Saturday, May 26, 2007

Curioser and Curioser

One of the more contentious topics for discussion came up this morning at the Saturday Writers' Workshop, contentious because of its roots in frustration. When we hear a particular work that strikes a resonant cord among the assembled host, our first thought is where to send it.

We are none of dilettantes by nature, nor is any of us with the possible exception of me lazy. Anne Cravens, for instance, reading her essay accompanying a grant proposal, was agonizing about the times when, mother of two boys, wife to a rock musician, and a full-time worker at one of the local scientific industries, the decision was between taking a shower and reading a few pages from a magazine or book. Christine is running her late husband's business, pursuing a career as an actress, and writing two wildly differing projects.

The subject came forth when Gail announced she'd been accepted by a service that edits, formats, and submits manuscripts. A wild-eyed populist, liberal, optimist in so many things, I nearly resorted to the conservative approach of rendering that word service in quotes, thus expressing an attitude of cynicism toward it. Simply put, Gail is paying two hundred ninety dollars a month for this service, at the news of which Liz offered to do it for two hundred fifty.

It's my money, Gail countered, and I can do what I want. True enough, particularly since what she wants is to get her work out in circulation. Marci reports paying her daughter to submit her short stories, a task at which the daughter excelled, resulting in five acceptances for Marci--before she was bitten big time by a novel she's working on.

The issue is only tangentially whether writers--artists in general--should take the responsibility of submitting their own work. The real issue is time.

The pile of magazines and journals on and about the floor of my room, the rear of my car, and such random places where there are no books serve as a constant reminder to me of the amount of reading needed to--what is the euphemism?--keep current, is staggering.

Add blog reading to the magazines; that's a given because blogs are often more up-to-date than newspapers in their coverage. I do a few for politics, notably Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, John Amato's Crooks and Liars, The Huffington Post, and to get a sane view from a conservative, Andrew Sullivan. Then there are the photo blogs, which offer visual images as well as conceptual argument. These have become increasingly more important in helping me focus on subject matter and point of view. I find Liz Kuball, Ben Huff, and pod (THE BAD PHOTOGRAPHER) invaluable.

My former student, John Fox, has a comprehensive take on matters related to writing, and I estimate checking him out three or four times a week, but here's where the beef comes in, with all its attendant fat and cholesterol: the writers' blogs I'm seeing--and I am looking--are almost entirely divided into two camps, those selling editing and motivational services (how could you want motivation after looking at the images of Liz, Ben, and pod?) and those apologizing for not having blogged for the past week or two or three.

The ideal blog has a theme, a development of the theme, and some sort of conclusion which involves some element of risk-taking. The more commonplace blog has an elaborate defense mechanism set up to justify not having anything to say, then going on at great length to wring its metaphorical hands and gnash its metaphorical teeth.

What ever happened to writing from enthusiasm or outrage or in the spirit of recommending something splendid or dumb?

As Alice put it, it gets curiouser and curiouser that there are so few who have curiosity for their pole star.

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