Not long ago my husband had the word Courage tattooed on his wrist in a font that screams J’accuse! each time I see it. When I mentioned his tattoo and my reaction to my therapist, her eyes bulged ever so slightly in that way that says ‘Now this is information we can work with’ before she recovered herself and asked, in the most therapeutic of tones, “Courage…?” This, of course, was intended to get me talking. But I’m a debut novelist, and I’ve learned not to say what I really think.
The irony of that last statement is not lost on me. But, really….
What can I possibly say to the workshop leader who, after taking my $125, informs me that only one percent of all writers ever find an agent, and only one percent of those will ever see publication…then smiles?
The Kafkaesque bookstore manager who informs me that—even though I’ve defied the odds and had a book published—they just don’t have the space to carry my novel “unless they can be certain it will sell.”
The woman who seeks me out to tell me she doesn’t plan to read my novel because she doesn’t read that kind of book (whatever that means) but then launches into a description of the book she’d like to write.
The anonymous “reviewer” who dismisses my novel while giving five stars to the 9 romance novels she (I hope) read that same week.
The woman (why are they always women?) who sets my book back on the table after finding there are no “study questions” in the back to guide her.
The well-meaning friend who insists that unless I master Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Youtube, and subscribe to the half dozen “social” sites she follows, thus living in front of a monitor until I die, there is absolutely no hope of my book ever being noticed.
Remember “Blue Light Specials” at K-Mart? Shoppers were addressed over loud speakers to rush to a section of the store that offered minutes-long special sales on toilet paper, flip flops, or shampoo. And the shoppers ran. Marketing these days is more sophisticated. We run even if we go broke saving money.
In her terrific new book, Bossypants, Tina Fey recounts an interaction between Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon when Poehler was new to SNL. Amy was in the middle of a comedy bit with Seth Meyers when Fallon, star of the show, told her to stop what she was doing. He said the bit wasn’t cute and he didn’t like it. (Read: unladylike.) Poehler shot back, “I don’t fucking care if you like it” and went back to her bit. As Fey read the interaction, Poehler was making it clear she wasn’t there to please Fallon or anyone else. Fey goes on to write: “It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don’t like something, it is empirically not good. I don’t like Chinese food, but I don’t write articles trying to prove it doesn’t exist.”
Apparently J.D. Salinger was so outraged by the world that he holed up in Vermont and occasionally drank his own urine. Name your poison. But I’m beginning to understand why writers drink.