May 23rd, 2011

Saturn Ring Blues

What I Said: What I Meant (a continuing series)

A thirteen-year old posted on Facebook that she wished Osama bin Laden had killed her teacher instead of the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers, which earned her a suspension.  I was most interested in what the student said about the impact of her words.

This is related to the What I Said: What I Meant post I did in November.

Of course the suspension of the girl from school for what she said about her teacher from home is an entirely different issue than the one I picked up on (the disconnect between what people say and how they thought it would be received).  The story is a train crash of freedom of speech, the responsibility of schools, and the challenges we continue to face as we burrow deeper and deeper into the social-network-instant-communication-politically-correct-sensitive-to-everything age.

I thought it was interesting that Dr. Drew, the reporter, sounded totally supportive of the student at the end of the story.  I thought one of the most truthful statements to come out of the story was the student's tearful lamentation, "You don't even know me.  You don't know my story, and that not fair.  It's not fair to judge me when you don't know the story," which I agree with.  On the other hand, the story didn't include the principal's or teacher's thoughts on the matter.  The school didn't respond to requests for information.

By the end of the story, Dr. Drew and the other adults were ignoring that the student had done anything reproachable.  The school may have overreacted--I don't know, after all, I don't know the story--but the student certainly did something. 

Saturn Ring Blues

Evolution of a Writer (redux)

Shannon Taylor Hodnett posted a thoughtful reply to my earlier post on the Evolution of a Writer.  (You'll have to scroll a ways to get to her comment)

She rightfully pointed out that the publishing industry is evolving too, and that not every self-published writer is a traditional-publishing reject.  I certainly did not mean to imply that kind of absolute, so I replied with this:

Good points, but I don't assume every self-published author is a traditional publishing reject.  The vast majority of them are, however, and I mean VAST, or they haven't even tried traditional publishing. A very small percentage of those self-published authors do have the ability to write a polished novel, and those are the authors whose names drive a lot of not-so professionally skilled into thinking they can do it too.

I agree that there's no doubt that the industry is changing, though. Possibly in the future there is no middle-man (agent/editor/publisher/bricks and mortar book store) between all who want to write and their dreams for publication. Publication, then, will become a true meritocracy. Every book will go out and have an equal chance of drumming up its own word of mouth or buzz or whatever will replace a traditional publishing push to sell books.

I think, though, in the foreseeable future that there will still be arbiters of acceptance whose imprimatur will be worth an unknown writer's time to achieve, whether they are responsibly edited magazines, e-zines, traditional publishers, e-book publishers, or the future equivalent of Oprah. Those arbiters of acceptance will be the ones who will promote the writing that will instantly gather more attention because they have marked it as one of their own for all to see.

As long as those arbiters of acceptance exist, self-publishing will be the slow road for the vast majority of unpublished writers who hope to achieve the levels of professionalism that they think they've already gained.


By the way, I reread what I wrote above, and the tone sounds a shade snotty and all-knowing to my ear.  Whatever "professional" writing is, I don't know the secret.  I often imagine myself treading water mightily, occasionally breaking the surface to breathe a bit of that professional publishing air, but most of the time frantically beating my arms and legs, looking up at the surface I can't quite reach.  Every time I've sold something it has felt like a bit of a miracle, and I can tell you that many of my publishing friends, some of them with much more extensive bibliographies than mine, feel exactly the same way.