Saturday, July 23, 2011
On Writing The World
The world of publishing is undergoing the greatest change since Gutenberg devised moveable type. Before that, books were copied by hand - on papyrus scrolls, on animal skins, clay tablets and parchment - often in aid of one religious order or another. Only rich folks could afford books, which helped them to understand what came before and how to wield the power of knowledge over their inferiors.
Once books could be reproduced rapidly, though, more people could afford to purchase and own books - they could even subscribe to newspapers, and the race for understanding was on!
Books were pretty common when I was a kid - my folks belonged to the book-of-the-month-club and they left whatever they were reading lying around for their offspring to pick up if any of us were interested. Dad went way out of pocket to buy the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which I did my best to devour - along with my textbooks, the Saturday Evening Post and the printed matter on catsup bottles and cereal boxes.
As I grew older, I came to see that even the crappiest fiction has a secondary role -the writers of such dreck recorded a huge array of different worlds. Books did, for most of my life, however, remained products made of paper if you don't count radio and movies as forms of literature.
About 20 years ago something astounding happened. Personal computers became commonplace, people from around the world could converse in real time, and whole manuscripts could be forwarded across continents with the press of a key or click of a mouse.
I got dragged into the fray kicking and screaming. Fortunately, I was writing for a little daily newspaper at the time, so there was no way around it! What a revelation. You could write a story and have it on the page in an hour. You could correct your errors as you went along, and so could your copy editor.
You have to know those novels I had been working on at home were suddenly portable. I could approach a publisher and get a rejection slip in only a few days - versus weeks, months, and in some cases as much as a year! You could also produce a clean manuscript as fast as you could write it down.
What to write? Everything. I have come to understand that much of what I write is history - maybe not the sort you find on the evening news, but stories about people, places and things told from my unique perspective. I write my experiences in Appalachia, the days I spent in an antique shop, the hours blessed with music, and the beat I worked, which included everything from boat races to garden club teas.
I try to write a world people can see, and hope the words I find touch your heart. It is hot out there today, so keep cool - and walk on the sunny side! Love, Terry