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Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Writing’

Writing, Not Writing, Seeing, Being

January 15, 2015 By: Hiromi Category: Nature, Thoughts on Writing

2014 was a low-production year in terms of publications. A new short story, “Covalent Bond”, was published in Room Magazine 37.4. Some of my previously published stories, alongside fellow GoH N. K. Jemisin’s writings, were part of Aqueduct Press’s WisCon 38’s Guest of Honour volume, Systems Fail,  It’s been a while, however, since the last new book and because I tend to focus on book-length projects output is few and far between. There’s this weird accelerated push for the next new book that is completely at odds for most writers’ (desired) process– of course I blame capitalism and consumerism! Having said that, I’m still part of the capitalist system and I write books that I hope will sell and sell well. <wry grin>

A bit of a conundrum. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can’t “force” a book. If the idea isn’t gelling, if the strands do not weave into an interesting cloth, if I can’t sort out my plot, I don’t force my way through. I wait, I mull, I tinker, I start a few other smaller projects (but not too many, because how many incomplete projects do I want for pity’s sake???), sketch, read, research, watch films, no longer drink heady tumblers of tequila….

It will come. The story will come. I hit this wall with every book. And somehow I breach the wall. Or climb over it. Or dissolve it in my sleep.

But holy shit, being on this side of the wall can take a long time, and it can be a downer.

Sometimes the best thing for me to do is leave my messy desk or dusty couch and step outside. To remind myself of the wider organic world beyond my screen and internet connection. There’s more than the perpetual news stream of global suffering. There’s more than the sinking feeling inside my chest. There’s more than ego.

There is body. Air. Fog. The soft patter of persistent rain. A lattice of vibrant life in biospheres both visible and invisible around me. And to consciously recognize my connection to these things is a way to expand my own framework.

The other night one of our heavy west coast fogs cast a dream around the city.

my block fog

 Nights like this there is no need to write story. You can walk through it with your senses wide open.

under the ramp

The contrast of light and dark is a study of life– it is a fundamental way of imagining the world and we recreate it in so many different ways in story. To enter these spaces, to experience them, is an important part of being able to later imagine and word them in unique or memorable ways.

And the living creatures all around. They are near, yet sometimes the eye passes over, does not see them in the urban daily. But they are here. And when I see them it’s as if the city scales that covers my eyes fall away and I’m a creature among creatures once more.

P1010349

Burnaby Lake in the rain. The parking lot was empty only for the chik chik of juncos hopping from branch to branch. A fox sparrow was virtually indistinguishable among the fallen leaves– until it wasn’t.

wood duck dragons

Wood ducks roosting in a tree, as miraculous as dragons.

I return to my apartment a little changed. The chest is lighter. The air is sweeter.

Tonight I will dream.

Spring/Summer 2014 Recap

October 01, 2014 By: Hiromi Category: Events, On the Road, Thoughts on Writing

So much I haven’t updated– I’m an inconsistent blogger. But unrepentant!

Life is busy with living….

May was WisCon 38 and I was a guest of honour alongside N.K. Jemisin. Enroute to the convention my partner and I arranged to stay a few days in Chicago, and what a beautiful city! Not usually the type to remark on the beauty of modern buildings, but Chicago is an architectural treat!

ChicagoDT2014

D and I caught a live jazz performance, saw the Edward Gorey exhibit, and a Vivian Maier photo exhibit. We didn’t manage to have piece of deep dish pizza.

I love to take photographs. I’ve no training, but my eye is pulled to the contrast of dark and light, repetitive patterns, the shapes of things, both empty and solid. To develop an appreciation of this can serve writers well. For stories are just as much about what is absent from the page (or obscured) as what is revealed. What is being compared as like or unlike? And how do we frame a story? What is the focus? Where is the focus? What are the parameters of the story? What is included inside the frame? I.e. narrative POV.

