When ‘There Are No Words,’ I Can’t Even

The Torre Uluzzo near Lecce, Salento, Italy. Image - iStockphoto: Piccerella

The Torre Uluzzo near Lecce, Salento, Italy. Image – iStockphoto: Piccerella

‘What This Loss of a Language Means’

“I can’t even.”

You know the phrase, right? Another day, another pop-media whine. “I can’t even” is credited to the bloggrs of Tumblr, who apparently can’t even find it in their hearts to give us an “e” before an “r.”

Call me Portr. I am so hip that I can’t even.

While basking in my coolnees, let’s face it. “I can’t even” is easily as insignificant and fully as irritating as “what what?” These streaks of silliness course through the slang-o-rama of our oh-so-social media with slimy charm. You see so many of us slinging them with the hashtags.

I had the pleasure of spending almost an hour this week with Paola Prestini. One of the most gifted and accomplished of our composers working today. Prestini writes the kind of “contemporary classical” music that holds so much power for authors, a blend of emotional aesthetic and intellectual rigor that’s akin to what happens in the best fiction. My story on her and her newly recorded Oceanic Verses is this week’s entry in my #MusicForWriters series at Thought Catalog, with the help of New York  Public Radio’s Q2 Music.

Paola Prestini - Image: VisionIntoArt

Paola Prestini – Image: VisionIntoArt

And as I was telling editor Carla Douglas en tweeterie, one of the things I like best about Prestini is that she’s a supremely conscious composer. While she’s obviously in touch with her work’s emotional currents (which run about as deep as the Mediterranean setting of her Oceanic Verses), she’s also aware of her collaborators, her craft, her career.

Not for nothing did she form a company 15 years ago, while still in school at Juilliard, and that company today serves as the production body supporting her and other artists’ mixed-media work. This translates to platforming in our world of writing. Prestini is an adept platformer. That’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Actually, in Oceanic Verses’ case, that’s how you get to the Kennedy Center in Washington, to the River to River Festival in New York City, and to London’s Barbican Centre. Her company is VisionIntoArt, often co-producing with Beth Morrison Projects. VistionIntoArt’s new VIA Records label also has produced her husband Jeffrey Zeigler’s solo debut album. Zeigler is a cellist, formerly with the Kronos Quartet.

In conversation, one of the things that Prestini and I talked about is her alarm at what she calls “fading civilizations” — cultures that are being quickly eroded, ironically by the homogenizing connectivity of digital. She was in residence in Lecce in 2007, in Salento at the remote heel of Italy’s boot in the Mediterranean, “a cross-cultural land full of artistic hybrids.” The experience prompted her to start putting together what she calls her own “musical language.”

She has set parts of Oceanic Verses in disappearing dialects. She tells me:

One of the main themes of the piece is found in a section sung in Griko. [That’s the Italiot Greek dialect spoken in southeastern Italy.] There are only about 400 people left who speak it. And that led me to a deep look what this loss of a language means. And also how this land could be used as a metaphor for fading civilizations globally.

While an artist like Prestini gives us music that can inform and illuminate our own work as writers — that’s the point of the #MusicForWriters columns — I wonder if she doesn’t also have a quiet message for us as artists of language.

I’ve also spoken at length this week with another composer, Christopher Cerrone, whose Invisible Cities was the subject of last week’s #MusicForWriters. In talking with him for an interview story to come, I found out that he goes through as many as 50 manuscripts, searching for the right literature to set to music. He’s fascinated by how economically something must be said (or sung) in music-theater because the medium moves more slowly than standard speech. He says he thinks that as a child, he understood great books before he knew great music.

Isn’t it interesting how intensely these sophisticated creators of sonic worlds on stages and in studios are valuing our medium — these words of ours?

Continue Reading »

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

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Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

This novel was in first place on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for December 7, 2014. How strong is the opening page—would this have hooked an agent if it came in from an unpublished writer? Do you think it’s compelling? Reminder: “compelling” is much different than “interesting”—it means that you are irresistibly urged to turn the page by what you’ve read. Following are what would be the first 16 lines of Chapter 1.

