Saturday, December 30, 2006

Giving Writers A Bad Name

I would hope that readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind already know that I will never hesitate to call out some stupid comment made by an agent or publisher. Indeed, when I come across some specific comments most of the regular visitors to Cobwebs Of The Mind know that I will not hesitate to offer my opinion.

Message of this post to all writers - STOP WHINING! However, stupid comments, griping and just plain old whining seems to also grab writers or would-be writers from time to time. Yep. I used the bad term here - "would-be". Others use "wannabe". Sometimes the inane and ridiculous seems to spread like a noxious gas over those who are trying to break into the writing field. Simply because any serious writer, any writer who has been published, would never think of the situation below. Simply because we have better things to do with our time than just whine.

Stupidity is often the disease of those who whine.

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I think it becomes a mixture of ego, my old "House effect" theory, and certainly a total frustration at not being able to find a market for that golden manuscript that one has ready to startle the world. No this is not another edition of the Writing & Despair Happy Hour Series, though it certainly belongs there. This is about using less of your ego and a bit more of brains and balance. It is about not whining.

Whiners are particularly nuisance material. They love whining about anything and everything. They need to find a reason why the world is not listening to them. They need to be "heard". When their words of wisdom are not accepted as "unquestioned truth" - they whine.

No wonder agents and publishers are wary of this. No wonder they build walls to protect themselves from direct contact with whiners of the world.

Nothing makes this clearer than a recent thread which went up at Absolute Write, called, We can't publish you. You're the wrong gender. It seems that someone wanting to submit was checking out markets and came across a small magazine that stipulated they would only accept pieces from "female" writers. No males. None. Nada. Zilch. Zip. NO MALES.

Normal people would say, all right. This is part of the submission rules of the magazine and since I am male - let us move on. Their market are readers who want strictly female written pieces. Other publishers only want horror. Others only want mysteries. This publisher only wants female writers. Cool beans. Move on to the next market and magazine and suggest to your Significant Other to take a look at this magazine - targeted to the females of the world. Like Gent and Esquire are targeted to the males of the world. Or Highlights is targeted to children.

Whiners don't move on. Whiners need something to whine about. Agents won't look at them, publishers reject their writing, so they need a place to whine and a topic to whine about. And suddenly, this stipulation is being called bigoted and discriminatory. It is being compared to not hiring Blacks or Jews and being put on the same level as not letting people of a specific race or religion on a public bus.

Run to the courts! Hire the lawyers! Down with discrimination! How dare they say "no males allowed to submit."This is exactly the same thing as saying "No Jews & Blacks allowed on the bus." Of course it is. Same discrimination. Same thing.

Malarkey. Bullshit. Warped thinking. WHINING.

This is a PRIVATE magazine. It has a submission process. It is not discriminating against a "protected" minority. It is simply saying, we are a magazine and our readers only want "female" writers.

Of course it gets nasty in the thread. How could it not? When a "would be" writer turned whiner has a platform, God help us all.

And this is truly what gives writers a bad reputation. We whine. We complain. We will find every and any reason in the world why no one will publish our material. We will get hot under the collar because a magazine has the utter chutzpah to say "Our readers want to read only female written pieces. So no males should submit because we will not publish it." Oh My God! Run for the courts and make them pay in blood!

You need to find a market? Then do what the professionals do. Go to Agent Query. Or purchase the LMP 2007 - Literary Market Place or the Writer's Market 2007.

So remember folks. When you send your piece on Vampires into the New Yorker and they turn you down - never forget to call it bigotry and discrimination. How could they reject you? Then whine. Whine loudly. Find yourself a soapbox and call it bigotry and discrimination. Endear yourself to the professionals of the industry. Show your maturity and balance and understanding of life's great problems. Then as further protection continue to attack markets that have no interest in you or your work, and forgo the distinct possibility that markets that do publish your type of work will simply reject you. Deflect the inevitable. Whine. (Sooner or later someone is bound to buy you a pacifier.)

Never forget where to place the blame for your failures.

So Let Us Repeat This Little Piece Of Advice:

Message of this post to all writers - STOP WHINING!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Looking Back...

Hey folks...I'm BACK!

(Hold off the applause.)

Sorry about the lapse in posting to Cobwebs Of The Mind this past week. I decided to take a break from posting in the blogs as I was getting severely pissed off with certain things I have been reading on the Internet and needed time to step away and think. Otherwise I possibly would have taken a bite out of someone's tushy - a big, nasty, rabid bite to boot.

I may still do it. But for the moment I have that simmering flame under control.

A couple of weeks ago in the Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review, I published the review - "Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review: Sharon Maas's "Down From the Garrett". Sharon then added in her Live-Journal, "Down From the Garrett" a few remarks about the review in her posts.