LightShadowChicago

From Chicago to Madison, WI. It was my first time ever as a GoH at a Con. A different kind of scene compared to the many academic conferences I’ve been invited to as a guest speaker, it was the largest audience I’ve spoken to and delivering the GoH speech was a combination of frightening and exhilarating.

WisConGohSpeechaudience

 

N. K. Jemisin’s GoH speech was a call to arms in the fight against systemic racism and sexism entrenched within many organizations in SF culture. The applause and cheers resounded.

N.K. Jemisin & me.

GoHwithDessertTix38

The hotel lounge had an array of spec fic-infused drinks. Delightful!

KappaDrinklounge

A blur of panels, readings, parties, meals with friends old and new. We had a lovely time and returned home with much to mulch into our long-term knowledge.

Unbeknownst to me at the time while we moved through and around the convention there had been ongoing issues regarding the handling of safety issues for attendees, particularly around sexual harassment. It appears that WisCon is working on making the space safer and ensuring that the same mistakes won’t happen again.  I trust that this is so. Or I trust that even if mistakes are made in the future, for no organization is free from making them, that there will be a historical knowledge that will allow for swift and practical moves to address the lapses.

Summer saw a whirlwind of activity…

Tanabata Festival (July 7). I didn’t have any bamboo this year, but I read that some people write their wishes on paper boats. So my friends and I gathered at the beach to pen our messages and we sent them out across the great watery way.

Tanabata2014boats

Clarion West. I was totally enriched, bemused and inspired by my Clarion West experience. The students journeyed through an intensive endurance run of 6 weeks of learning, creating, integrating & output! I was only there for 1 week as one of the instructors and I was pretty exhausted by the end of it, but the attendees had 2 more weeks remaining. I can’t imagine how they did it! They not only learned together and created together (writing a new story every week) but they also lived together for the duration of the workshop in a sorority house (awesome trippy group photos on the walls, especially for this Canadian). Meals were cooked by a chef. Their days were filled with reading, critiquing, writing new stories, playing games (and, apparently, significant consumption of assorted beverages). For writers of speculative fiction who are ready for an extreme learning-by-doing experience I whole-heartedly recommend applying to Clarion West.

 ClarionWest2014

Afterward I was ready to settle into my home. The rest of the summer saw me reading a lot of children’s books, visiting the beach, feeding my yashi. ~___~



Hiromi Goto nineteenquestions interview

June 16, 2014 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Craft, Thoughts on Writing

Interviews are odd things– they kind of start to blur together because there’s a tendency for interviewers to ask similar kinds of questions, such as, Where do you get your ideas, who are your favourite authors, etc.

This interview was a little different because I asked if it could be conducted in the same manner as the Voight-Kampff test in Bladerunner (with no one being “retired”, of course!).

What resulted was a little different from the usual fare and it was also fun!

Thank you, Haley! 😀

 

 

On the Backlash Against the Writing Advice: “Write What You Know” :D

November 05, 2013 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Craft, Thoughts on Writing

So many writers. So many developing writers. So much advice…. >__<

I hope I can be forgiven for joining the fray. This isn’t so much advice but just some thoughts that’ve been percolating the past few months.

For a long while, “Write What You Know” had/has been a refrain that made its rounds among certain writing circles. It rang with a kind of truth that spoke to many of us in different ways.

Lately I’ve been seeing comments in my twitter feed, links to articles, which suggest that the idea,”write what you know,” is a creatively limiting space. Uninteresting, perhaps. Unimaginative. A narrow platform from which to develop story.

First of all let me state that all writing advice should never be taken as an absolute truth (Yikes! I think my head will explode, now….). I’m certain most writers have a healthy measure of skepticism that will serve them well. But sometimes we long for a magic formula that will see us fulfilling our dream or reaching our goal. There is no magic formula– only the persistent development of craft, the daily of labour of writing, and the moments of brilliant creative connection that can solar flare inside your mind.