THE PRISON LOOKED more like the campus of a community college than a place where men were kept in cells for ten years or longer for offenses committed while wearing the uniform of their country. There were no guard towers, but there were two staggered twelve-foot-tall security fences, armed patrols, and enough surveillance cameras to keep an electronic eye on virtually every millimeter of the place. Situated at the northern end of Fort Leavenworth, the United States Disciplinary Barracks sat next to the Missouri River on nearly forty rolling, forested Kansas acres, a mound of brick and razor wire cradled by a green hand . It was the only maximum-security military prison for males in the country.

America’s foremost military prison was called the USDB, or the DB for short. The Leavenworth federal penitentiary for civilians, one of three prisons on the grounds of Fort Leavenworth, was four miles to the south. Along with the Joint Regional Correctional Facility—also for military prisoners—there was a fourth privately operated prison in Leavenworth, which raised the total inmate population among the four prisons to about five thousand. The Leavenworth Tourism Bureau, apparently seeking to capitalize on any bit of notoriety to lure visitors to the area, had incorporated the prison angle into its promotional brochures with the phrase “Doin’ time in Leavenworth.”


My vote and editorial notes after the fold.
Continue Reading »

Creating Unforgettable Characters

nine personality types on blackboard

Flickr Creative Commons: Grace Commons

I’m fascinated by personality tests, you know, the kind you run across all the time online or in magazines. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test twice (I’m an INFJ), the Keirsey Temperament Test (also an INFJ) and studied the Enneagram (I’m a 2). And while all of this is fodder for good cocktail party conversation and self-analysis, one of the biggest benefits of thinking about personality types is the way it’s helped me create characters in fiction.

My fiction is character driven. If I can get a handle on my characters and truly understand who they are—what they like and dislike, what loves and terrors drive them, what strengths and weaknesses define them—then the plot often flows naturally from the choices these characters make. But one of the biggest challenges in creating believable characters is making sure they are themselves, not me. And this is where personality typing can be very useful.

There’s plenty of science to back up the idea that we are born with certain temperaments. For example, the New York Longitudinal Study (Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess) followed infants from age six months into their early forties, identifying 9 temperament characteristics that remained constant throughout the decades. Our characters, too, are born with certain temperaments. The story lies in how those inborn personality traits lead characters to make choices that shape the events of their lives and, in turn, how events work with temperament to shape character. It’s an intricate dance, and when executed well in fiction it creates characters that linger in our minds (and readers’ minds) long after a book ends.

A few tips on creating characters: Continue Reading »

Do You Have The Clarity To Celebrate Success?

Image by Ram Reddy

Image by Ram Reddy

Clarity. This is the word that underscores so much of what you do in connecting with and growing your audience.

Clarity of your own focus.
Clarity of voice.
Clarity of timing.
Clarity of who you want to reach.
Clarity of what resonates with these people.
Clarity of matching their need to the value you offer.
Clarity of what you should focus on, and what you can let go.
Clarity around what matters to you day to day.
Clarity of long-term goals that you reach slowly.

You’ll have no trouble finding “best practices,” marketing tips, social media tricks, and ideas around “gaming” Amazon. All of these things are simply fancy ways to package clarity. Tricks to lead you to believe clarity is a secret formula – one that others know, and you don’t. But it’s not: clarity is a process.

What I find ironic is how clarity is the antithesis of the feeling of overwhelm that so many writers and creative professionals experience.

I have been teaching a brand new course this fall filled with creative professionals trying to battle overwhelm and bring their career to the next level. They seek to find a sense of clarity in all they do, even as they juggle work, family, their creative pursuits, health, and so many other obligations.

In a recent lesson, I talked about the value of celebrating success. What I learned in the course discussions was astounding. So many people who venture out on their own as creative professionals rarely celebrate success. When they do, it is often only for huge milestones that come around only every few months or years, and even then, the celebration is a bit random. Most people have no system in place for recognizing and celebrating their achievements.

Their lives become a haphazard amalgamation of pressure, constructed from all of their responsibilities, while never truly stopping the churn to recognize what they have accomplished in the process. Clarity is critical for battling overwhelm, and for establishing a healthy relationship with all of our many responsibilities.

