Weather Report, Jan. 8

Image result for Photo of Trump and Obama together + free

Photo from Business Insider.

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “CLARA AT THE EDGE,” BY MARYL JO FOX AND “SKATING ON THE VERTICAL,” BY JAN ENGLISH LEARY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR, YOU CAN CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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I don’t consider myself a political person, at least not in the red and blue sense. In a country sharply divided between liberals and conservatives, I happen to believe that both sides have some of the answers to the issues we face, but neither has them all.

What I also believe in very strongly, perhaps as a result of my decades writing for newspapers, is freedom of speech.  That’s why I love books.

For when you think about it, so many of us seem to gave lost the ability to listen to the other side. Constructive face-to-face dialogue is increasingly rare, TV networks are often as polarized as the people who gravitate toward them.  Even readers of blog posts and on-line newspaper articles can hardly wait to fire back their e-mail response to points of view that make their neck hairs bristle.

When you read a book, however, you have to take in what the author is saying with no real ability to counter punch. You can stop reading, of course, but exposure to an opposite viewpoint can sometimes be hypnotic, as in “I can’t believe this jerk is for real. What’s he going to say next?”

You may find yourself thinking about that book later. It may even, on rare occasions, change your mind.

I’ve highlighted very few overtly political books on Snowflakes in a Blizzard, but this week I’m including Tom Ersin’s “Barack and the Anti-PC,” one man’s version of how events and attitudes affected and molded our last two presidents.

I suspect this book will be somewhat on the “blue” side, but I’m also perfectly willing to to toss a “red” morsel to our blog followers any time. The only requirement is that there has to be something literary in such an offering, something that makes it more interesting and readable than just a political rant. Still, this is, and always will be, a free speech zone.

Our other two books this week are not political, but equally thought-provoking. Jane Olmsted’s volume of poetry, “Seeking the Other Side,” was inspired by the death of her son. Caitlin Hamilton Summie’s collection of short stories, “To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts,” gives a unique and compelling treatment to a number of common themes.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JAN. 9-15.

“SEEKING THE OTHER SIDE,” BY JANE OLMSTED.

Writes  Jane: “After Casey died, I was flooded with powerful images and words and feelings. I longed for my son, and the continual pull from the world outside often made me feel crazy. The only way to reckon with the incredible weight of loss was to go into it. That’s how I thought of it: I must go inside where I can be with him. Music helped—Brahms’ Requiem in particular, but any sacred or melancholy music helped me go “to that lonely place.” I sat in my “serenity room” (wishful thinking) and wrote and revised and crafted, imagining that each poem was a letter sent to that  impossible place, a plea, a cry—all those ways we call out when silence is the only answer. And then perhaps we begin to hear, to see, within the silence we thought was complete. The collection emerged, and by pulling in other poems, I could see that though my seeking Casey is probably the most powerful part of the collection, it is in a context of lifelong reaching for understanding and affinity.

“TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS,” BY CAITLIN HAMILTON SUMMIE.

In these ten elegantly written short stories, Caitlin Hamilton Summie takes readers from WWII Kansas City to a poor, drug-ridden neighborhood in New York, from western Massachusetts to woodsy Wisconsin, and from the quiet of rural Minnesota to its pulsing Twin Cities, each time navigating the geographical boundaries that shape our lives as well as the geography of tender hearts, loss, and family bonds. Deeply moving and memorable, To Lay To Rest Our Ghosts examines the importance of family, the defining nature of place, the need for home, and the hope of reconciliation.

“BARACK VS. THE ANTI-PC,” BY TOM ERSIN.

Barack vs. the Anti-PC is a humorously serious, chronological commentary of articles and essays interspersed with quotes and headlines. The quotations and factual content are thoroughly researched and documented. Most of these articles were published originally in the author’s magazine during Obama’s first term and second campaign. The book lays out the gradual loss of Republican leaders’ control over their own party. By not denouncing the bigotry and misinformation, they unwittingly told their people anything goes. Donald Trump heard that message loud and clear. To its shock, the GOP establishment has now reaped what it has sown. Barack vs. the Anti-PC documents that sowing.