There’s a lot of writing advice out there and some of it may be useful for your practice/development, and some of it may not be of any use whatsoever. Writers in the early stages of developing their voice, skills, discipline may hear a particular kind of advice at a sensitive time and find that they are affected in a negative way. This is what I’m worried about with the current trending of dismissing the advice, “Write what you know.”

The uneasiness I had felt toward this trend became clear to me when I read a marvellous interview with Sherman Alexie in The Atlantic. In the interview Alexie speaks about reading a line of poetry by Adrian C. Louis, a Paiute Indian, that changed his life. That it was a moment when Alexie realized that he could write about himself, his emotional life, and not emulate the writing of white men. That moment of recognition– of being able to see yourself when you have lived your entire life only seeing the faces and words of a people not your own– that is a moment of power, freedom and elation. For many people, writing what we know is the first step toward reclaiming our voices, our cultures, our gender, our bodies. Writing what we know can be a shout of resistance against systemic oppression. Writing what we know can save someone’s life.

Writing only what we know may not serve a writer well as she travels the long path of learning and growing. For in learning and growing we need to tread into places we do not yet know.

But I will speak out against the outright dismissal of writing what we know. Your subjectivity, your history and your embodied experiences matter. From this site a marvellous story can grow. Believe.

Contemplative Life

January 29, 2013 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Thoughts on Writing

Water Snake Year neither bobs nor floats– it’s undulating side to side even as it moves forward. I’m doubled up with work, then doubled up once again, a coil of responsibilities and deadlines.

Luckily Daughter is a cool young cat sauntering in and out of the apartment, her fake lashes and black-liner lending her a sloe-eyed nonchalance as she re-imagines and shapes her life beyond her mother.

Son is mostly a voice on the cell phone, a sometimes text message. We meet, occasionally, for supper or lunch, catching each other up on the major events of our current lives.

I remember when they were small, and needed my attention every day. When it was difficult to find the time to write. There was scarcely time to think. The night crying fevered sweats the impacted bowel chicken pox scratching the cold snapping my temper frayed the blinds, the string, I was often in a state of slight unravel….

There is time, now, to be busy with work and work. Daughter is perfectly happy, even if I’m not, with eating spicy Korean instant noodles for three nights in a row. Son is making his way in a room of his own and a mile away.

With more space and time for work, work has taken up more space and time in my life. It presses, so, upon the shoulders, the tightness at the temples, the muscles in my neck. My T-rex arms that are perpetually bent at the elbows, even when I’m sleeping.

But I am not confined to a 9-5 job. I am not confined to an office dress code or monitored by the Bradford Factor. All that is required of me is to meet my deadlines, meet the expectations of my contract jobs. (No! Not THAT KIND of contract job!)

Even in the midst of work and snake and ladder creativity, if I really need to I can close the laptop. Put on my coat. Just leave. There is space for contemplation if it is desired or needed.

A few weeks ago it was my Oba-chan’s death memorial day. I wanted to do something that honoured her. Something that reminded me of her. Something nice, quiet and beautiful. I decided to go to the Bloedel Conservatory. My grandmother loved plants and animals– she was the one who taught me through example the wonders of gardening. She always looked so peaceful working among the plants, the evenly mounded rows of soil. It was the only time she was alone, I suppose. She raised me and three of my sisters. What noise and clamour we must have been….

D joined me that late afternoon. The air was saturated with peaty wet moisture. It smelled brown. But it was far from quiet for the birds. The dark green stems and leaves of tropical trees and palms, great banana plants and the flicker chit of brilliant finches. The raucous  screechings of parrots.

The overlapping mesh of green. My grandmother was there. In the space between. In the fractal array of stems, in the tightly knotted red of a frond ready to breach. It looks like an angel being born, D said.

NewFrondDetailBloedel copy

Oba-chan in the brilliant feathers of the golden pheasant. In the softly dimpled down. In the seeds that hungry finches devoured. In the minute droplets of mist that fell upon our faces. I breathed her in and breathed her out. Come closer, I said. Oba-chan, I miss you.

