Literary Masturbation?

I’m a writer, but not much of a blogger, it seems.  Guess I’ll try again.

Today I saw “The 25 Most Intriguing Book Jackets of the Year.”  Loved it.  Then moved on to find the most exhilarating website for ebook covers – I never plan to really use it, of course, besides my “baby” will be a real book and not an ebook, but it’s SO MUCH fun to just look…

As a writer, I want the traditional “white wedding,” with an agent who helps me secure Mr. Right, an editor to advise me and fix all my flaws before the big day, a publisher to walk me down the aisle, and a publicist to record every second of that stellar, one-brief-moment event.  The way it was meant to be, right?

Like our mothers told us, “true love waits,” and I will not sell out before the time comes.  I have an MFA and twenty-eight years teaching experience; no adjunct professorship will consider me “clean” if I self-sell my wares without the proper guardianship expected before that all-important first cotillion, right?

So I will be a good girl, and keep writing, re-writing, and sending out these useless queries to agents who never read them and small presses who have enough seasoned horses in their stables to last until virtual ponies are the norm or even passé.  Because true love waits, right?

But today I found this website of inexpensive, pre-made ebook covers.  They are glaringly colorful, tawdry, and simply SCREAM “the wrong kind of woman.”  I would die a self-starved virgin before I would consider wrapping my perfect child within such cheap harlot’s clothing, but I have to admit that a little fantasy never hurt anyone.  Right?

“Absolutely not,” I’ll tell them, pushing my hair back from my eyes and swallowing that sweet, dry taste of too much, too soon.  “My book is set in the deep south—nix on the oceanfront cover.”

I’ll have hundreds of reasons to say no, enjoying the flirtatious banter of each one.

“Why is her blouse falling off the shoulder, and where is his other hand?  Not appropriate!”  I may even manage to blush.

“All the heroines look like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Anniston.  I need Mary Steenburgen.”  That should let ‘em know I mean business.

“Are there any covers that don’t have Barbie and Ken figures?  And what’s up with all the mist?”  I’ll have them sweating, groveling at the feet of one who simply knows her stuff.

“Is there a reason for using so many pics from the Microsoft Clip Gallery? What’s with the symbolism—a gun here, a skull and crossbones there, a caldron, a partridge, and a pear tree? ”

I’ll state my concerns, then finally ask—

“Why is everything so damned shiny?”

The possibilities are endless.  I’m having more fun than I ever have sending queries, and besides, this is a secret.  No one needs to know, just a little gratification to keep me going ‘til the real thing comes along.  Right?

I will never sell out.  True love waits.  But to heck with explaining it—find it yourselves.

I have temporarily abandoned my search for truth and am stopping now to enjoy a good fantasy.  Merry Christmas, folks!


Not Your Average Mother’s Day Blog…

She made my wedding dress from four magazine photos and no pattern.  She designed and installed draperies for my high school’s auditorium. When I started a new school in fifth grade, she presented all twenty-four of my new classmates with a handmade Christmas gift.   Today, I can’t be sure that I said so much as a “thank you” for any of the above, but she seemed to take it in stride.  She was my mother, and that was simply what mothers did.

Adopted as an infant by a barren woman of forty, I was my parents’ long awaited miracle. Though a “daddy’s girl” for a lifetime, my mother taught me so many things: the importance of church work, setting a proper table, understanding the intricacies of our family tree, manners and etiquette and writing thank-you notes.  She tried to teach me to finish seams, make darts, set in zippers, and embroider.  Together we read the Bible, memorizing new verses each week.  We prayed for home and foreign missionaries, took casseroles to the sick and the dying and my outgrown clothes to “less fortunate” little girls in the community.

“Be Ye Doers of the Word,” my mother would sing in her scratchy, non-musical voice, followed by “Every Day with Jesus” and “This Little Light of Mine.”  Hide it under a bushel? No!  I never quite understood what it meant, but I fell in step with the order and routine of being a good girl, from a good family, doing all the right things that showed the world she was a good mother, raising me right. She was a very good mother. Yet perhaps her greatest acts of maternal devotion were those never seen by the rest of the world and known only to me.