One writer in the course commented: “My moment of clarity came when I realized celebrating success doesn’t mean I’m a hedonist.” What I took from this is that there are so many internal boundaries around the basic task of taking care of oneself, and of recognizing one’s own achievements.

That isn’t to say no one in the course celebrates success; plenty do and shared some wonderful ways to do so. The challenge I posited was: How do you celebrate success on a daily or weekly basis? Continue Reading »

Minimalism When Writing Fiction

clutterOn an evening in July 2014, along with my brother and another hundred perspiring attendees, I crowded into one of the few remaining indie bookstores in my hometown. We weren’t there for a rock star novelist, I’m sorry to say, but rather for two non-fiction writers. I’d been reading their blog for a few months and their message was already having a positive impact on my writing (and larger life). I was eager for an in-person reinforcement.

Have you heard of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists? They are two contemporary leaders in the — surprise! — minimalist movement.

To be clear, I’m not speaking of minimalist literature, which is a form of stripped-down prose made popular by authors such as Hemingway and Raymond Carver, but rather a lifestyle in which one aims for a mindful pattern of consumption so that you’re not trading valuable time and energy for possessions you don’t prize.

Nor am I claiming to be a poster child for the minimalist movement. (As if.) But I was and remain at a point in my life where the message was welcome and necessary if I was to keep on writing fiction.

How can minimalism help in the writing life?

1. It can help recover writing time.

I live in an aging, middle class neighborhood and my cul de sac contains ten homes, housing approximately twenty-three people. We weathered a winter storm two weeks ago, yet if I stand at my front window, I can count eleven cars which have yet to be cleared of snow. That’s eleven vehicles which have been superfluous for fourteen days, and which weren’t protected from the elements because their logical homes — the double garages abutting each house — are stuffed with boxes of surplus possessions. (Only two of the ten homes in our neighborhood can park vehicles in their garage.)

I’m not judging my neighbors. They are kind, mature adults who have the right to make their own financial decisions and bear the results.

Also, I’ve participated in the same pattern of over-acquisition. My present weakness is books and kitchen supplies, and in a past, dramatic example, we over-consumed with the travel-trailer which nearly killed us.

But I’m sure you can appreciate that each vehicle represents a huge investment: time spent to earn the money so they could spend time to shop for the car, so they could spend time on its maintenance and cleaning. When a vehicle outlives its use, they’ll spend time to dispose of it properly.

Minimalism simply invites us to recover our time by eliminating unnecessary purchases upfront or, once we’ve acquired objects, to pare them down to what we truly need and mindfully desire, thereby reducing the time we waste on the latter part of the consumption cycle.

Personally, it’s a message I need to hear repeated at this time of year as we make decisions about gift-giving and receiving. Rather than saddling our family with time-stealing objects, we’re aiming to give them experiences, such as attending a movie or play together.

2. It can help recover writing energy:

Once I adopted a sparer aesthetic, I discovered an interesting thing: more willpower to begin writing, which is at least 60% of my internal battle. According to this article, I’m not unusual. (There are other simple measures  to boost willpower, meaning that the same things which help you write will help you stay slimmer over the holidays.)

What does a minimalist aesthetic in writing look like? Well, for me this has meant:

Continue Reading »

What Media Do You Study for Storytelling?

photo by Francois de Halleux

photo by Francois de Halleux

Every year or so, I re-read Stephen King’s The Stand and Bag of Bones. King may not be master wordsmith or inspiration by your reckoning, but he is by mine. I love those books.

I don’t read these novels for enjoyment anymore, however; I read them to study King’s storytelling. King’s earthy writing style, memorable characters and pacing deeply resonate with me. Whenever I revisit those books, I’m reminded of why I love them so … and I read them closely, so I can shamelessly crib the best crafty bits from them for my own work.

I revisit the movie The Matrix for similar reasons. That is a movie with a concept so inventive and brainbending, and so masterfully executed, that I wish I could forget ever seeing it so I could see it again for the first time. I do my best to look past the style and spectacle and study its language—not just its well-crafted screenplay, but its imagery (which complements the narrative through visual symbolism, shorthand, etc.).