Oba-chan Memorial Jan 17 2013 copy

 

A Room of One’s Own (with Semi-Detached Daughter)

July 30, 2012 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Thoughts on Writing

Ohhhh life so topsy turvy! Never boring, a little alarming, unpredictable and exciting– it’s an adventure ’tis!

Firstly, I’ve been away from true blogging for several months now (Posting wee bits of news here, an interview link there isn’t quite the same, neh?) because I got caught in a whirlwind of life changes and now, here I sit, in a room of one’s own, albeit with a semi-detached daughter.

I had planned on moving to Toronto after Daughter graduated from high school (Daughter to move with me as she’s not ready to fledge). Son is twenty-one and ready to leave the nest. And I wanted to have a fresh new start in a different city, plunge myself into a new adventure. The family house sold very quickly. I began to pack up my things and sorting my archives.

The call from SFU’s The Writer’s Studio came in early May. The Toronto move had been planned for the end of June. I was asked if I’d like to mentor genre and YA fiction in their writing program. I was speechless for several seconds. “You know I’m planning on moving to Toronto,” I said. Yes, they knew. “You’re messing with my mind,” I said. They gave me a little time to consider the position.

What to do? What to choose? I didn’t have any sort of job opportunities lined up in Toronto. I’d have to hit the sidewalk and send emails, letters, make phone calls. Hustle. Begin anew. I have friends and contacts in Toronto, but there were no guarantees. When one’s livelihood relies upon an art practice to pay the bills every source of income is precious….

Pragmatism trumped risk and change. I accepted the SFU mentoring job. I began looking for an apartment in Vancouver. Daughter was disappointed about the sudden reversal as was I and many of my Toronto friends. Vancouver friends were pleased as can be. Son, and other family members were happy as well.

Of course I was excited about the new job and anticipating the experiences I would have. I felt lucky and privileged to have been given this opportunity. And it is also discombobulating to have psychologically and emotionally prepared for a major move only to suddenly reverse course.

You choose one path instead of the others and the possibilities of that moment have been lost, but the path you chose opens up with unimagined outcomes and new junctures of change and the possible.

I love my new apartment! One of the reasons I wanted to move to Toronto was so that I could learn living in a new city and have new experiences. I’m actually getting that here. I hadn’t thought I’d feel such a difference between Burnaby (where I lived for over 10 years) and Vancouver, but it is not at all the same. I’m learning a new rhythm, a new pattern of body and environment. I’m driving far far less (yay!) and I walk a great deal more than I did before. The sounds, the textures of this place are intriguing. I love riding the bus and staring out the window. I live much closer to several friends and this has made visits so much easier and casual– I love this! There’s a greater urban thrum. Seagulls working and shrieking their night shift. The clang and clamour of garbage trucks, sirens and the making of friends with neighbourhoods cats. The refrigerator alternates between playing Galaga and attracting crickets. The punky smell of weed rising from the back alley, drifting through the building. I’m certain there’s over fifty restaurants in a 2 kilometer radius! The pleasure and pain of learning to grow plants on a balcony. The pleasure of a balcony.

This is a new chapter in my life. Daughter is still seventeen and there are several more years before she is ready to go off on her own, but I feel like my role as full-on “mothering mother” has shifted to something a little more relaxed and looser. Of course I’ll always be a mother to her and my son, but I’m feeling less the urgency and responsibility to place the children’s needs before my own. They need me less and I feel like if the things I’ve tried to teach them ’til now didn’t stick, repeating those lessons will not do any of us any good at this point.