Fifth grade, that monumental year of discovering that away from my home, my church, and my tiny community, I seemed to amount to nothing at all.  Just before Christmas, I finally felt a minuscule flash of accomplishment, winning an essay contest sponsored by the regional DAR.  My teacher, my mother, and I were “treated” to a lovely lunch of rubber chicken and green beans at a local chapter meeting, where after reading from my essay I was given a medal and a savings bond.  (I wondered if other fifth graders would find this event interesting: My guess was NO.)

About to decide that I’d rather have been at school with my non-friendly classmates, one of the DAR officials seated at our table began to drill my mother on our family history.  When they asked about our lineage, my mother talked of the family Bible, birth, death and marriage certificates, boxes of letters and photos, and a hundred-year genealogy she’d completed though never published.  A kind, blue-haired lady began to explain census records, military service records, and how to contact the vital records office for hard copies constituting proof of what my mother already knew.  We left the meeting with a large manila envelope of DAR info, and my mother was positively radiant at the prospect of becoming the Revolution’s newest daughter. I was confused but a little proud, too; my mother seldom got excited over anything for herself.

Her energy grew continually in the coming weeks.  I’d come home from school each day to younger, happier woman who had cleared the dining room table (used a half dozen times a year for meals and serving as layout area for sewing projects the rest of the time)  and covered it in Xeroxed legal documents, yellowing letters, old photos and an elongated family tree, a map-like genealogy diagram held together from the back with Scotch-brand invisible tape. The tree seemed to grow longer and more elaborate on a daily basis.

As quickly as the whirlwind began, it ended.  I came home from school one day, and the dining room was cleared of all but a navy polyester, its sixty inch width doubled and covered with a Butterick dress pattern she was pinning to it.  A new dress for me.

“What happen to all the family stuff?” I asked.  “Did you finish your work and get it all sent in?”  The project had practically consumed her for three weeks.  It had surely taken the better part of a day just to put away the mounds of artifacts.

“Oh, that,” she said, sounding nonchalant to the point of boredom.  I didn’t get it.

“I decided it was a waste of time and effort,” she said. “Who cares if about proving where we came from?  Just knowing it was enough for my mother, her mother and all those before.  It’ll be good enough for me, too.”

I thought a heard a glitch in her voice, and I was sure the glassy look in her eyes was the product of stifled tears, but I was in fifth grade.  When things got awkward, we simply walked away.

“I’m going to my room, lots of homework,” I lied.  My mother nodded, never looking me in the eye, intent on lifting the scissors, then guiding them around the paper pattern and through the cloth.

It would be years before we discussed that day or the DAR again, but my father told me later that night that she had made a decision not to pursue membership in the organization.

“But why?” I asked.  “It’s all she’s talked about since the day we went to that lunch thing.  She was so crazy-excited about it.  What happened?”

He looked it me with that weird, dazed look he always got when singing the praises of my mother.  I hated that look; it made me feel weird, and embarrassed and a little jealous.

“Your mother loves you more than anything else on this earth,” he said.  “She found out, after she got all her documents in order, that because you were adopted, the lineage to the DAR stops with her.  It doesn’t descend to non-blood relatives.”

I felt tears sting my eyes as I swallowed the lump in my throat.

“But I don’t care about being in the DAR,” I said.  “Why can’t she just do it for herself? I mean, after she did all the work and all…”

“I figured as much, and tried to tell her, but it was no use.  Your mother wants no part in an organization that doesn’t recognize you.”

Life went on, and like I said, it was years before we talked about the DAR.  It was like the whole event never happened.

I grew up.  I’d like to say we became closer through the years, but that would be a lie.  Face to face, I always felt as though I never quite measured up, never towed the line in the Southern Baptist, homemaker, church worker and do-gooder tradition set before me. It seemed no matter what I did, I was always slightly under par. My oldest daughter filled in the gap, growing closer to my mother than I would ever be.  On her deathbed, she called me by my daughter’s name.