In this posting among other things Sharon wrote:
On Cobwebs Of The Mind, Teddy spends a lot of time musing over various aspects of the publishing industry. He comments on spam agents, cowboy publishers. He gives his view on the latest scandal to rock the industry and sheds his own special light on various issues. He's very opinionated - but his opinions are well thought out and full of a passion for finding the truth. He will never adopt a particular opinion just because it's the flavour of the day. There's integrity and strength in his words, whether he tells you what he thinks of the Anne Stuart Affair or weighs or in on the Sobol Award.

I often get the feeling that when teddy speaks, it really is The Last word on the subject.
I am opinionated, but I am certainly not the last word on any subject. But to be honest the one thing that I did decide when opening Cobwebs Of The Mind - was that above all costs, no matter what it meant in Internet popularity, was to keep my integrity. And thus the reason for this post. A bit of musing on the past and a bit of criticism and a bit of trying to understand it all.

This year I opened Cobwebs Of The Mind, starting off as an experiment in blogging. I had no clear plan where I was going to take it. Indeed, the thought process was, to just simply give another outlet for writing while I was planning, editing or otherwise working on WIP's in progress. Cobwebs Of The Mind kind of took on a life of its own. I went with the flow and tried during free time to give a serious study to the world of Internet writers, literary agents, editors and publishing.

It turned out to be a much more complicated study than at first envisioned. I did not expect the plethora of seriousness and absolute junk all mixed together. I also did not expect to find much that was worthwhile. In this, I fully and happily admit I was wrong.

What did surprise me, to be honest, are the people - writers, editors and agents - whom I have developed relationships with via email because of Cobwebs Of The Mind. I found this very loosely knit community of virtual voices at times articulate; at times compassionate; at times childish and vengeful; and at times incredibly giving. I have also discovered some of the "human" element behind the voices so respected on the Internet in regard to publishing and agents. That alone has made Cobwebs Of The Mind a worthy endeavor from my point of view.

My one big shock, and I am saddened by having to say this, came from "left field" as the saying goes. Whereas in the past I would always look at the writer's forum, Absolute Write, with a great deal of respect, that opinion has certainly changed. Absolute Write has changed. In my eyes, not for the better. Indeed many good people and writers have slowly faded from this writing forum due to a variety of reasons. It is sad. And while I would still recommend any writer who is starting off, to make a serious study of the Bewares & Background Checks board at Absolute Write, I would have to say that unless you are willing to put up with a handful of overbearing personalities, and a lot of just plain good ole' ego - be wary of the forum. It is no longer "monitored" - I would have to say the correct term here is - it is "policed" - and most certainly policed with great prejudice.

Unfortunately, I am not the only one who feels this way, for if I was I would never put this in Cobwebs Of The Mind. Certainly, not only do former members of the forum from time to time complain and leave in disgust, but it is also loosing its once "well respected" name among agents and editors as well. This is incredibly sad and should serve as a clarion call for Absolute Write. But only time will tell if it gains balance again or continues along a new path.

However, it does remain true, that there are many, many great people and writers that I have had the pleasure of meeting because of Absolute Write. Each and every one of the blogs in Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review Series, and those still to come, are worthy in their own right and certainly the people behind them are really incredible human beings. And there are some really great writers who are embarking upon successful careers in writing. I wish them all the best of luck.

I have also had the pleasure in Cobwebs Of The Mind Writing & Despair Series to try and combine a bit of humor and understanding of the writer's soul and fears. For me, this not only provides a somewhat creative project, but a way of trying to make us all not take ourselves too seriously. It also allows us to know that most important factor - we are not alone in our fears and angst.

Of course, the reviews of scams, literary agents, editors and publishing debates are a great source of education and amusement for me. The Cobwebs Of The Mind Super Teddy Award actually began because one day I got sick and tired of seeing the absolute junk and idiocy sometimes posted by agents and editors. The "God Complex" sometimes seems to itch at certain people and when it does simply put, someone has to say something.

The statistics for Cobwebs Of The Mind have constantly and consistently increased over the days and weeks and months. Though I do not watch the stats on a daily basis I do know that each month brings an ever more amount of people reading, commenting and sending in private emails. The community grows and as it does so does interest and the endless search for information.

I can only continue to attempt to bring information, good, bad or neutral to the readers of Cobwebs Of The Mind. Whereas I will miss a great deal, and I will certainly be wrong in my opinions from time to time, I do hope that most of the information, laughter and reviews at Cobwebs Of The Mind will continue to help, educate and inform the writers and would-be-writers out there.

