining about for awhile. :-) However, what she proposes to do about it is...shall we say...less than enthralling.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the small price of $775, give or take a few other charges that will no doubt creep into the mix, you can sidestep all the "traditional" publishing headaches, avoid paying an agent a commission to get you into the Big Bad World of Real Books...and publish your book through this new press.

Self-publish, that is. As in, pay her to do the publication for you.

If I've never said it before on this blog, it bears saying here: the fundamental principle of publishing is MONEY GOES TO THE AUTHOR. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Please understand, self-publishing is not inherently evil. Some books start out self-published and then are picked up by regular publishers after they've proven to sell. (Self-publishers are quick to trot out those titles, so with a little research, you'll find them.) And many books are self-published for good reasons. A very happy self-published author I know said, "Hey, I've got the money, I just want the thrill of having real books in my hands, my friends and neighbors all buy these, we have a good time. I'm happy."

For him, self-publishing works. He spends an average of $1500 per book to get the things out there--ridiculously steep in terms of anyone thinking of actually supporting themselves by writing, in any degree--but he's retired, he has the cash and nothing else he'd rather spend it on, so God bless him.

Another book I'm familiar with is a good example of another great use of self-publishing. The author probably had a good idea his target audience--primarily college baseball players!-- wouldn't necessarily be a large enough market segment for a major publisher to want to take on his book. I've read parts of the book. It's well written, it's an accurate portrayal of what college baseball is about, and I get a kick out of it because it's focused on the University of Michigan Baseball team as it was composed when my son was a member of said team. (My son even is a character in the book, albeit fictionalized and disguised, as are the other teammates of this particular author. Gotta love it.)

For that type of use, for that focus, self-publishing is a perfect solution. But for the rest of us? Not so much. At least not if we have a dream of being paid for our work, even if that payment is small.
Or if we have a dream of establishing a readership in any meaningful channels.
Or if we have a hope of being considered worth investing in for a major (or even minor) publisher someday.

Because if we have dreams and hopes of being published by a major house, paid anything at all, or having our books actually available for our friends and neighbors to buy--without having to sell them literally out of our garages--we definitely should not go the self-publishing route.Because, contrary to the claims on most of these sites, it's not easier to do the self-pub route; it's harder.

Most self-publishers will charge you more for actually editing the book.
Many of them have steep art charges if you don't have a cover designed yourself.
Many of them have small staffs with very limited resources, so if you need something done or redone quickly, it just isn't going to happen.
But the biggest drawback to self-publishing, by far, is the lack of distribution channels.

You see, it's not getting the book published that gets your name out into the marketplace. It's getting the book read. And bought.

Which means, your success as a published author isn't contingent on what it costs to print the book, or even what it costs you to get a cover made, to correct errors, and to get it bound attractively and legibly. Your success as a published author strictly depends on whether you can get your books into bookstores. Or whether people can order copies of your book through online or other channels. Or both. And that's where the self-publishing promises break down.

Self-published authors too often learn after the fact, and to their pain, that a promise that their book will be "available" for sale through Barnes &Noble, or Borders, or Books A Million...doesn't mean the book will actually be on the shelves. Most of the time, the book will not be there. The great majority of the time, the book will not even be listed in the computer systems of these bookstores. And if it ain't in the computer, boys and girls, you average bookstore clerk isn't going to be able to order it for you.

So in reality, while your book may be "available" to these places, it's not going to be ordered by them. If it's not ordered, in reality, it's not there. And won't be, because the great majority of self-publishing outlets have no network of distributors. They have no distribution channels in place. Most of them don't even have contacts in the industry that they can then tap and say, "Hey, I've got 20 great novels for you to take into the marketplace."

Which means you have no means of getting the book into the hands of readers.
Which means you will, in essence, have no readers...unless you do all the distribution yourself.

Some authors have tried a variation on this, by the way. There are "drive by" authors out there who'll do things like place their book on bookstore shelves. Just put it there. Some of them have even told tales of getting their books "put into" the computer systems at major bookstores that way, because the clerks don't know any better, just assume the book wasn't listed in error, and put all the ISBN information, etc., into their databases.