Yet I know that when I wasn’t there, was not standing with her, face-to-face, I did measure up. I was a half-century old before I realized her judgments were all an act. I was always the miracle of her life, even if she didn’t tell me. When she spoke of me to anyone else, the President, the Secretary of Education, even Rodgers & Hammerstein dulled in comparison.  But she never told me – guess it would’ve gone to my head.

Not much of an excuse for never saying thank you. But it’s the only one I have.

Another year, another Mother’s Day.  Why is it that every year, I seem to remember more and more things for which I never said thank you, and I have a feeling it will only get worse?

My mother attended two years of teacher’s college, yet she drew floor plans for her house, did “bookkeeping” for several mid-sized businesses and did her best to teach an ungrateful daughter all the more important facets of honest, Christian living.

Mom, I really did learn – it just took a long time for the learning to take effect.  Thank you, Mother, for everything. Whatever good is in me today, it all started with you.  Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Another Writers’ Conference (Written in third person to sound more – authentic?)

The day had finally arrived: she would spend two glorious days soaking up the smell and feel and aura of all things associated with good books, sneaking in the back door at the Conference on Southern Literature in Chattanooga.

Why did she say “sneaking in?”  She wasn’t sure.  She’d paid $60, the only requirement for being present, and there were no credentials she’d had to present in order to get the name badge and canvas bag that signified her as one of the profound and artsy people allowed to attend events, listen to speakers, stand in line for autographs, and buy more books.  Yet the feeling of not-quite-belonging remained, allowing her to feast upon the given bounty with euphoric enthusiasm while always looking over her shoulder, assuming that at any moment the invisible “book police” might sniff her out, exposing her for the more-than-reader-but-not-yet-author she really was.  Even so, fear of being caught can be a near-aphrodisiac, and with each new and inspiring thought she grabbed onto, the excitement at simply being a part of it all seemed to multiply.

The first day—not as organized as she expected.  With the opening panel of guests, when the PA system is not working at all, she thinks the sparse audience should at least try to be quiet so that these esteemed authors can be heard, but no such luck.  Then comes the grand opening event – the premiere of the documentary film (of the autobiography she’d just finished reading last night.)  The author, as well as the director and producer of the film are on stage, while cell phones are ringing in various chairs of the auditorium seating below.  People actually ANSWER the phones; a few leave the room to complete their calls, others talk from their seats in what they seem to think are quiet voices.  They aren’t.

Next session – “New FSW Writers.” She’s so green here, she’s not even sure what those letters stand for, but reads the printed program and puts together enough to assume that this may be Fellowship of Southern Writers or something therein.  She is “geared” for this one: Being somewhat of a “workshop junkie” of this genre, she’s read at least one book from all the folks on the panel, actually ALL the books of one, who she’s seen at a previous conference and didn’t realize was a “southern” author.

“Oh!” she thinks, hearing in the moderator’s introduction that the author, though born in California, now lives in Tennessee.  So even here, in a birthplace of southern gentility, we do what we have to do to get bestsellers on the ticket.  Oh well, she likes the author a lot and doesn’t really mind.

They read from their latest works, and she is transported to that place that only good books can take her.  She makes a note of the titles, knowing she’ll buy the ones available now and preorder the other one from Amazon.  Oh boy – now there’s some kind of tribute to a poet.  She grits her teeth but knows that this, too, will pass.  She learned back in school that poets were like Baptist preachers – the perfect time to plan to-do lists, Christmas lists, and other such boring but much-needed tasks.  And this poet, when he finally got to read, was actually interesting; she smiled at the images, laughed at the jokes, even got a little teary-eyed at the conclusion, but she knew better than to add this book to her list of must-haves.  The MFA program had taught her at least that much; she COULD listen to good poets read their work, but buying it to reread herself was a waste of trees and shelf-space.