When time permits, I’ll dive back into TV shows such as Gilmore Girls, Babylon 5—even cheesy fare like Knight Rider—to pluck storytelling best practices that I can use in my fiction. Even our guilty pleasures have lessons to teach us … 

even if it’s only what not to do.

I come from these visitations refreshed and inspired, with new insights (and sometimes jaw-dropping revelations) about these seemingly-familiar tales. For instance, the way King peels back the onion-layers of a character, while shoving that person further into the terrible Unknown. The remarkable narrative sleight of hand the Wachowskis use to deliver unexpected plot twists … and then elegantly and economically present new characters, worlds and conflicts. The verve of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dialogue in Gilmore Girls, and how it always feels crisp and playful, like biting into a granny smith apple.

And I draw endless inspiration from the talking car in Knight Rider because talking cars are rad.

As 2014 draws to a close, now’s a good time to consider your own favorite “study” media—the stories that you return to again and again for creative inspiration, or insights into the craft. Revisiting some of those tales might rejuvenate you for all that writing you’ll be doing next year. Continue Reading »

The Lonely Writer

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by Alice Popkorn

I feel lucky. I love being a writer and part of why I do is because it allows me to work alone, be alone. It’s not exactly that I don’t like being around other people (I do, kind of). But when I worked in corporate America, I couldn’t get away from people, couldn’t find time for myself. Maybe because I’m an introvert I love spending time alone. I am actually happiest alone and in my head.

But the flip side? Alone can lead to lonely.

It used to be that I’d get my “human fix” by having coffee with a friend once a month. That was when my kids were home and there was the predictability and clamor of the day. Once the kids were at school, I’d come home and walk the dog, then I’d write. I had several business clients who kept me busy. At the other end of the day, the kids would come home and life was a whirl.

Things changed. I live in an empty nest now—my two kids successfully (and happily) launched. There have been other life changes as well. More stressors. My husband was unemployed for a while—which was nice because he was home so I had company, but worrisome in many other ways. When he started working again he was gone all the time. Then one of my closest friendships ended abruptly. I stopped freelance writing to focus on fiction.

Then our dog died. And my world kind of bottomed out. My daily companion, my beloved soul-dog was gone.

And for the first time, I really felt like the lonely writer.

By the time I realized I was in trouble, I would often find myself at tear’s edge. I started writing in a local coffee shop many mornings, found solace (if not conversation) in “the regulars.” But it wasn’t enough. I started craving human conversation. I’m usually a very independent, self-sufficient, bounce-back kind of person, but I didn’t feel very resilient anymore.

Signs you might be lonely

In case you wonder what loneliness looks like, this is what it looked like for me.

You know that overly-chatty mailman you usually run into your house to get away from? You invite him into your mudroom when he delivers a certified letter—then you chat for five minutes. You’re sorry Continue Reading »

The Things We Carry

photo by Alice Popkorn

photo by Alice Popkorn

Recently, as I was preparing for my Mortal Heart book tour, I found myself in a logistical flurry trying to pack ten days’ worth of clothes and personal items into one carry on. There was the big, obvious stuff;  four pairs of pants, eight shirts, ten pairs of socks, under duds, toiletries, iPad, reading material, pens, etc. However, there were also some rather unique items. Like the veritable cobbler’s bench worth of extra insoles, arch supports, moleskin and shoe enhancers that I might need for the two pairs of shoes I was taking—both brand new since my feet had suddenly grown half a size well past the time I expected my feet to do anymore growing. Or the old black t-shirt I’ve grown accustomed to draping over my eyes instead of an eye mask.

While those were admittedly odd, they weren’t nearly as discomfiting as the small medicine chest of ‘tools’ I was bringing along to ensure I could endure the strange, torture devices that the modern plane seat has evolved into; Advil, Aleve, arnica, muscle relaxants (in case things got really hairy) and maybe even a half a Xanax or two, in case it all got to be too much.