I wish each and every one of you a year of great strides in writing and publishing.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review: Karen M. Lynch's "The Breast Blog"

I'm a freelance writer and journalist. I'm also a two-time breast cancer survivor, diagnosed for the first time at age 35 and subsequently at age 38. Cancer, two times, and I haven't even reached my 40th birthday. If there is information out there that might impact the many years I have left of my life, I'm going to find it. Then I'm going to share it with you.When I discovered that Karen was bedridden from a recent surgery - well that did it. She did not ask for this review, she did not request it either in an email or at Absolute Write. But she sure as hell deserves it. For a great many things. So here we are going to review Karen's The Breast Blog and her own Web Site - Karen M. Lynch.

Why does Karen get this review? After all as you shall soon discover The Breast Blog, is not really connected to writing. Well, Karen is a writer, a freelance writer, as she tells us on her web page, Karen M. Lynch:
Aside from being a freelance writer and journalist ... I’m a wife to Tim, a mother to our three children, a daughter to my parents, a sister to my siblings, an aunt to their kids, and a friend to many special people I’m blessed to have in my life. I’m also a breast cancer survivor, a Delta Gamma alumna, a PTA member, and an avid scrapbooker.
We are going to discuss some of Karen's writing as well. BUT - and let me make this absolutely clear - even if Karen was not in any way connected to writing, even if she just owned The Breast Blog I would still give this blog a Cobwebs Of The Mind Blog Review.

Why? Because it is important. It accomplishes a public service. It is critical information. And it is courageous all wrapped into one blog.

Karen's writing is shaped by her bout with cancer. There is no doubt about it. She has had articles appear such as “Beating the Odds” published online at the Chicken Soup for the Soul Magazine website (October/November 2006). And she is a public speaker on "surviving cancer".

These are not only writing credits - they are serious "person" credits. There is something incredibly courageous and important about what Karen does. But she is also a writer. Someone who has been attached to the art of writing since her childhood.
Writing was what I loved to do, what I was meant to do. It was finally time for me to be a writer.
And do not forget to take a look at the menu entry A Writer's Blog - where Karen chronicles her life as a writer and to be published.

Now let us take a look at Karen's The Breast Blog. I am not going to quote here or try and dig up posts. The following is how Karen herself describes her own blog - and it says it all!
I'm a freelance writer and journalist. I'm also a two-time breast cancer survivor, diagnosed for the first time at age 35 and subsequently at age 38. Cancer, two times, and I haven't even reached my 40th birthday. If there is information out there that might impact the many years I have left of my life, I'm going to find it. Then I'm going to share it with you. Thanks for reading!
There is a good chance that someone you know is struggling with Breast Cancer. Or someone you know is worried about getting it. This is the blog for you. It could save your life. It certainly can help you. And you will find gathered in one place most of the sites you will want to visit in terms of Breast Cancer. Also if you wish, will be able to contact a woman who has gone through it.

If there is any blog that deserves a clear five stars and a Blog review it is Karen Lynch's The Breast Blog. And if there is any person out there who deserves our respect for her courage, determination and desire to help others it is Karen herself.

We wish Karen a speedy recovery. We wish Karen only health and prosperity and peace in this season of total cheer.

I personally wish for Karen that all the darkness in her life is chased away - may it be replaced by light and health. May Karen be given as we say in Hebrew a "Refuah Shelemah" - "A complete and total recovery" - and may all the good she has done and continues to do in her blog, The Breast Blog, stand as witness to the courage, determination and fortitude of one woman, whom when faced with such news, not only decided to help herself but to help others as well.

May Karen go from "strength to strength".

Visit the The Breast Blog - it could save your life or the life of someone you know.

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

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OMG - They Are All Closing Down For The Holidays

What am I going to do? The blogs are all closing down. All the agents are going on vacation. They won't read my query letters. They won't read the book I submitted. They won't see my blog. They won't be there to comment.

I am going into withdrawal.

Let me see. Miss Snark is busy with the crapometer. I already wrote about that. The Rejecter got herself into some nutty argument with a POD author. Book-Ends which I was going to give a Super Teddy award to - closed down until the New Year! How dare they! Other agent blogs are slowly but surely closing down until the end of the holidays.

Let's see. Let's see. Who can we pick on today? Mind is a blank so I am going to pick on myself!

I should finish some short stories I have been working on. I should really get to work on at least one of my WIP's. I should WRITE!

OMG. What a unique thought! I should write! But for whom? For what? For where? How?

Questions. Questions. Questions.

Life is full of these crazy, silly questions.

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Short Story Market

Less and less these days I make my way over to Absolute Write to see what is going on. The reasons are varied and many, but that is not the topic of this post.