Another panel discussion – this one she’d dreamed about since the first advertisement brochure: “A Writer’s Response to Environmental Threats – Preserving the Southern Landscape.”  Four writers she loved and a poet she’d at least heard of would talk about the South and how sense of place created and maintained the genre they all had in common.

This one is formatted a bit strangely; each author reads a couple of paragraphs of work, then talks about their own connections to environmental issues and how this affects the work.  The first author was a long time favorite: she’d been following Great Southern Authoress since her own days as a library assistant back in the 80’s. Exciting as it is to hear her, she can’t fully concentrate on the words; just seeing her on stage, in person, is like running into a long-lost friend, and her mind begins to wander.

She remembers the first time she actually SAW Authoress, standing at some sort of arts and crafts booth at the Decatur Book Festival, three years ago.  She stopped what she was doing, picked up some nearby object and pretended to ponder its details, just as an excuse to keep standing there, watching and listening.  She remembers the long, flowing skirt that Authoress wore, the glints in her dark hair under the sunlight, how she laughed casually about promising not to bring home anymore “treasures” because her house was running over.  She had sounded just like a real person, which didn’t seem right, yet of course it WAS right, since Authoress’s  stories were some of the most REAL she’d ever experienced.  She remembers the eerie feeling she’d gotten when it seemed that Authoress had been inside her family home, met her relatives, and actually seen inside her head as to how she felt about them.  And there she was, in normal clothes she might buy herself, walking around at the same book event, breathing the same air that she did. Amazing!

Of course, that had been her FIRST book festival.  She’d been to many since, and learned not to be quite so star-struck by the creators of the words she so loved.  Still, seeing Authoress again is almost embarrassing, bringing back memories of how desperate she’d once been.

The Authoress finishes, and the next author begins.  Epic Tale Writer is her absolute favorite—she’d read all his books, even the poetry.  Knowing what he’s given the world, it’s a bit hard NOT to feel a sort of god-like presence as he speaks.  She loves the way, after first reading his novels, she’d found their beginnings in his short stories, knowing from a previous reading that this happened when “the characters simply weren’t through with him.”  The passage he reads now she knows well, but she still feels a slight chill as picturesque images set her up for the painful climax ahead.  Good stuff.

His environmental rant is almost poetry itself, reminding her of her father’s descriptions of the flora and fauna he cherished each day on the farm.  And once again, she finds it hard to hear every word, since her mind seems to go ADD in a hundred directions – back to the book, to her father, to other great books about streams and hollers and disappearing mountaintops—and then strangely back to the speaker himself, who she’d forgotten was better looking than Robert Redford.  It’s a kind of sensory overload – she is almost relieved when his time was over.

The Poetess reads.  Her words are as beautiful as the writer/reader, and she looks like a perfect cross between fairy and fashion model.  She is from New Orleans, and writes of the power and pain and rebirth caused by Katrina.  The awesomely hot Epic Tale Writer is seated next to her, and he looks at her intently as she speaks.   He smiles, nods, agrees, mesmerized by her every word.  Or maybe he is mesmerized by her beauty.  No way, she thinks, he is a saint and probably never thinks about things like that.  But the Poetess IS beautiful, and everything she says is so descriptive, and passionate, and wonderful, and—oh my god, she shudders,  Here she is in a room full of intelligent, well-read, artsy people, and she is getting turned on, imagining herself as the Poetess, being admired by the Hot Epic Tale Writer.  This is the stuff of which soap operas are made—extremely BAD soap operas.  She shakes her head, sits up straighter, and manages to focuses on the discussion at hand until the session concludes.  She vows to do better tomorrow.

Day Two.  It begins with a tribute to Harper Lee.  She hears nothing she didn’t already know, but it’s nice to know there’s a plethora of people who feel the same way she does about this iconic author and book.  Then there’s another panel discussion, “Revisions and All That Jazz,” presented by a poet she’s heard before, one she hasn’t, and (great!) Hot Epic Story Writer again.  Staying on task may be harder than she expected, so she decides to take more notes—lots of notes.