On the surface, this sounds pretty clever. A little guerilla marketing, as it were. Forcing them to acknowledge the book exists, and then giving them the means to reorder it.
The only problem is, that doesn't work.
Oh, a few authors may have had this actually turn in their favor. But then they went online and spread the word that "all you have to do is..." and a lot more people started trying to do this. Bookstores got wise to it. Clerks got wise to it. And those books got, respectfully, tossed.

They didn't get bought. They didn't get inventoried. They most certainly didn't get put into the databases. What's worse, the authors and their publishers were flagged for later reference...and not in a nice way, either.

So where's the win here? Answer? There isn't one. Your literal only alternative as a self-published author is to sell the books yourself.
If you have a speaking platform, this is a little easier. If you're affiliated with a university, this sometimes is easier (although don't try it without asking, because if anything, universities are even pricklier than major bookstores when it comes to "contraband"--i.e., something published other than via a university press!-- coming from one of their own). If you are like that guy in the video with the FREE HUGS sign, and you have no problem approaching complete strangers by the hundreds with books in your hand and a pitch on your lips, then maybe self-publishing, and its associated self-distribution, is for you.

But for most of us? Again, not so much.
Not even because most writers tend to be introverts, which is reason enough for most of us to crawl under our desks in the fetal position at the very thought of "marketing" and "distribution" like that....but also because, let's face it. Traveling the world to distribute a self-published book can get...shall we say...a little pricey. As in expensive. As in, expenses you may or may not ever recover from book sales, and probably won't.

So the moral of the story? If you have cash to spend, don't mind how you spend it, and don't care if you ever sell beyond 40 copies to your sisters and your cousins and your aunts...and you're fed up with the cycle of writing, revising, submitting, getting rejected, resubmitting, revising and re-revising, tinkering, pitching, etc., etc., etc...self-publishing may be the way you want to go with a novel. Otherwise, you'll want to refer back to the basic principle of the publishing industry--money goes to the author--and play the game in such a way that someone's willing to take your work and pay you for it.

Because that same someone will also make sure the book comes out with no misspellings in it (up to and including your name), has a cover that doesn't repel a reader, and has all the pages included, right-side up and in the proper order.
Because that same someone will have an editor who will (if you're fortunate) improve the book for you and make it sing, someone who knows what you're trying to say and helps you say it better.
And most of all, because that someone actually knows how to get those books into the marketplace so readers can read them, and love them, and recommend them to all their sisters and their cousins and their aunts.

Why? Because that someone will have already invested money in the operation, and they want to at least recoup some of that money. So they'll make it their business to at least do a minimum amount of publicity, and pitching their distributors, so they can make that happen...or they won't stay in business long.

Take the high road, folks. It's better for all of us in the long run.

My take,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What if they gave a championship and nobody came?

...because that's about what happened. It's almost eerie. Here, Florida has come out of nowhere, become the first NCAA Division I school to reign as national champion in both basketball and football...and it's lucky if it gets a passing mention on the sports news. I saw almost literally nothing on AOL's "Today" newsbits. My daughter reports that she saw nothing on Yahoo. It's like this huge upset didn't even happen. And that has got to hack off Florida fans big time, because it's a puzzle to the rest of us as well. I know if it was Michigan that pulled this off, and no one was paying any attention...well, they probably wouldn't get away with it around me. :-) So you have to wonder how big of a flop this BCS game really was, to anybody who wasn't an actual fan of one team or another. Could this silence be partly due to so many people not believing the BCS standings to begin with? Could it have come about because of the controversy (which won't go away, by the way) about who gets IN and who gets shut OUT of BCS consideration? Probably. I figure at least a little of that enters into the picture. As I said to my daughter, "There are two words that describe why this isn't the sports headline of the week, plastered all over everywhere." And she said, "Which two words are that?" To which I said, of course, "Boise State." As for how a team that's undefeated, the only undefeated team in the nation, can be #5 in the AP poll and #5 in the BCS while all the teams ahead of it lost, sometimes in inglorious fashion, at least once... We won't go there. But after this year, I suspect, we may not need to go there anymore. Because if anyone proved it deserved to play with the big boys at last, it wasn't Florida. It was Boise State. Go Broncos!* *(as a Driscoll Catholic fan, it's almost impossible for me to say that very loud, for reasons that any Driscoll Catholic fan will know.) Time for basketball... Janny

Sunday, January 07, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight...

