Preface: This is not directed at a specific person. You know me…if I have a problem with you, you will know! I have, within the past four months, experienced this very scenario more than twice, which provoked me to prepare this letter. The “You” in reference is an amalgamation of the culprits of this terrible, divisive behavior. Do you recognize someone in your region like this? Do you recognize…yourself? Here we go…
You and I haven’t met personally, but I was in the crowd that night you were the featured author and speaker for a literary event. I love these; they allow me an opportunity to kick back and absorb a fellow literary artist at play, as well as allow me to learn while being entertained. I drove quite a way to get to the venue, and I made it to my seat the moment you stood at the microphone.
You either weren’t in the mood to be there, or you didn’t care if anyone was there to hear your art, for the moment you started speaking, you felt compelled to tell us all we were the unfortunate ones. We fellow composers, we choreographers of words, us language artists fiercely painting the scenario behind the eyes, are nothing without a major publisher. Huh?
Hardbacks of literary interpretations of your world sat on the stool beside you as you extolled the virtues of a true writer: literary agent, book deal, major publishing label. I recall arching an eyebrow, waiting for the punch line, then widening both eyes once it was clear you were being serious! Artistry, soul, technique, a talent for storytelling? None of these attributes came from your smug lips. You admonished those (me) who have gone the route of self-publishing, claiming, “There’s no real style in those works.” To stand there and boldly state the art form has been cheapened by the advent of digital media, sounds much like a person resistant to change.
Dear guest-speaker-turned-hyperbolic-lecturer, pure artistry is change agency. What we plume or type or swipe can never be un-experienced once it leaves our writing surface. Regardless of format delivered in, an accomplished author should savor the fact that there remains, rather strongly too, a voracious reading community, and we should honor their appreciation for our beloved art form by publishing in whatever gawddamn format they want!
Sorry, that seemed a bit proselytic.
The second slap to our faces was when you asked for a show of hands, “Who in here is serious about writing?” Don’t take the bait! I remembered thinking, then cringed when I saw slow wriggles into the air. You told those earnest raised hands they needed to come out of pocket. Invest in conferences. Arrange meetings with agents. Travel out of state to the big conventions. There I felt a bit of relief, because in that moment, you exposed your cards. You’re not an artist, you’re an elitist! How dare you burn those fingers hailed towards you? They, like me, are expecting your wisdom, but in your pomposity, you demonstrated you are a fraud.
You know what you could have done, featured acclaimed author? You could have exercised some compassion. Instead of coming off as Ayn Rand’s disciple – I’ve got mine, you better get yours! – you could’ve relayed some of your challenges when you were at our low level. You could’ve shared with us how you managed your personal affairs while preparing your manuscript. You could have shared how you kept the romance alive with your physical lover while deeply engaged with your spiritual lover. Instead, you jangled your hardbacks triumphantly over your head, as if car keys in the air at a football match, indicating game over, time for you busters to go home.
Were you really that surprised when you asked for closing questions, and nobody asked any? I do have a question for you now, sweet, delusional sage upon the mountain top, and I’d really like your honest answer: What do you value most…the commas separating words, or the commas separating numbers? Such is the indicator of a true literary artist versus a true schlub of an entertainer.