Again, they read, and then they address the subject of revision.  They are very good – they must have called each other before the conference, because they all give at least two quotes from other writers about the act of writing.  She writes them all down.  Then they all talk about what they are currently reading – which she REALLY likes to hear.  She decides she likes this format. The speakers have done their homework and have plenty to say, and it’s refreshing to NOT have a big block of their precious time taken up with inane questions from the audience.  She smiles, thinking if she had a nickel for every time she’d heard a stupid question about “process” she’d be able to attend a year of conferences for free.  To her, the idea of “process” is a done deal:  You either have one or you don’t, and it can work either way.  Hearing how each individual author lights candles, says three Hail Marys, plays Mozart, spits into the wind, etc. has done her no good and wasted far too much time she could have been hearing something beneficial.

She hates the three hours lunches: it was fun to explore downtown Chattanooga for an hour, the first day, but now it seems an all too obvious conspiracy of forcing them to spend money in this fair southern city.  She enjoys being able to explore the “book tables” without a crowd, limits herself to spending just under a hundred bucks, then goes back into the auditorium to read until the next panel begins.

On cloud nine with her bag of new books, she is a hundred pages into a great one when the room begins to fill again. She notices – could it be?  Yes, it is!  The author on which she based her graduating lecture is sitting two rows over, to her right!

The stage fills—a panelist is missing and being filled in by—you guessed it—Hot Epic Story Writer.  Damn!  She will have to take a mountain of notes to stay focused this time.

They read.  Lots of great quotes again, more writers about writing.  This panel is more idea-oriented, and she is proud to take down a great outline and some “prompts” she can’t wait to try out on her own. Hot Epic Story Writer is only mildly disturbing, but the Author-She-Has-Lectured-About is pulling her attention at an alarming rate.  Finally giving in, she stops taking notes, turning to a clean page and hoping to compose the world’s most artsy, intellectual, heartfelt, authentic fan-letter ever written. She looks over at his profile; he’s a book jacket come to life, just sitting there, in a regular seat, listening to the panel just like she’s doing, or WAS doing, until she started this letter.  She writes to him how many years she’s followed his work, how she’d given his books as specials gifts, how she built a shelf the perfect height for his earlier books, the short, classic hardbacks she’d recognize from across the room.  She’s about to explain how she chose him for that graduate lecture, then is struck-down-as-though-naked-in-a-crowded-room, realizing what an idiot she is.

More than a half-century old, she thinks, yet she’s nothing more than an over-educated groupie.  She takes a last glance at her would-be Mick Jagger, strikes through the page of over-written praise, and goes back to her notes.

She’s glad they’re talking about reading again.  That’s the only time she feels worthy in this world she wants to be a part of but is fast losing hope to ever reach.  But as always, the really good writers come back to the same conclusion.  You become a good writer from reading: if this is true, she’s either already good or will die trying, because she reads more than anyone she’s ever known.

The summer after second grade, she’d read 150 books, earning her a pictured spot in the local paper.  In her graduate program, mentors were always shocked when she read not only the ten chosen books per semester but two to three times that many.  In the eight months since her retirement, she had no idea how many books she’d read, but Amazon had a clue, and she hoped that info was never leaked out to anyone, fearing it might be grounds for being committed somewhere.  There was certain addictive behavior she associated with herself—if she liked an author, she simply couldn’t stop until she’d read everything they’d published, and if possible, their favorite authors as well.

She closes her notebook as the session draws to an end, exiting and heading for her car.  She sighs with her last look back at the stately old building, smiling slightly at the other book-lovers who flock to such events.  She wonders if they are more “normal” than she, attending Falcons’ and  Braves’ games, tractor pulls, Civil War reenactments, celebrations not based on secret lives and crushes-from-afar, known only to the reader.  Perhaps some of these people were at the last reading she attended, maybe even more than one.  She will never know, nor does she wish to—this is HER secret.  If one day she publishes something that puts her on the “other side of the table,” she’ll laugh and joke with Great Southern Authoress, Hot Epic Story Guy and the rest, but she will never turn her back on the nameless book-lovers who fill the room.  Is it possible that her heroes were once just one of them?  She hopes so.  Just believing it makes it all still seem possible.