Trying to be a parent who was present and engaged with their development (as much as I was able to) took a lot of time. I didn’t know what kind of time it would take. I don’t suppose a lot of people know until they actually have children and then we see. (I don’t resent the time it took to parent them– it would be bloody ridiculous of me if I did feel resentment, I mean I brought them into this world for chrissakes! It riles me up when I hear parents saying things like, “You should be grateful to me for bringing you into this world. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.” My eyes bulge wide with incredulity. The child had no say in the matter! The child didn’t ask you to be their parent! The parent brought them into a world they may not have chosen of their own accord. The onus is on the parent to be the best they can rather than the reverse. Tho not to suggest, however, that the child has no responsibilities.)

I’ve always wanted a room of my own ~___~ . I’ve always lived with other people…. Yes, my lovely semi-detached daughter is with me and this is very enjoyable too. Now and then I tell her to wash the dishes or clean the bathroom, but we both give each other a lot of space. Son has moved into a bachelor pad about 10 blocks away from our apartment. Sometimes I ask him if he’d like to drop by after work. He comes in late smelling of kitchen oil, a little rumpled and tired. I ask him if he’d like to eat some leftover stew. He says he prefers to pack it up and relax at home. I put the stew in a yoghurt container and in a plastic bag. We hug and he goes off in the night.

There is more space in my life now that I am not a full-on mothering mother. I call my own hours, structure meals around hunger and time errands to my liking. I can delve into novels and ideas like they are rooms I can inhabit for as long as like. There’s no one keeping time (Well, of course there are deadlines! It’s not complete LaLaland after all. Good thing, too. ‘Cause otherwise I’d just roll around in fancy as if I’m a caterpillar with a hookah!) and it’s all left me rather giddy. And happy.

I guess I’m a middle-aged fledgling of a kind…. Leapt from the great stick nest and riding the warm updraft.

 

The E-Racing of The Hunger Games : Race & Cultures in Fiction

March 30, 2012 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Books & Films, Craft, Thoughts on Writing

I didn’t want to add to The Hunger Games hype but the recent swell of responses to matters tied with race compelled me to share some thoughts.

For those who haven’t been following the situation, the film, The Hunger Games adapted from a novel of the same title, is currently wildly popular (Please note I haven’t watched the film yet. I’ve read the trilogy some time ago.). After the release of the film many of the fans of the books have taken to social media to air their disappointment, dismay, unhappiness, indignation, etc. that some of the key characters were cast as black when they had thought them white instead. Some of the comments are overtly racist. Some mildly so. Though it’s disheartening to see so many people respond this way I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised. I do think if there’s one good thing about this situation it’s an opportunity to talk about race, representation, systemic racism, expectation, and diversity. As teachers say, it’s become a “teachable moment”. There’s a lot out there where you can view and evaluate for yourself. An excellent  article in The New Yorker and on tumblr, Hunger Game Tweets where racist commentary on the race of characters in the film are being compiled and reposted.

I feel less intellectually and emotionally involved with the amount of racism that’s made itself visible in this situation than people might first imagine. As a Japanese Canadian who’s grown up in Canada I’ve personally experienced a wide range of racially charged interactions from the weirdly mildly polite racist to outright hatred. That racism is there, beneath the surface, and springs forth at different times is not news to me, nor to a great many other people. It’s troubling, of course, but what is made visible is easier to address. Clearly there’s a lot more work for everyone to do.

As a writer who is keenly aware of the importance of race and representation and diversity in fiction I’m very much interested in:

1) How the readers read the characters as white in the novel in the first place. (Thereby leading them to feel “disappointment” when they see how the characters are cast on film.) 

2) How writers write about race and represent race in fiction. 

1) I’m actually not surprised that a great many people read characters like Rue as white in the novel because aside from a mention of dark eyes and brown skin there is nothing mentioned in terms of race. As far as I can recall (sorry, no longer have copies of the novels), The Hunger Games future dystopic is post-racial; people are only identified by skin tone and eye colour and/or as a group via their District.