 

 

 

 

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Clara at the Edge

Clara at the Edge: A Novel by [Jo Fox, Maryl]THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “SKATING ON THE VERTICAL,” BY JAN ENGLISH LEARY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY. OR, JUST CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Clara at the Edge

PUBLISHED IN: November, 2017

THE AUTHOR: Maryl Jo Fox

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press

SUMMARY: Can a rowdy purple wasp, a spirit guide with amazing powers, help Clara confront her past and join life again . . . or is it too late?

At seventy-three, eccentric widow Clara Breckenridge is on a last-ditch journey to to reconcile with her estranged son, finally confront the guilty secrets surrounding her daughter’s death, and maybe find love again before she dies miserable and alone. Rigid and scared, Clara is cocooned in her old house to escape from life. Magic purple wasps saved her as a child from an abusive father and they want to help her now, but wasps only live 120 days and time is running out. When her beloved house is slated for demolition, she insists her son haul the house from Eugene to Jackpot, Nevada, where her orderly life is turned upside down by two troubled young people.

At times surprising and comical, Clara struggles with a past she has to face.

THE BACK STORY: I wanted to write a book about an older character. The passion of living affects every person, no matter how old. Sometimes I wonder if this passion intensifies as we get older. I think it’s a disservice to assume that this life force becomes weak as we age. I wanted to show an older woman in full throttle as she learns the high stakes of staying alive in any meaningful way for herself.

WHY THIS TITLE: Clara is forced to a breaking point. She must change or lose any hope of love and reconciliation. I felt that Clara was truly at the edge. She must change or fall off a precipice into isolation.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: All of us, at least all of us of “a certain age” have regrets and secrets that we don’t want to deal with. Clara at the Edge tries to follow an older woman who wants to face her deepest fears, but is terrified of doing so. It is a challenge for all of us.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Clara at the Edge is a weird and engaging story of a widow, some wasps, and a traumatic past, a story that explores the importance of human connection.

“Seventy-three-year-old widow Clara Breckenridge takes up her home, which is scheduled for demolition, to tow it to Jackpot, Nevada. Along for the ride are her estranged adult son, Frank, and a magic swarm of wasps. Those wasps once defended Clara from her abusive father, and they have been her protectors ever since.

“During her unique journey, Clara must face her deepest fears and unlock her internal secrets. She reluctantly attempts to reconnect with her family, find a path to happiness, and satisfy her magic protectors before they fade forever.

“Clara is a fascinating, feisty character whose magical wasps seem to function as a subconscious outlet. Now at the end of her life, Clara has spent forty years alone; her wasps drive her to unshackle herself from this self-imposed isolation. When she is confronted by violent youths attacking her and her home, Clara puts her own safety aside in the hopes of preventing a dark future.

“The writing is haunting and lyrical, and frequently ripples with humor and heart. Clara’s is not the only lens through which events are seen; the perspectives of her son, the locals in Jackpot, and a potential love interest also play in. Subtly shifting points of view give the narrative a dreamlike feel, but they also help to anchor its otherworldly aspects. For example, while the purple wasps at first seem like hallucinations or signs of a fractured mind, it becomes evident that most of the people around Clara also notice their strange behaviors and colorations. It is clear that there is an outside force pushing Clara.

“Enchantingly languid pacing serves as a counterpoint to the story’s ever-present countdown: even if the truth about the wasps and Clara’s fate isn’t clear at first, there’s less than a month to root it out. Clara truly is as the edge of something greater than herself. As she finds herself surrounded by new friends, estranged family, and the ghosts of those she lost, Clara’s story unspools in a compelling and engaging way. — Foreword Reviews

