Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Writing, Poetry, And Thoughts On Writing

Good morning,
I am trying to think about what I am going to write about today. I'm almost at a loss for words. Alright, I'm going to write something about writing and a few of my experiences.

I've always had problems with grammar and structure. I've tried various books like Grammar the Easy Way, Basic English Grammar. You know the big books put out by Arco's and Barrons that supposedly can remediate anything, but really are only halfway there.

I once took a class from John Ordover who is a rather interesting person, he once was an editor for the Star Trek books, and arranges nude dinners at restaurants in Manhattan. He suggested that I should work on my grammar and structure. I even sent in a copy of my story to a magazine and got a rejection letter. I threw it away. I never got back to writing science fiction stories.

Now, I am writing a blog which really requires no qualifications other than willingness. I never will get rejection letters, just people choosing not to use my site because they don't like my grammar. There are always people like this. People want perfect grammar, spelling, and diction. I always mix up the present and past tenses.

If I sent the posts from this blog into an editor, they would throw it in the trash. I was taking another class, Introduction to Publishing at New York University, and I learned a little bit about publishing.

One of the things which is required when sending in manuscripts is near perfect grammar, it costs money for editors and proofreaders to correct your work. This is money the publishing houses aren't willing to pay for if you have too many grammatical mistakes.

The publishing houses have big slush piles where they put most of the books and manuscripts which come in unsolicited. I haven't ever seen any of these piles. But, if they say it, it must be true.

Of course, there is an exception to this rule. books by famous people. William Shatner uses Ron Goulart to help him write his Tek series of science fiction books. William Shatner's name is on the books, but not Ron Goulart's. If you are famous, the publishing houses will find a writer to write your books for you.

Anyways, lets get back to our subject writing. My understanding is that for most writers, it takes about a year to write a book, a steady one to two pages a day of writing. Maybe, a poem a day if you are a poet.

Poets usually don't make their money from writing, they make their money from doing writing workshops and teaching for the most part. They are often teachers for creative writing at various colleges. Poetry books tend to have very small runs and not cost very much.

Some people say I am a decent poet, but there is something unsavory about writing poetry which I can't put my fingers on. I do like a variety of poets. Some of my favorite poets are Bob Kaufman, Thoedore Roethke, Charles Bukowski, Diane Wakoski, and Baudelaire. Most of the poetry published by Black Sparrow Books originally started by Charles Bukowski is quite good http://www.blacksparrowbooks.com/index.asp. Jack Kerouac is also a very good poet, however, if you learn more about him personally, he wasn't exactly pleasant. It takes a certain emotional strength and depth to write very good poetry. I think of poetry as an older persons art.

If you are ever in San Francisco and you are interested in poetry and bookstores, City Lights books http://citylights.com/ is a really fantastic place to get poetry books. Lawrence Ferlinghetti helped found the store in 1953. They have quite a bit of Allen Ginsberg's work there and were involved in the infamous Howl trial. City Lights is both a radical bookstore and a poetry bookstore.

An awful lot of poetry books in the United States are distributed by SPD-- Small Press Distribution Books http://www.spdbooks.org/ . This is a nonprofit book distributor focused on distributing new literature. It is often very high quality books which would never have been distributed otherwise. For example, Dalkey Archive Press is distributed by SPD Books, a highly literary press. http://www.dalkeyarchive.com/ Nicholas Mosley, one of my favorite writers, a somewhat controversial writer as well is distributed by Dalkey Archive Press.

I am wondering how I got into this subject, usually I write about science fiction. I am writing about something different today. Real literary works are very hard to get published. The major publishers are in the business of making money, not art designed to last forever. Bestsellers are what most of the major presses are looking for. There are almost never poetry books or literary novels on the bestseller lists.


Kat Mortensen said...

This is a very interesting post. My nemesis has always been punctuation. I'm a pretty good speller and grammar is not a problem, but punctuation baffles me. It's like my brain is incapable of wrapping around the concept.
The thing that jumped out at me about your post however, has to be the "nude dinners". What?!!!

Thanks for visiting Poetikat's. Re: the Book Club - I think each person can perhaps nominate 2 books and then we'll put it to a vote.

Book Calendar said...

I'll nominate two books tomorrow. Thanks for coming by.