Brown eyes and brown skin does not automatically assign race if you are not seeking to see it. For instance, Rue’s district was a grower of orchards. Her brown skin could have been a result of working outdoors all of the time. Brown eyes does not necessarily signal racial background. One physical trait, however, that would have signalled Rue’s racial identity/ies as Black would have been a description of her hair. If Collins had described her hair as kinky, or wiry, or perhaps in numerous tight plaits the reader would have made a more solid connection to Rue’s race(s) of origin. But Collins did not include (or the editor advised her to delete it?) this distinctive detail. I noted this absence when I read The Hunger Games. I noticed that Katniss has “olive skin”, black hair and grey eyes– that there are some traits, but no links and ties to more concrete clues that point directly to race.

Why?

Critically, I’m inclined to think that it was a conscious choice by the author and publisher to take a kind of beige-browny “generic” race approach. I call this effect on characters as being  cosmetically brown or melaninated. Vague-races do not have the power to unsettle and disturb any one person’s world views. Nothing is twigged in terms of learned and systemically sustained bigotries. And it also magically erases current racial realities and legacies we’ve still not dealt with. Leaving the racial topography vague also means that readers can insert their own world vision in terms of demographics. Appeal to everyone, discomfort no one (Well, except for me, and others like me…. >__< ). Vague-races also means that the author does not have “to worry about race” in her story. I would have loved to have seen actual descriptions of different races in the Districts. It would have taken the stories to a totally different level.

This racial vagueness in The Hunger Games has led to readers placing their own racial selections onto the characters and when they watched the film for the first time their worldview was disrupted. It does not surprise me that they felt disappointment upon seeing a race different from what they had imagined from the cues they decoded from the story– textual representation and filmic representation are experienced in different ways by the eyes, our minds and bodies. I’m not saying that it’s okay for readers to be bigots– I’m turning my focus toward the responsibility of the writer to be specific and concrete on something that’s so important, fraught, and potentially a matter of life and death (as pointed out by Anna Holmes in The New Yorker article).

2) Race and racial and cultural identities can be written about in many different ways. There are never any absolutes; racial identity is complex and widely varied. As writers we often must resort to some kinds of shorthand methods. How much the plot centres around race can range from next to nothing to central to the text. But in terms of realistic depictions of humans, race is one of the biggest concerns in our lived lives. It’s careless and problematic to ignore it in our stories.

Some ways race is conveyed in fiction:

a) Specific physical traits in a social and cultural context. Certainly skin colour, but also hair. Shape of eyes. Height. Body type. We must be careful to avoid tired cliched and stereotypical shorthand ways of description, however. We’re writers– we’re a creative bunch. In what kinds of new ways can we detail physical traits? (If I have to read one more description of a girl of Asian background as having “almond eyes” I’m going to dig out my eye with a pen!)

b) Languages. Of course languages speak across race and cultures and we should not be reductive in our treatment of the their connections. I.e. The statement, “She’s Japanese so she only speaks Japanese”, is clearly reductive and problematic. People can speak numerous languages completely separate from race. However, there can be a strong correlation. In a far future, how would have languages shifted/altered. Wouldn’t there be greater blending of diverse languages for certain communities?

c) Tied to language are character names. Names can also signal racial diversity. I found it notable that the names used in The Hunger Games were again disconnected with any kinds of cultures of origin other than English-speaking. Katniss is a type of plant. As is her younger sister’s name. Gale is, of course, a storm. Rue is also a plant-based name. The names provide no links to our known references of racial identities or connections to the practice of being named after ancestors, etc.

d) Cultural practices. Again, like language, cultural practices aren’t absolute and there’s a great deal of crossover and complexity. However, there are cultural practices that have passed down through hundreds (if not over a thousand) of years that we can identify as having racial and cultural connections. The Hunger Games do not detail any cultural practices that we can identify with in our current lives. It may be said that the survival situation in the Districts are so dire that there’s not space or room for any kinds of cultural practices. I remain unconvinced.

e) Religions. Like cultural practices religions also move across races, but there are also correlations. I don’t remember any kind of religious practice being described in the world of The Hunger Games.