“In her seven decades on earth, Clara Breckenridge has survived the untimely loss of her husband, the tragic death of her daughter just months later, and now, in her waning years, a ruthless displacement from her home by unfazed city developers. But Clara is unshakable. She loads her house–its aging structure in all its glory–onto a flatbed truck and moves it closer to her son, Frank, in Nevada. Throughout his adulthood, Frank and Clara have maintained a complicated estrangement. Clara, feeling daunted by the task of laying straight her failures as a mother, is empowered by the magically real colony of wasps that has followed and protected her since adolescence. Regardless of whether or not the buzzing morsels of wisdom exist outside her head, Clara is determined to pull her son (and herself) back into the magic circle of love that has been empty since his father and sister passed. In alternating, omniscient, wasp-on-the-wall perspectives, Fox’s writing says yes to every surreal and absurd possibility life offers.” — BOOKLIST

Clara’s blurbs

“Who knew wasps could be protectors, champions, and the best friends a girl ever had? Maryl Jo Fox has written a wild, enchanting, constantly surprising story of one woman’s resilience, courage, and redemption through what may be a kind of magical insanity. Clara At the Edge kept me buzzing on every page.” — Diana Wagman, author of Life #6, The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets

“This dazzling combination of riotous imagination with bottomless compassion makes this such a stellar debut. Readers will surely remember Clara and her crew— they are utterly distinct, and beautifully realized.” — Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and four others.

“We will follow Clara anywhere.” — Walter Kirn has written 8 books, most recently Up in the Air and Blood Will Out.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I am a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and I have an M.A. in English from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana. My short fiction has appeared in Bat City Review, Passages North, Southwester and other periodicals. I reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Weekly and the Los Angeles Reader. My writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other periodicals. I have taught English at Glendale Community College, Pasadena City College and other colleges in the Los Angeles area.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I spent 12 years writing this book. I work very intuitively step by step and this results in a very long gestation process with numerous dead-ends and detours, but I also hope it has led to a richly detailed narrative.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). https://maryljofox.com/story-excerpts/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, Ca.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Indiebooks, Barnes and Noble, Amazon

PRICE: $16.95

Skating on the Vertical

Skating on the Vertical: Stories by [Leary, Jan English]THE BOOK: Skating on the Vertical

PUBLISHED IN: November 2017

THE AUTHOR: Jan English Leary

THE EDITOR:  Marc Estrin and Donna Bister

THE PUBLISHER: Fomite Press

SUMMARY:  Jan English Leary’s writing deftly offers insight into the disappointments and beauty of human love. In her new collection of sixteen stories, Skating on the Vertical, Leary writes about individuals who face the challenges of infertility and parenting, estrangement and intimacy, illness and recovery, loss and redemption. At the end of the stories, the characters emerge, sometimes broken, sometimes stronger, always changed.

WHY THIS TITLE: It is the name of one of the stories, but it also expresses a sense of disequilibrium that many characters in the other stories experience.

Image result for jan english learyWHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: These are stories that deal both with the universal and the unique: ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Most of all, I loved how each of these characters simmered palpably, their emotions bubbling just below the surface, waiting for the right moment to burst into the open.”—Jennifer Messner, Books, Personally

“In this and other stories in Skating on the Vertical, Leary has such feeling for her characters, bringing us into the center of their lives, the conflicts they face, and the emotions they experience as a result. In other words, she makes these characters remarkably, and often heart-rendingly, real.”—Beth Castrodale, Small Press Picks

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jan English Leary lives in Chicago with her husband. She taught French and English to high-school students before deciding to write full-time. Her novel, Thicker Than Blood, was published by Fomite Press in 2015. Her short fiction collected in her second book has been published in various literary journals such as Pleiades, The Literary Review, The Minnesota Review, Carve Magazine, Karamu, and others. Her work has received three Illinois Arts Council Awards.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: http://janenglishleary.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Wedding-Photo-by-Jan-English-Leary-Cease-Cows.pdf.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, 60640.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, fomitepress.com, Kobo, and Smashwords.

PRICE: $15 for the paperback; $4.99 for the ebook.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: janenglishleary.com

First Tuesday Replay, Jan. 2

THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.

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“AMERICANS BOMBING PARIS,” BY THOMAS BARTLETT

Americans Bombing Paris is a romantic thriller set around 2002. Back when the French and the Americans were sparring in the media over whether or not to invade Iraq. The story revolves and encircles a group of friends who undertake some low-hum protests at what they perceive to be corruption and injustice. When Johnny, the main character, meets Naya everything else falls away, but then life is not like that. Life overtakes them, dwarfs them, makes heroes and villains of them. Paris is the setting for this love story riven through with satire, comedy and politics.