As I struggled to fit everything into that one piece of luggage, I was struck by the enormous load of invisible baggage I was carrying with me on this trip. My worries—about travel, my feet, whether or not anyone would show up at the events. My fears—of travel delays, wickedly uncomfortable plane seats, lost luggage, public speaking (mostly gone at this stage of my life but reappearing just often enough to keep me off balance.) My hopes—that I would meet reader expectations, book sales, and my own performance. And lastly, my conditioning, if you will—from my earliest, most damaging beliefs that I did not have a right to a voice, or was allowed to speak into the public conversation at large, to my more recent attempts to rewrite that programming—helped in large part by wildly enthusiastic and generous readers, booksellers, friends and family.

The thing is, my experience is not unique. Whenever any of us set out on a journey of any length, we not only have the physical supplies we carry with us, but an invisible backpack or suitcase packed full of our hopes and fears, expectations and programming.

These invisible backpacks are one of the most intimate, rich, unique and authentic things about us. They accompany us on a trip of ten days or a ten minute jaunt to the grocery store and everything in-between. Yes, even to work, and yes, even when we work in a home office.

As a writer, these invisible backpacks are one of our most powerful tools.

The thing is, if every story is about a character going on a journey, whether a physical or metaphorical one, then they, too, should have one of these invisible backpacks. If they don’t, the journey often feels flat and unimportant, uncompelling and lacking in urgency.

Unlike a regular suitcase, the weight of the invisible one is always there. It weighs down on even our most simple actions and decisions. It’s what turns a simple act—say reaching for a cup of coffee or opening a door or shutting a window—into a loaded, complex dramatic action. Continue Reading »

How To Become a Writer

photo by Robert Couse-Barker via Flickr

photo by Robert Couse-Barker via Flickr

Change is hard, even good change. Learning to navigate change is why we’re wired for story in the first place. Even when we’re caught up in what we might think of as mere entertainment, under our conscious radar the story is mainlining inside info on how to deal with the changes that we can’t avoid, put off, or pretend aren’t really there. And so since the only constant is change, there will always be new stories, because stories will always have something to teach us. That’s why storytellers are the most powerful people on the planet.

But that power doesn’t come easily. I’m not talking about the power that comes from the story, the writing, or what you can do to become a better writer (you know, the thing I’m always going on and on about). Today I’m talking about something else: having the power to change your life in order to have a shot at writing anything powerful at all. Most of us try to avoid, put off, or pretend we don’t need to make any changes in order to write a book – but we do.

To become a writer, you have to give something up. Something time consuming. Something you care about, and that in all likelihood might have unsettling, ongoing ramifications once you let it go.

And of all the changes large and small, there’s one that underlies them all, and without it nothing else matters much. What change is that? The willingness to pay the ultimate price in the most precious commodity we have: time. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But as with most things, while the general concept is crystal clear, the specifics – what you need to actually do – is not. Because to become a writer, you have to give something up. Something time consuming. Something you care about, and that in all likelihood might have unsettling, ongoing ramifications once you let it go.

This is a lesson I learned from my writing coach, Jennie Nash. She told me early on that if you want to be a writer, you have to take a good hard look at your life, find something you spend a lot of time doing, and give it up in order to free the time to write.

I didn’t believe her at first. Continue Reading »

Be Like Ludwig

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I make this same face when someone interrupts my writing or when I am not getting enough fiber in my diet.

A few weeks ago, a friend was talking about a Leonard Bernstein Omnibus lecture, the one in which Bernstein discusses the power and beauty of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Three Gs and an E flat. Bah Bah Bah BAAAH. Bah bah bah BAAAH.

Bernstein sits down at a piano and plays those four notes, explaining that while they are the theme around which Beethoven builds the entire symphony, they alone do not make the piece so powerful. Rather, Bernstein says, the Fifth has universal appeal because each note feels inevitable based on the note that precedes it. Huh! Quite an accomplishment for a deaf fellow with huge hair and an even bigger scarf/collar situation.

And Bernstein is correct. Whether the score includes a C-sharp or a fermata over a dotted half note, we listeners sense there is nothing that could fit more perfectly or precisely. The result? A composition of notes so thoughtfully arranged that they create an ordered, satisfying, musical story.