f) Food and preparation of. I can’t recall any food descriptors that depicted food connections to diverse races. Food is very much identified with cultures and races. For a narrative that focussed upon the lack of it for many, and the abundance of it for the elite few, I think Collins was again very generic in terms of actually detailing any kind of racial specificity to the foodstuffs. In a key scene Katniss receives a gift of a bun or loaf from Rue’s District  (and presumably her peoples). This could have been a moment when Collins could have signalled more specificity re: race/culture via choice of food item. The bun/loaf was very generically Western/Euro. Different cultures have different variations of breads, ie. injera, roti, mantou, naan, tortilla, etc. Her selection of a food item again locates a racial subjectivity that gestures mostly toward a whiteness.

I found The Hunger Games to be well-plotted and a page-turner– I enjoyed what it did well despite noticeable elisions in the narrative. It was entertaining and it was also commendable that the hero was a girl with some measure of agency. But the handling of (or lack of) specific races and sexualities meant that it toed a very “safe” line insomuch that the narrative did not disturb generic normative readings. Maybe Collins did not want to make the story “about race”. This is her prerogative, of course. However, that does not mean that the novel is exempt from criticism over how it’s been rendered. Fiction has an impact upon how we see the world, how we see ourselves in this world, how we imagine ourselves, and how others imagine us. We need to be able to speak to that, the relational between fiction and reality.

Note: I didn’t have a copy of the novel in front of me while I wrote what’s turned out to be a much longer post than I originally intended. So potential for mis-rememberings of the text– I read the novel last summer, I think. Please let me know if I’ve screwed up!

 

“Making It”

March 20, 2012 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Thoughts on Writing

Second article up in The Afterword column of National Post. Musings upon the idea of “making it” as a writer (probably similar to experiences of artists and musicians, etc.) and what it means to me.

“Why so dark, YA?”

March 19, 2012 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Editorials, Thoughts on Writing

Check out my guest editorial in National Post’s “Afterword”.

Public Face, Art as Product

January 29, 2012 By: Hiromi Category: Blog, Business of Writing, Thoughts on Writing

I’m still trying to get over this. Or integrate. <grin>

I have to confess that the business side of writing is not my favourite part. Certainly there are many writers who are more extroverted and enjoy speaking about themselves and their latest book. They do a great service for boosting their own profile; after all, if we can’t get readers interested in picking up the finished book, if we can’t get it read, the project fails. Without readers books are inanimate objects (except for that person who’s made the most wondrous sculptures out of books!). We are writing these books so that they shall be read.

So why this reticence to self-promote, why so uncomfortable about using my person(ality) to foreground a project I believe in and worked very hard at completing?

Part of it is cultural. ~__~ . I don’t know if this is a cheap excuse. But anything that was anywhere near to “bragging”, even “self-promotion”, could be seen as a form of self-aggrandizement, a mark of a weak character. Not noble. Not “classy”. Clearly there are a lot of imbedded problems with this model– I know! But, man, those childhood lessons sear into bone.

Of course I believe in my own novel. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. But I still have a lingering reservation about sales-pitching my own work. Clearly I must overcome this aversion because after the creative art process of writing, the book published by a publisher definitely enters the public space simultaneously as an art project as well as a product. The product exists in a market. The book is not only something that is read, but it is also something that is bought.

The buying part is important because if you are an artist who is making her living with her writing how well the book sells matters a great deal! I am nowhere near a “comfortable” place in income earnings. I get by each year by hook and by crook (not crookedly!). So in practical terms I should be busting my ass with promo after the book is in my hands. But I bite my lower lip and avert my gaze, hoping that someone else can do this for me….

Well! Tomorrow morning I have a Skype meeting with my publicist about “key message points”! And I will listen carefully and learn some new ways of talking about my art. Because I have moved past the “art-creation” point in the project, and into the region of “business and sales”.

And I’m really pleased with how Darkest Light turned out. I am ~__~. I hope you will be too.