For right now at least, after long consideration and an even longer time in the organization, I'm cancelling my membership in Romance Writers of America.

 For them, this won’t be a biggie. I’m one of 9,500, and they barely know I’m here. But for me, this is a big deal. And it’s not coming without a lot of soul-searching. But I got my renewal notice in the mail a few weeks ago, and I’ve pitched it. 

 Now some people, in light of fairly recent events, will probably figure it’s because I can’t “take the heat” anymore (in more ways than one). They saw me get bitch-slapped over my letter in the RWR, they cheered and ridiculed and threw the mud, and they’ve probably been hoping for just such an action from the likes of me. Heck, if any of them knows how to pray (ain’t gonna go there), they may have even been praying to the god of their choice for just such an outcome. 

 But this isn’t an answer to anyone’s prayers. At least not in that sense. And the reasons for this decision, while undeniably connected to some very ugly stuff in the recent past, go back way farther than the summer of 2006. 

 I used to joke about being in RWA longer than dirt, citing as evidence the fact that I have a 4-digit membership number...when most of the people I know have six or seven digits in theirs. Part of that, of course, is a renumbering system; but part of it, it cannot be escaped, has to do with simply being a member of something for a long, long time.

Since 1988, to be exact. 

 So if there’s more to this than the fabled summer and fall of 2006, what else is there to it? Why would I jump from an organization I've been in for so long? Have I stopped writing romances? 

"Probably not" is the best answer I can give to this one! Whether or not I wrote *romances,* as in the generic form of the word and strict sense of the genre, is still up for debate. I never published a romance with a major romance publisher; my book is considered inspirational romance in most circles, but it wasn't taken up by the Harlequin/Silhouette end of the world when it was pitched to them. So the jury's still out on whether I even wrote romance in the first place. 

Do I need to cut back on the number of groups and commitments I have? Not a relevant question to this case.

My commitment to RWA takes a lot less time lately than it did years ago, when I was a board member of Chicago-North, Manuscript chairperson, helped to redefine some guidelines and rules of procedure, worked in various volunteer capacities, and ran the Fire and Ice Contest. (Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that I actually did that, for reasons we may get into later...another story, for another blog.) I did tally up at one time that out of the first seven years I belonged to my local chapter, five and a half of them were as a Board member.

So I did a lot of service, both on the local and national level (working the AGM at the National Conference several years running, to the point where I could almost supervise other people). But since I moved out of my home state, and even before that, I had scaled down my participation in RWA events considerably, due once again to several extra-writing reasons.

So, while cutting back on extracurriculars is never a bad idea if it enables one to put more time into writing, that's not exactly the reason, either. 

So what reason can I have for making this move? 

The reason is, quite frankly, I don’t trust RWA anymore. Haven’t trusted them for some time, in fact. Haven’t respected them for some time. And it's come to the point now where I realize I can no longer sign my name to an organization that is hell-bent on going ways and directions I don’t want to go. 

Is this because of “defining romance,” then? Well, again, not exactly.

It must be said, as it has been before, that I didn’t start the famous RWR/defining romance fight. RWA did, itself, by sending out the survey to the membership. That action drew howls of protest from many “big names” in the business—and now, some people in RWA claim that it withdrew the survey because of that protest. Discontinued it. Told us not to bother. 

Only problem was…it didn’t tell us. Not one word. Anywhere. Not even when asked, point-blank, directly, about said survey. 

Instead, RWA allowed some of us to stick our necks out, to cause a ruckus, and to incur some really abusive treatment. They could have prevented all this from happening, but they didn’t. Which means they were either really, really stupid; really, really bad communicators; or they played some of their membership for the sake of getting a “good fight” going in the pages of RWR…and thereby making sure more people read the magazine.

No matter which of these motives you want to attribute to them, it’s not good. 

While this situation is unfortunate, what’s worse is that it is part of a consistent pattern RWA has had over more than a decade in which they have neglected to tell many of us many things. Or have told us things which have then been proven embarrassingly wrong in the light of reality.