I think that’s why we gravitate toward great art: at its most basic level, great art creates a story that is comprised of one inevitable, satisfying beat after another. When each note (or brushstroke or word) feels inevitable, it reminds us that even with the chaos in our world: courtroom verdicts, ISIS beheadings, suicide bombers, pediatric cancer, racism and poverty, we can rely on great music, art, poetry and fiction to deliver a story that points us to order, truth, peace and justice.

Story keeps us breathing. Story keeps us sane. Story also makes us smarter. Albert Einstein (supposedly) said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Similarly, in Wired for Story, Lisa Cron (who has the exact same IQ as Einstein), explains how story is the art form from which humans make sense of confusing, complex things. Story is art. Crafting story is also an art.

In our fiction then, how do we follow a deaf composer’s example? How do we build stories where each word, sentence, scene and plot point falls inevitably after the one that precedes it?  Continue Reading »

Even More New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

New Year's ResolutionsTwo years ago I posted a set of New Year’s resolutions for writers, which was well enough received that I posted another set of resolutions the following December. This holiday season, since I’m all about tradition (as opposed to being all about that bass), I’ve assembled several more resolutions for writers to consider as the new year approaches.

Some of the resolutions I’m proposing might initially seem to be in conflict with each other, but if you read on, I think you’ll see how they align. Regardless, I hope you find them helpful.

1. Stop comparing your achievements with others.

There’s a popular quote floating around the interwebs, which maintains that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Some people think Theodore Roosevelt said this, while others attribute it to numerous different sources. Regardless of who said it first, it’s a worthwhile statement to ponder.

It’s all too easy in life to focus on what we have in comparison to what other people have, whether it’s money, fame, success, power (or in my case, stunning good looks and abs of steel). And it’s always pretty easy to find somebody who seems more fortunate than us. Having found that lucky bastard – er, I mean that more fortunate person – it’s easy to envy their success, and to bemoan our own lack of the same. And that just never leads to warm and fuzzy feelings.

Artists are among the most susceptible to this kind of thinking, and it can really work against us if we dwell on these comparisons too much. On one hand, it can make us doubt our own chances at success, eroding our confidence and planting the idea in our minds that we are NEVER going to make it – a prophecy that can quickly become self-fulfilling.

On the other hand, it can make us bitter and envious of others’ success, to the point where we disparage these people as simply being lucky, or talentless hacks who had some insider connection, or cheaters who somehow gamed the system, or any other number of ways to diminish their accomplishments and rationalize why they are further along in the publication journey than we are. We ask ourselves why did they get all the luck? How come their book sold and mine didn’t? How did they get invited to be a panelist at that cool literary conference, when nobody invited me?

Folks, try not to go down this path, because as my good buddy Billy Shakespeare once said, that way madness lies. Continue Reading »

What Your Writer’s Resume Says About Your Chances for Recognition

career-path-300x240Lately, a new mantra has caught on: “There’s no better time to be a writer.” Not only has self-publishing helped open the doors to so many aspiring authors, but the online world has created more opportunities than ever before to build a platform, network and self-promote.

From a schmoozing and promotion perspective, anything seems possible.  We can have conversations with Jodi Picoult on Twitter, send Facebook messages to Paulo Coehlo and mingle with top agents and editors right here on Writer Unboxed.

All of which is wonderfully democratic and very much in the spirit of the camaraderie and connectedness that defines our times. But it has also created a whole new realm for potential missteps and frustration.

Along with the sense that anything’s possible has come – for lack of a better term – a sense of entitlement. With the perceived level playing field the digital age has created, the notion that having written and published a book, any book, means we’re eligible to be considered by any and all gatekeepers to widespread recognition, from Oprah to the The New York Times.

Although we long for this to be true, and perhaps it should be, it simply isn’t. Take a look, for example, at this painfully eye-opening article by Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles called, “No, I Do Not Want to Read Your Self-Published Book.” (Ouch!)

What is true, at least for the most part, is that while most books sent in to the venerable gatekeepers of recognition will indeed wind up in the shredder Continue Reading »