What A Waste!

Decades ago when I was living and teaching in Dubai with my husband I had enrolled in this correspondence course with the Writing School in England. At that time, Dubai was not what it is now, and all correspondence was done by mail. Every time I completed a writing assignment and mailed my envelope I would wait impatiently for my tutor’s corrections and comments.

Now when I look at my bookshelf in my room, filled with folders carrying assignments and notes from different tutors of all the correspondence courses I have taken with different magazines and schools, I have one regret. What a waste of time they all have been. 

I understand now that all I have collected over the years are encouragements and promising rave reviews. I failed to recognize that the world is teeming with false prophets ready to prey on desperate young wannabes like myself. If only I had spent that time writing and writing and writing.

The dream

I am still suffering a slow and painful death by encouragement as I wait for my inevitable “big break.” Only now I am a little bit less reluctant to let myself be broken by false promises.

This reminds me of a story I read a long time ago in one of my  Writer’s Digest magazines.

Leonard Witt, editor of The Complete Book of Feature Writing, was overjoyed when he sold his first freelance article back in 1971.

Witt, 27 at the time, was a substitute elementary school teacher who enjoyed writing. He wrote an essay about the differences between sounds and noises. Seeing an add by BiPlanes in search of a freelance article he mailed his masterpiece.

Two weeks later, the editor called to say Witt’s essay had been accepted; he would be paid 15$. While picking up his check and a copy of the paper, he was surprised to find it was explicitly pornographic. Sharing the story with a friend a few years later, the friend said.“Ah, that’s easy. At the time the law required that all publications have at least a smattering of redeeming social value. Your essay must have enabled the paper to meet that requirement.”

ChK

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The Laziest Man

The late Naguib Mahfouz once gave the following advice:

“You must beware of advice. You must find yourself by yourself, in the context of your times. Be a serious and good lover of your work. Please love your work more than the result of it. You know, the results can be very attractive- money, fame. You will love this, and why not? But love the work more.” 

Yesterday the sound of music coming from our neighbors was so loud that after trying to stay positive and enduring it for four hours I gave in.

Lately trying to stay focused and hopeful has been a real struggle for me. I try, God knows I try. I have even become a fan of Sonia Choquette on Facebook and often read her writings about spirituality and finding your soul and listening to your heart. 

One of the many interesting points she makes is that happiness, true happiness, lies in the process of creating, and it is okay to find the time of day to just sit and listen to yourself breathe. Then slowly become aware of yourself and your dreams.

to be

I find this easy to do since I tend to daydream a lot. On most days I find myself indulging in a mad fantasy of the future. I let my imagination take me to places I can’t really go just to get out of the passive state I am in. But hey in an anecdote submitted to the Boston Herald in 1966 Arthur Harney writes:

“It was just about 50 years ago that the wife and I took the Boston & Maine train from North Station in Boston for Littleton, New Hampshire.
Grandfather met us. …Two miles from [his] farm, we passed the old Joe Herbert farmhouse. A strange man was sitting on the front porch. I didn’t recognize him and asked who he was.
“That man,” said my grandfather, “is the laziest man that ever hit town. … He never works, and every time I drive by, there he is just sitting. He and his whole family will be living on the town before the winter is over.”
Well, before the winter was over that man on the porch made every newspaper in the country. His name was Robert Frost.”

ChK

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The Sad Truth Is

M.J. Rose said:
“They (writers) need to understand that they need to promote themselves, and that there’s a way to promote yourself without acting like a used-car salesman. The key to becoming a pro is the same way to get to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice.”

To say that I am a little tired of hearing about how I need to “generate a buzz” for my book if I want to make it in today’s publishing market is an understatement. I keep thinking, What happened to us? Is success as a writer now based only on how good you are at marketing and self promotion? Why can’t the story or the book speak for itself? Isn’t writing a book enough? Why can’t I write the damn thing and let others take care of the rest?

