Tag Archives: Writing

Inspiration and Sage Advice for Budding Scribes

26 Aug

I am often asked for tips on “making it in the writing biz.” I am always, of course, too happy to offer inspiration and help to those readers who see me as their hero.

Unfortunately, though, becoming a good writer is quite honestly not really something the average person can do. Good writers are born, not made.  So my first tip to would-be authors is to ensure that your ancestors’ breeding stock is of the highest caliber, that your inheritance is substantial and that your family name alone will guarantee that publishers will fall over themselves to take a look at your work.

Once you’ve done that, the sky is your oyster.  You will need to write, write, write. If you want this to be your vocation, you must commit to actually doing it. A cobbler spends eight hours a day cobbling, a writer must do the same. The profession is called writing for a reason so be prepared to write until you are blue in the hands. Even with my huge back catalog, I still pull my chair up to the desk and watch Christopher type for as many hours a day as I’ve had hot dinners. I do this without complaint: I accept that, as a wordsmith, this is my cross to bear.

Assuming you have already studied my own books, I would suggest that you not really waste more time in reading others’.  Most of what is published today is shite, and writers don’t have the time to be dealing in shite. Be aware of the classics, of course, so that you can participate fully in literary conversations. But don’t let anyone influence you. Doing so is in the most questionable taste. Just this morning when I opened my post, I found a request for my criticism on the work of twenty-year-old poet. I turned the page to see a sonnet beginning “My mistress’ eyes are like a cinnamon bun” and immediately stopped reading.  Above everything, you must be original or you will be destined for the bin, where I confess that poem now resides.

crumpled-paperFinally, I’ve no doubt many a fool has already suggested that you “write what you know.” Though pithy, this recommendation is worthless. Please take a moment to consider this advice from Miss Agatha Whitt-Wellington: look around your room, look at yourself in the mirror, look at the faces of your friends and family. My guess is that after this quick assessment of your life, you’ll realise that “what you know” is hardly worth knowing, let alone writing or reading about. A writer must be honest and I am trying to be honest with you now. Your life is boring and would not make a good book. Don’t be fooled by encouraging spouses, supportive friends or doctors unwilling to diagnose you as delusional.

Writing is a ruthless business so prepare yourself for rejection. Even I myself have had pieces rejected and it is difficult.  There’s no denying that. But if you are as dedicated and as talented a writer as possible, you just may find success. It can happen. And if it doesn’t, there are other things out there for you, I am sure.  Life is a journey, and we must all make our own paths. If writing is the path for you, trust the process and your talent will clear the way of potholes, stray tacks and rodent carcasses. If it turns out that your path is not as creative, don’t fear, for we will all end up dead and alone eventually, darlings.

Now get to work!

Everyone Needs an Algonquin

17 May

When I was breakfast editor for Rupert Stanley Quim’s magazine Specific Monthly, I often found myself eating lunch at the famous (or infamous) Cafe Grandmother. It was not unusual for the likes of detective writer Derek Pinpoint, novelist Ginger Readers and her cronies and other notable writers to join me. I recall us gossiping, eating blueberry pancakes or BLT sandwiches and generally just having a smashing time. Reminiscing about these years brings to mind another group of quick wits who gathered at a round table, throwing their coins down, telling secrets, cracking jokes and sleeping with each others’ mates. I am thinking, of course, of my mother’s bridge group in Trenton, New Jersey.

These ladies would get together each Tuesday afternoon, most often at our house since we seemed to have, based on the women’s weekly comments, the nicest drapes. In retrospect I suppose it was our ever full liquor cabinet that really drew them in, but I wouldn’t want to hurt my mother’s feelings. If she had them. But I remember as a youngster sitting at the top of the stairs, peering down at the lacquered hairstyles, the crossed legs and the cigarettes burning down to ash. I can hear now in my mind’s eye the laughing which grew in both intensity and decibels as the day wore on (and the liquor bottles drained). I remember hearing the voices, hushed but excited, sharing secrets and insults (the words “embezzling” and “stupid bastard,” to this day, take me back to those innocent afternoons) and I so wanted to grow up to be one of those ladies. (I had hoped by the time I was old enough to lacquer my hair, another one of the ladies would have bought nicer drapes so we could meet elsewhere, thereby excluding my mother.) But unfortunately I found that, as I grew older, this sort of bonding had become a thing of the past. If I had not been blessed with such talent as a writer, I may never have even experienced those few years eating with Derek, Ginger and friends. The days of intimates getting together to enjoy the misery of others just simply don’t exist in our work-a-day world.

Which leads me to my point that young people today just seem too isolated. My advice to them, and to you, reader, if you find yourself lonely or disconnected, is to get married. Too many young people stay single, “trying to find themselves.” That’s not what life is about. Life is about alcoholic laughs and betrayal and embezzlement. The burdens of a spouse lead directly to that kind of happiness. Just ask my mother or her friend, Shirley. They’re both listed, but don’t bother calling on a Tuesday afternoon. Or just call my parents’ house then, but hang up when she answers. That really gets her goat.

Best of luck, little ones!