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Does a Book Validate You as A Writer?

It’s in every writer’s DNA to want to have a book published but it’s not necessary to prove a writer’s worth. I make little money from my writing but I am still a professional and proud of it.

Writing can succeed on a big or small level. One of my best writing moments happened when two of my articles for the West Sacramento News-Ledger were printed on the front page, along with the photographs I had taken for them.

The News-Ledger is a small town weekly but it is the paper of record for the community and as such is a real newspaper, not some handout or advertising circular.

Through the Ledger I got to attend concerts, went to City Council meetings, interviewed teachers, and wildly drove a California Highway Patrol car through what the CHP Academy calls a skidpan, a flooded closed circuit track run at high speed. Their instructor pronounced me a natural.

My writing career has included many magazine articles, some national, two international, a self-published magazine, other newspaper articles, work for, an odd assortment of contract work, a literary journal essay, and my still continuing writing and editing for Infocus Web Marketing in Vancouver.

While writing on telecom I was asked to appear at some length for an interview on the History Channel in an episode on Alexander Graham Bell. A few strangers later recognized me on the street and that was odd but satisfying. As was an obscure question that someone e-mailed me, saying that the Library of Congress thought I might know the answer.

It would be nice to have a book published but it wouldn’t pain me if that chance went by. I’m too old to chase a dream that depends on people I can’t trust. I only write for people that treat me fairly.

I’ve worked plenty of other jobs with horrible bosses, poor pay, and terrible hours. We all have. But I won’t put up with that with my writing. We all draw the line somewhere at what we accept. I’ve drawn my line. And if a book is beyond that line, so be it.

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My Essay In The Latest Temenos Journal is Out

The Temenos Journal has published my first creative nonfiction essay. It’s called “Describing The Elephant.” It’s a long read and often painful, but there is hope at the end. Just like all good stories. I penned this introduction:

Asked if the Jedi were real, Han Solo haltingly confesses that he once doubted it. “I used to wonder about that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil, the dark side and the light. Crazy thing is — it’s true. The Force. The Jedi. All of it. It’s all true.”

“Describing the Elephant” challenges the reader to accept that the supernatural is real and all that understanding implies. Denying the paranormal is easy for anyone who hasn’t experienced it. For those of us that have, we struggle to relate what we’ve seen, heard, or felt.

I was not looking for another world, nor did I ever think one could exist. Without asking, I was granted a fleeting glimpse of something I cannot fully describe. I am a blind man holding the tail of an elephant, powerless to know the animal’s true, full form. But I know the beast exists. It’s real. It’s true. All of it is true. (external link — enable Flash)


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What Is Literature? — Continued

<— Previous post on literature

It might be said that literature aspires to something higher, art perhaps. Artistic merit. Perhaps.

None of the reporting I’ve done, the blogs for trial lawyers that I write, none of the magazine articles I’ve ever worked on could be considered literature or art. Instead, they are workman like writing bent solely on communicating clearly. Unvarnished and without nuance, they provide a standard meal without dessert. Given the deadlines they were written under, and the requirements set by editors, that may be enough. Solid food. Perhaps literature provides the apple pie.

My one brush with the literary world is coming up with the publication of my first creative nonfiction essay. It is in a literary journal so is it not literature? Maybe. I think it is simply strong storytelling without the need for a label. It took no longer to write than one of my Rock&Gem articles. But within its 2,500 words I got to explore ideas, even in my own limited way. I’ll never provide scholarly insights like Huxley but I am not trying to.

The visual art world has an easier time deciding what kind of art exists, although they wrestle with the more fundamental question at every moment. What is art? is as difficult as asking what is literature. But back to their distinctions. Chiefly, fine art is produced by an artist on their own, according to their own lights, without an employer or boss telling them what to create. A graphic artist, by comparison, works on projects assigned to them by someone else. Norman Rockwell was the epitome of a graphic artist. Perhaps literature is only written by those selecting their own stories.

I’ll leave with some enlightening quotations. Again, I may not know how to define literature, but I know it when I see it.

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“Literature is news that stays news.”
― Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading

“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.”
― Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

“Serious literature does not exist to make life easy but to complicate it.”
― Witold Gombrowicz

Quotes from (external link)


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Temenos Journal Is Publishing My First Creative Nonfiction Essay!

The Temenos Journal – light up the unconscious – will publish my first piece of creative nonfiction in their Summer 2017 edition. This essay was the last paper I wrote for the UC Berkeley Extension creative nonfiction workshop I took last year.

Temenos is based out of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The journal has been publishing for 17 years. As they put it,

The Greek word “temenos” refers both to the ancient Greek concept of sacred space and the Jungian ‘safe spot’ where one may bring the unconscious into the light of consciousness. Our mission is to bring to light works that are engaging, memorable, and fearless.

Okay. I’m not sure my essay measures up to all that, but I am thrilled to be appearing in a literary review. Eight other journals and reviews rejected the piece, but my essay has finally found a home. I’ll be working on edits with their staff soon and I’ll keep you informed.

What is creative nonfiction? (internal link)

Temenos (external link)