Alarm

Self-publishing has become a remarkable phenomenon in this day and age. Whether it is articles or stories posted on blogs, or e-books, nowadays anyone can write about anything and everything and get “published” instantly. Often there are no boundaries and, best of all, no rejection letters. Specially when big contracts are being offered for previously self-published books.
 
The sad truth is that these days, there’s no excuse for being ignorant of the way the publishing industry works. When my daughter suggested the other day that I take a crash course in marketing I said I can’t. I wasn’t being arrogant. It’s just the kind of person I am. And I am not proud to say this but I cannot even stand up for my own rights. I am too shy or too concerned about others’ feelings that most of the time I sadly give in. To give just an example:

In December 10 2005, Robert Fisk was in Dubai for the signing of his book ‘The Great War For Civilization’ in the Jashanmal bookstore in Emirates Mall, the mall with the indoor ski slopes. The book signing was taking place before his talk. 

“Ah Armenian!” he said hearing my name. I nodded.
“I have a chapter in my book about the Armenian genocide, the first holocaust of the century.” 
“We are Armenians from Anjar, Lebanon,” my husband jumped in.
“Oh, Anjar, I was there ten days ago. I wrote an article about it last week for the Independent. I have also written about it in the chapter I told you about.”
 
I had brought my copy of ‘Pity The Nation’ which he autographed for me along with his new book. Then I gave him a copy of my first book The Lost I, not signed of course, for who was I to autograph a book to Robert Fisk? He was glad to receive it and he promised to read it on the plane the next day on his way back home to Beirut. I couldn’t ask how I could contact him afterwards. I was too shy to ask to take a picture with him, even.

A year later, in December 19 2006, at an event at McGill University, I met Robert Fisk again. A little before the start of the event I found him sitting alone at a desk inside the auditorium in Leacock, writing. I approached him and mentioned that we had met in Dubai a year ago at Emirates Mall. He told me how he’d been at the same place a month ago and that this time, the event had been more successful with twice the audience. When he looked down at his notes I left to take my seat. I came so close to asking him about the book that I had given him a year ago which he had promised to read, but I couldn’t. I didn’t even mention my name. Why? Why? Why?

“Too late! Is anything more painful than realizing you did not know the right questions to ask at the only time on earth you would have the opportunity?” Alice Walker

ChK

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Okay Is A Blanket Word

Today morning when I sat down at my desk to write, I stared at the blank page and nothing happened. I couldn’t think of anything to write without the fear of repetition. It happens when I have so many thoughts and ideas cooking in my head that I fail to pick one and stick to it. And today morning is no exception. Writer’s block? Definitely.

Desk

Anton Chekhov wrote:
“If you want to work on your art, work on your life.” 

I like to believe that my life right now is better than it was a year or so ago. The pain is still there and the feeling of emptiness is so profound sometimes that I feel lost. But when people ask me how I feel and I say I’m okay.

Julia Cameron writes:
“Okay is a blanket word for most of us. It covers all sorts of squirmy feelings; and it frequently signals a loss. We officially feel okay but do we?” 

I stop and think. Am I really okay? If so then why don’t I feel that emotional link with any of the ideas I have at the moment? Why can’t I choose a topic and start writing? It’s like my mind is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Every time that I think I have overcome a difficulty of some sort, every time I think I can start to write because all is behind me, I am forced to face yet another problem. It’s like being on a roller coaster ride with no end.

Despite all I try to remain positive. But at the end of the day I am back to where I started. I feel constricted and powerless. Have I changed? Has my perception of life changed maybe? I believe that only the moment we are in is promised, and that we should always live it.
 
“All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.” M. C. Richards

ChK

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Isn’t It Illegal?

“Most writing contracts, especially for books, motion pictures and TV, are booby-trapped. If you don’t know the traps when you read them, hire someone who does- not just any lawyer, but a lawyer specialized in literary contracts.” James Joseph

Have you published with Raider Publishing International? Are you tired of your books being sold while you receive no royalties? 