"Do not ask how was it that the former days were better than these? For you do not inquire wisely concerning this"I have been noticing over at Absolute Write and over the Internet in various forums and agent blogs, the revival of the short story discussion. I originally wrote about seeing something on this topic, in my post, Reality Of The Market & Some Inner Honesty, but I am going to return to this topic now for a few minutes.

In the good old days it seemed that authors had it easy selling the short story. Hundreds of magazines existed to handle the flow, and many great and famous authors certainly got their start or gave their careers much needed impetus by selling to this market. From Jack London to O. Henry to John Cheever to Asimov to Isaac Bashevis Singer all started with the short story in their genre. Believe it or not, in the good ole' days some authors actually made a living out of pouring their hearts into short stories and selling them. Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Timequake how he did this very thing for a few years before Television destroyed the short story market.

Then it was blamed on Television. Today we blame it on the Internet. Whatever we blame it on it is remains true that there are only a handful of journals left willing to publish and cater to the short story market. Short story collections or anthologies are worse than difficult to sell. Anthologies are usually impossible to put together, and collections will usually not be touched by a publisher - unless you have managed to publish quite a few short stories in the dwindling number of print magazines with a good reputation left to publish short stories.

It is the old catch-22. We look back in nostalgia upon the day when the short story was a respected and welcome means of entertainment. It certainly is on television. Take a look at the hundreds of movies and HBO broadcasts and Hallmark features begun by buying rights to a short story.

But getting them published? No agent will handle one short story at a time. And that is exactly how it should be. Even if you got paid $1000 for each short story, the agent would go broke with all the copying, phone calls and time it demands. If you are a published novelist - your agent may do you a favor by handling some short stories. But don't expect your agent to go out on a limb to sell them or to put it on top of their list - unless your stuff sells like King and Grisham. Just ain't gonna happen.

So what happened to the good ole' days? Is it really true that people do not want to read short stories? Or is it true that publishers simply do not want to publish them? Or is it because agents simply don't make money off the singular story and thus short story writers became discouraged and selling to the Paris Review and New Yorker is beyond hope. What happened to the short story? Where are the good ole' days?

Well it would be wise to first mention that famous verse from Ecclesiastes (7:10) here, "Do not ask how was it that the former days were better than these? For you do not inquire wisely concerning this".

With all that being said, and with now insurance that the Bible won't come back to bite my tushy here, personally, and of course because I write short stories, and more importantly enjoy writing them and reading them, I think the answer is a combination of many factors. And I personally think that these factors will not bear themselves out in the long run. In other words, I think and of course hope, we will see a rebirth of the short story genre and its respectability.

Agents cannot afford to handle the single short story. Indeed, a short story collection is incredibly difficult to sell. The print magazines that are prestigious in publishing short stories are really very few and far between. You can count them on your fingers. Why is this so? Not sure. With the plethora of Glossy Mags out there I do not see why a few magazines devoted to the publications of short stories and literature in all its forms would not make it. But then again I am not a publisher and do not understand the business of publishing.

But I think the real reason for the death of the short story, lies with writers themselves. Simply put, most writers dream of breaking in with that incredible novel. Now I am not saying this is a bad dream, and I am not saying it is wrong, but writers themselves have denuded and desensitized the short story to such an extent where it is considered a "bastard" brother to the "real thing". I have seen among many writers the attitude of almost, "well if you cannot really write, the short story market is for you." Condescending. Stupid. And mostly coming from writers who have never published and full of themselves.

Yet there is a grain of truth in all that is said. A real grain of truth. The market buys the novel. The publishers publish the novel. People want to read a story, a long story, in which they go from chapter to chapter. They do not usually want the short story or novella. Why? I have no clue. Simply because I love the short story, and I know that it takes as much talent as writing one short story as it does to write a book.

Yet we face the reality. Short stories will not a career make in most cases. Sometimes, rarely a writer gets lucky and breaks the mold. It is something I wished for in my collection, "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" for a long time. But I know the odds. I am well aware that without an agent who "believes" in it and without a publisher who understands the viability of the short story book market it is a lost cause.

So from time to time I see the discussion on short stories begin again. From time to time I see new writers break in. From time to time I see the question asked, "Whatever really happened to the short story market?"

I don't really know what happened to the market. We can blame a lot of it on Television and the Internet - but then again the fault lies deep within our own selves as writers and not out there. Until we begin to take short story writing seriously once again, and not think of it as a stepping-stone to becoming a great novelist, until we look upon each short story as being as important as the novel we write - we sure as hell are not going to convince anyone else that short stories are a valid, viable and vibrant way to write and to read.

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