But so much for that.  She pulls out from the parking lot and turns up the current audio book in her CD player.  This will speed up the ride, since she can’t wait to get home – and READ.

Until the next conference…

I need a blog? Get real.

A couple of months back, I attended a blogging workshop moderated by an Atlanta journalist I admire. Sure, I was at least interested in the concept, but I was more drawn to spending the day in a trendy office near Georgia Tech, sharing thoughts and mimosas (her workshop trademark) with interesting people I’d never met. I’d done my homework: I had a list of criteria I wanted to meet with my “imagined” blog, and since mine would be designed neither to sell anything OR compete in any “blogging showdown,” I looked forward to quickly becoming the teacher’s pet with my great ideas, organization, and finger on the pulse of the blogging world. Right?
After a brief rundown on the day’s purpose, we “met” the workshop participants as they volunteered their personal info and what they hoped to accomplish by having a blog. The two facilitators were well at ease in inserting a bit of their intending teachings through each participant’s story, making the getting-to-know segment an active part of the workshop itself. So far there were business people, mommies with cutesy anecdotes, a baseball fanatic, an invalid caregiver, a government psychologist and a couple of memoirists. And I’d worried there’d be too many fiction writers – this would be a piece of cake.
“I’m a retired music teacher, and I recently finished a novel,” I answered, hating the sound of my own voice.
“So you need a platform to promote your book?” she said, sounding as if this were mere common sense.
“Not really,” I said, wondering how I could be so misunderstood in just one sentence. “I mean, I haven’t actually published it, I mean, I don’t even have an agent. I have a nice stack of rejections from them, though.” I hoped someone would laugh. No one did. I continued.
“’My Neck of the Woods – Southern Writers on Southern Writing’ would generate info about living southern authors, with interviews, and book reviews, and, uh…lists of their favorite authors and favorite books and…” I was seeing it all in my head – the background map of the southern states, and with each entry, a picture of another author/book being “tacked” onto their homeland. But I didn’t seem to be explaining it too well.
“How do you see yourself making any money from this?” her male counterpart asked. “And exactly who would this serve?”
“Uh…people who like southern fiction. And southern authors. Oh yeah, I would try to post conferences, and workshops, and book festivals, that feature them. Like make a place for easy access for other southern writers who want to find good literature conferences close to home, not in New York or California.” They were all looking at me like I’d grown a third eye. “Oh—and I’d have links to other—to related articles.” It made so much sense in my head, but I sounded like a fifth grader—no, fifth graders were surely better.
“All humanitarianism aside,” the leader asked, smoothing her sleek blonde hair behind her ear, “exactly what’s in this for you? You’re going to promote your book by interviewing other authors, writing about other books, and telling your readers where to go to learn to write similar works themselves?” Her smile looked earnest and there was no sarcasm in her voice. So why did I feel like the butt of blonde joke?
“I guess my ultimate, way-down-the-line goal,” I said, still trying to dig myself out of the black hole I’d fallen into, “is that, if and when my book or books are published, I’ll have already established a perfect audience for them.” I let myself breathe, glancing out to see at least a couple of people smiling, sparking my courage for a last effort.
“And if I make this blog and keep it going, maybe it can be the basis for a book proposal on southern fiction.”
Why did I say that? Since when did I want to publish a scholarly treatise of any kind? Oh yeah. That’s what the workshop leaders had told the last few people before me—half the would-be blogs in the room had “the basis for a book proposal with a ready-made platform.” Why, at age 54, was I still doing everything possible to please the damned teacher?
She looked at her cohort (for support? As to share a joke?) then back to me.
“Okay,” she says. “I think, as a writer, you definitely need a blog, but I just don’t see the one you’re describing doing you much good. I get that it’s not to make money, but I don’t really like this way-down-the-line goal. If that’s really your goal, you’re not being honest to your readers, which is only going to hurt you when you have a concrete product to give them. What you’re advocating isn’t really honest, is it?”