So what have they done when this happens? 

Ordinary honest people, if caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, are mature enough to say so. They right the wrong, and they apologize. Has RWA ever done this? 


RWA chooses to “spin” the results instead, until by the time you get done reading their version of what happened, you wonder what alternate reality you’ve just stepped into.

I have to give them points on this aspect of their conduct; some of those spins were downright creative. But given the choice between that kind of creativity and integrity in my professional organization, I know what I need to choose. 

I will miss the chapter meetings; when I could get to them, I enjoyed the fellowship and the craft involved. I will miss a lot of the people who I’ve met through RWA. I regret leaving an organization that enabled me to make many dreams come true—but I have better things to do with my money than pay dues to an organization I basically don’t trust anymore. 

 If things change, I’ll be happy to come back. 

But I ain’t holding my breath.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Don't Quit the Day Job!...Unless...

I need to wish everybody a Sickie New Year first...I'm fighting a cold. I'd be tempted to say the cold is winning, except by sheer strength of will and a touch of miracles, I actually managed to sing at Mass yesterday. I could hear the creaks and groans, and you could tell I was a little hoarse (neigh!), but at least I got through it. I'm limping along now with herb tea and snorting Melaleuca oil and Vicks (not together!) and such, but things aren't really improving drastically as yet. I've had the scratchy throat since right after Christmas, though, and while I can say things aren't improving, neither are they seeming to get appreciably worse. So it's sipping chicken soup for me, I guess.

I need to get at least moderately more well before I go back to work tomorrow...but contrary to what some of you may be thinking, no, I doubt that I brought this on myself so I wouldn't have to go back to work! Although the best of all possible worlds, of course, would be not to have to go to a day job...or would it?

Many of us think so, and then we find ourselves in a position where we don't have to go to a day job for one reason or another. Maybe our spouse gets a good position that supports the whole family, and we don't have to contribute income anymore if we don't want to. Maybe we're lucky enough that we win a lottery, or we have an inheritance, or the like that gives us enough cash flow not to have to worry about pesky things like paying for health insurance. (Which is the major reason I would stay at my job, even if I got enough from writing to make up my raw salary...I'd have to make an extra $1500 a month just to pay for health insurance over and above the salary figures. When they tell you equivalent value of these bennies you get on your job, they're not just blowing really WOULD cost you that much otherwise. But, I digress.)

But then, much to our dismay, do we find ourselves actually being productive--i.e., writing up a storm--with all this extra time? Hardly. And I don't think I'm alone in this, either.

Some people find that if they have an office outside their homes, this kind of thing works much better. They get up bright and early, they dress for work, and they GO to same. I did have an outside office, years ago, when I did contract work and corporate newsletters. It was a nice thing to have, I will say that. However, when the village I was office-ing in came into my abode and told me I needed to have a business license to continue working there, because technically I was a "business"...that made the location considerably less delicious.

So before you run out and lease the office space, be sure you know the ins and outs of the local administration, or you could find yourself having to shell out cash you didn't count on for something that still seems silly for those of us who produce words, not inventory in boxes. People pay less for words in many cases than they pay for widgets, so it takes more words to pay those kinds of incidental bills...and you may not have as many words going out from time to time as you'd like. The last thing you want to do is go into debt for the sake of your "job" outside the home. That kind of defeats the purpose, IMHO.

So an outside office isn't always the answer, either. It's especially not the answer should you want to run to jot something down in the middle of the night. It's way easier to pad into a home office and do that kind of thing than it is to get dressed, fire up the car, go into your remote office building after hours (if you can even get INTO your office building after, say, 9 PM or so, which in some cases you can't), and have to talk nicey-nicey with security and/or local gendarmes just to write an idea down. Nope. Not a good tradeoff. :-)

So what's the answer? We'll be exploring a little on that subject as we go through January. When to know if you truly can quit the day job, how to make sure you're productive when you do, and rest assured, I won't have most of the answers, because I'm still looking for them. But I've found that writing the questions down is sometimes half the battle. And, hey, it counts as writing, too. Right? Write!

Think on this, then, in between football games.
Oh, and before I forget... GO BLUE!!!!!!!