on writers

By: Say Books Online  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Books, Publishing

For much of the 20th Century, being innovative in art was a precondition for recognition, if not sufficient reason in itself. It was certainly the case in visual art. Novels, too, could not escape being judged on their novelty value.

It has occurred to me that writing is a laborious way of collecting rejection slips. I got my first one in 1979 and publishers turning down my manuscripts still outnumber the times they have agreed to publish my work by a factor of ten or so.

Getting a rejection slip is a disappointment for any author. Here you are, pouring your soul or at least many hours into a project and some stranger says it’s not worth publishing. Feeling hurt, wronged or angry is normal.

Writers, especially those early in their writing career, can improve their books with a straightforward self-check. The best books tend to have a high density of significance. By this rather fancy sounding term I mean the numerical ratio of sentences to significant realisations. Let me explain.

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, but my parents are from Ohio and California. They never expected to stay in Memphis when they came, and they spent a lot of time keeping me and my brother away from the Southern accent. So I’ve grown up with an interesting mixture of Southern, Californian, and Northern heritage.

Laura Bontrager

I graduated with a degree in English, and then worked as a behavioural aide for a boy with autism, and my poetry was published in various magazines and journals. Currently, I work in the library of a boys’ private school in Memphis. And I write.

When did you start writing and why?

Confession: I’m a serious fan of the TV show, Castle,  which stars the ‘Geek God’, the witty Nathan Fillion, and the beautiful, and enviably multilingual, Stana Katic. What does this have to do with publishing, you may ask. Well, a lot it turns out.

I tweet about Castle under a ‘Castley’ pseudonym, and fangirl with the best of them (many of them teenagers, but also a fair smattering of English majors, doctors, teachers, film/media types, and of course, Firefly fans). What became increasingly interesting to me as I watched the show and followed fans on Twitter was the way the show crossed the usual boundaries of fandoms, media types and genres. I was particularly fascinated with how a show about a crime writer seemed to be encouraging young people to read long-form narrative that they might not have read otherwise, if they read books at all.

Keywords: Books, Publishing

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05-Apr-2012

on publishing

I tweet about Castle under a ‘Castley’ pseudonym, and fangirl with the best of them (many of them teenagers, but also a fair smattering of English majors, doctors, teachers, film/media types, and of course, Firefly fans). One of the reasons may be that much of the current language of content management uses the language of logic, with little attention to the lyrical or personal.


05-Apr-2012

on production

The other is the ‘Darwinian’ view: life develops largely through chance, circumstance, and constraints, making use of minute building blocks to combine and create new life forms in endless and unforeseeable combinations. Given the rise and rise of EPUB, Print on Demand, and the increasing sophistication of HTML5 and CSS3 for print as well as onscreen, this seemed like the future of publishing.