She was still being so nice, and what she said was true. I willed myself not to start crying in front of the trendy office full of interesting people.
“Do you read other authors’ blogs?” she asked. Why couldn’t she stop, go on to the next person. Wasn’t she done?
“Yes,” I said softly, managing not to sniffle.
“Name one,” she said. Did she not believe me? Was she trying to expose me as a non-reader, too? Geez…
“Silas House,” I answered. The first writer I’d imagined interviewing for the blog that would never happen.
In seconds, the projection screen was filled with the lush green of Kentucky mountaintops and the heading “A Country Boy Can Surmise.”
“Great name, beautiful site,” she said. She noted the book lists, links to other articles, variety in kinds of posts. The whole room seemed to wake up and murmur their approval.
“This is your favorite author? Here’s your example. I’d say look no further, but we’ll check a few others for comparison. Very nice,” she repeated.
She clicked to another site, calling attention to how important the “uncluttered” effect was for a blog that focused on prose, unlike some of the business blogs we’d examined earlier. Forwarding to another, she explained the features of websites with blog components and direct-marketing options. When she finally concluded my allotted time in the limelight, she asked if I had any questions. I didn’t. She turned off the projector and called on her next victim.
I left Atlanta thinking I’d go home an attempt the blog idea, but as with many of my best-laid plans, it never happened.
Attending another writers’ conference in North Georgia this weekend, it seemed that every lecture presented made mention of the absolute need for “a social media platform.” I guess there’s no escaping it; if the idea has reached “Deliverance” country, the word is definitely out.
I listened, I took notes, and this time I came home and really went to work. The words of Hope Clark ( kept ringing in my ears, reminding me of the need for a “virtual footprint,” flatly saying that “without a blog or website, you simply don’t exist ‘out there.’” Scary!
I pulled out my notes from the last conference, remembering I had the perfect example to follow. I surmised that clicking over to the country boy might be the best inspiration, losing myself for a while in beautiful words and pictures.
I can do this, I thought. It won’t be as prolific or profound, but I can do this. Silas is not only a favorite writer, but also a teacher, mentor, and friend from the days of the creative writing MFA program I completed less than a year ago. We share a love for a lot of the same books, and authors, and music. It’s not ludicrous to model my blog from his, it’s only common sense. To be the best, learn from the best. Yeah. That’s it. I can do this.
Except that there is one major difference between Silas and me: I DON’T HAVE ANY PUBLISHED BOOKS!
I mean, does my creative thesis from school count? How about the manuscript that’s been turned down by 37 agents so far? If so, then how about my hand-written diaries from junior high school? To me, setting up a blog “to look similar” is a sacrilege. Imagine the opening lines: Hi, I’m Elaine. I’m a writer much like Silas House, except that I have no published books, do not write for any major magazine, have no writing awards, have no editing credits, have never taught writing at the collegiate level, have never lectured about writing anywhere, and have never helped save a mountain from being blown up. But, other than that, we’re basically the same person. Right?
Last night I ordered a book called The Shy Writer, and I’m hoping it will help me get over the embarrassment of having an author-like blog with no authored books to feature down the side of the page. Have I hit on something here? Is there an unwritten rule that says we’re “writers” until we’re in print or sold online, and then we can call ourselves “authors?” Okay, I just looked it up, and there is no distinction between the two (but I did learn that the correct term for my gender is “authoress.” Damn!)
Welcome to Elaine’s blog. I’m going to do this blog thing if it kills me, since I don’t want to die thinking “I don’t exist.” One last thing from my blogging workshop notes: “350 words is the perfect length for a blog post.” I’ve already quadrupled that number, so I’d say I’m off to a pretty bad start.
But wait.
I went back and checked post lengths on my “blogging example.” His aren’t 350 words either. Maybe there IS hope.

Thanks for listening…