Well I am. The paperback edition of my book The Lost I, published by Raider Publishing International in March 2009, is still being sold on Amazon and by other booksellers even though my contract with Raider ended in 2011.
 
Isn’t this illegal? To have the book in print, even though holding no rights to it? When Raider Publishing International (A Publisher Founded By Writers For Writers) offered to publish my book I was so excited at first. But as the date of publication approached and I was still waiting to be assigned an editor, I started to have this odd feeling that maybe I should cancel.

Something told me that this was not good. That little voice in my head was telling me that this was wrong and that this particular contract is bad news. But in my head I also thought, what if I was wrong? What if they were honest? Then I would lose my chance of being published. 

I silenced that little, contrary, voice in my head, that feeling that something was wrong or the person I was working with was unethical in some way and went along with the contract.

Fraud

The thing that I regret most about the whole deal is that by signing that contract I got myself stuck in a terrible situation and closed the door on myself and my  chances of getting published elsewhere. 

If only I trusted my instinct. How do I get out of that situation? Honestly, I don’t even know where to start!

ChK

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“It’s Wonderful- We Hate It”

In my search for answers and the truth these past years or so, I have wondered about the road that I am on, the road on which there is so much beauty and pain. This journey towards the unknown that we call life.

After the tragic loss of my husband I realized that the line separating life and death is so thin and that his absence is so real and so final. It’s this absolute finality that I still have trouble dealing with. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined something like this happening to us.

To understand much of what happened in my life I have done a lot of reading lately.

YoungReader

I have read lots of books on loss and spirituality. And one thing all these writers have taught me is that the end does not matter as much as the process. That if you concentrate too much on the future you lose your sense of the present and of yourself.

They have taught me that failure and success are just terms that all too often determine, often falsely, how we regard our lives and our work. And that setback is a better word for failure, since it is more accommodating of second chances and lessons learned.

And success is such an impersonal word and an exclusive concept. It more often depends on how others see your work and adds obstacles to your path, obstacles of your own making; excessive struggle, extreme effort and undue expectations.

William Faulkner wrote of Mark Twain:
“A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven ‘sure fire’ literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

The books have also taught me that fulfillment is a warmer word and more significant than success. It does not depend on material rewards and is even at the core of all your dreams and your soul’s desires. I learned that only upon clearing my mind of all such mental obstructions would I find myself on the path of least resistance and the right path to achievement and contentment.

On a lighter note, Nan Hays wrote:

“It’s Wonderful-We Hate It

We gave your submission a lot of thought.
It’s one of the best that we almost bought.

We’d just love to receive something else from you;
In all probability we’ll return that, too.

Keep your day job if you need the money.
This won’t pay the bills- but it sure is funny.”

ChK

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Remember To Have Fun!

So many times I have read and heard motivational speakers or spiritual gurus say, “You can control your mind better than you may believe.”

Not all the time. And definitely not for me. My biggest problem is that I can’t shut my mind off especially when I am worried about something. There’s too much going on in there right now and I can’t even concentrate on anything I seem to be doing. I am just so restless I don’t even know how to stop fretting and stay calm and write.

I know the creative path is difficult, full of anxiety and failure. If you’re a writer or an artist who works alone without validation from the world, it’s hard not to keep from living in the future. It’s hard to live in the present and not despair. But creative path can also be filled with challenge, achievement, elation and why not even triumph. Although there is no right or wrong way to be creative here are some steps to start with.

Step 1: Start with an Idea.

Step 2: Draw out a Plan- theme, characters, plot.

Step 3: Read and Research (if necessary).

Step 4: Start Writing (actual writing process).

Step 5: Keep on Writing until you Finish the first draft.

Step 6: Put it Aside for a While and do Something Else.

Step 7: Get Back to your Draft and Start Cutting and Editing.

Step 8: Query Agents and Publishers.

Step 9: Don’t wait, Start a New Project.

And last but not least remember to have fun!

ChK

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