Archive for May, 2008


May 7th, 2008 4 comments


There are questions that many new or would-be writers ask me, an old or has-been writer, and I thought this a good month in which to share those questions.

Also my answers.

Q: Is it true that a good title is the most important selling point for a book?

A. Yes. For that reason, you should call your novel GONE WITH THE WIND.

Unless it’s a diet book, for which you might find a more suitable title.

Unless your original diet book title was THE LOW FAT, NO CARBS, FAT ASS DIET, which is almost as good as GONE WITH THE WIND.

Q. I’ve heard that poetry is booming. Should I pursue my interest in poetry with a thought to making it my career?

A. Take a look and you will see that most major cities that still have newspapers have column after column of “Poets Wanted” in the job listings. Poets are in every bit as much demand as radio repair technicians and buggy whip socket installers.

Think … Your Future in Poetry!

Q. If Oprah chooses my book will I become an overnight sensation, wealthy beyond my wildest dreams?

A. Yes, but it won’t happen. Oprah and I spoke yesterday. She says she doesn’t like you.

Q. There are many colleges offering degrees in creative writing. Should I think about creative writing as a major as opposed to computer science?

A. Definitely. There are over 400 USA colleges in the Associated Writing Program granting degrees at Bachelor’s or Graduate levels and more than a few of them employ my friends–while Columbia College in Chicago employs me. I’d like to see that employment continue.

Q. What can a writer expect to earn a year?

A. I don’t feel like showing you my W-2s or 1099s, but you should know that I now set aside one day a week, the day the Purolator truck arrives, just to count money.

You will not earn money like, say, a podiatrist or a the Minister of Recreation and Leisure in Iraq, but you’ll do more than all right.

Q. Why do so many writers have trouble with alcohol?

A. I’ll tell you if you buy me a drink.

Q. Should writers be active politically?

A. If I didn’t think this were so, if I didn’t believe that writers must be engaged in and active citizens of their world, then I wouldn’t be supporting Norman Thomas in the race for the White House.

Q. How come so many bad books get published every year?

A. You are buying into a common misconception. Research clearly shows that no bad books get published. Only good books get published.

Okay, there was once a bad book published. It was called GONE WITH THE BREEZE.

But Oprah didn’t choose it.

So it tanked.

Q. Why do so many writers like jazz?

A. They dig jazz, they dig it. That’s because Louis Armstrong gave advice to the band and to all of us when he said, “Not too slow, not too fast. Not half slow, not half fast.”

Q. Why isn’t there more substance to your column this time around?

A. Because last night I worked late to finish up a novella you’ll be able to read in DOORWAYS magazine. It’s called THE DOCTOR, THE KIDS, AND THE GHOSTS IN THE LAKE and it’s part of my “Imagined Hemingways” fictions and I’m at least 86% pleased with it.

Because today I taught a four hour class in writing and had conferences with two students, one of which was kinda tough, because the student is working on some reality based fiction dealing with his harrowing experiences in a recent war.

Because soon SOUTH PARK will be on and my wife Jane and I like to watch SOUTH PARK, thereby proving that we are hip AARP members.

Because sometimes these STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED columns can be just a little fun fluff foo-foo to write without the world suddenly shifting off-axis and heading for a collision with the planet Mongo.

Because I need a wee break before—tomorrow–I undertake writing my big new novel: GONE WITH THE MONSOON.

(Which Oprah’s already said she likes.)

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