“THROUGH THE EYES OF A YOUNG PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT,” BY SEAN CONROY.

Sean Conroy started his career in the lab, but had a burning desire to enter the clinical side of medicine as a physician assistant. After completing the first two years of book work, he spent a year learning from doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and others on the front lines of medicine in hospitals and clinics across the state of Nebraska. He entered his first family practice rotation as a well-spoken but inexperienced PA student, and in under a year was bedside with severely ill and injured patients in one of Nebraska’s busiest level-one trauma centers.

This memoir follows Conroy around the state, from one rotation to another, as he grows in knowledge and maturity. It tells the tales (some humorous, some harrowing, and occasionally heartbreaking) of patient encounters in wide variety of settings with individuals from all walks of life. From the delivery of a newborn, to the terminally ill at the end of their lives, and many in between, Through the Eyes of a Young Physician Assistant will leave you laughing and crying and with a deeper appreciation of PAs.

“HOMETOWN HEARTACHE,” BY M.J.  SCHILLER.

Nash is trying to make a name for himself in the art world…

But when he meets a realtor to buy a gallery, he is stunned to find Chloe sitting at the table with the man. He has never stopped thinking about her since she disappeared from his life without a trace. Is it too late to win back her love?

Chloe has finally found a way to leave her past behind her…

But her heart leaps out of her chest when she sees Nash. How can he be here? Now…after all this time? On the surface, she pulls herself back together. But underneath she feels she is about to shatter. After remaking herself, how can she deal with being faced with Nash and the life she knew before?

“LONGING FOR HOME,” BY LISA WAYMAN.

Seventeen-year-old Irena clutches all of her belongings, waiting to be processed through Ellis Island in 1892. She hopes for a better life than she had as a Slovenian maid.

“Life in America is difficult and unsettling,” she thinks. “I had the sensation of disintegrating. I felt myself in little pieces. Was I Slovene, American or even maybe Irish? Catholic or Pagan? For a moment I wasn’t sure even if I were male or female. I felt myself dissolving into the mountains and the fresh blue sky.”

Against the backdrop of the Wyoming cattle wars, an Irish neighborhood in Chicago’s meat packing district, and through the depression of the 1890s in Durango, Colorado, Irena must tap into unknown strengths and learn to love herself and her husband in order to find her way home.

“CROSSING THE BLUE LINE,” BY WILLIAM MARK

Chaos reigns in the streets of Tallahassee, and the community doesn’t trust the police. The reason: police officers Beau Rivers and Dylan Akers are suspected in the recent murders of two child killers although it cannot be proved. Leading the turmoil is a dangerous kingpin building a drug empire with violence and fear. The Chief of Police must act, but traditional police work isn’t getting results. Additional evidence proving Rivers and Akers committed the revenge murders is discovered, and the chief delivers a tough ultimatum. The two must wage a hidden war against the kingpin or face murder charges. Working together again, Beau and Dylan are joined by two others, one a tenacious cop and the other with questionable morals, to form a secret squad known only by the chief. As they square up against the drug lord, it quickly becomes a race against time. Major Pritchard, the unscrupulous IA commander who investigated Beau and Dylan, continues his personal crusade against the pair. Will Beau and Dylan take down the syndicate before Pritchard finds the uncovered evidence held by the Chief? Will they finally face the consequences for taking the law into their own hands? To make things right, they will have to cross the blue line, and it could cost one of them his life.

“THE GINSENG GANG,” BY BILL TUCKER

The stories and the setting describe an area of rural Virginia where country people still live an easy-going lifestyle — that is, until things start going terribly wrong. A few rowdies and troublemakers do things that cause anger, fear and death.The local law can’t get enough evidence to charge the evildoers, so the Ginseng Gang begins working behind the scenes.

 

Weather Report, Jan. 1

New Year, 2018, Numbers, Digit, Design, Happy, Holiday

Well, here we go again — another year.

The end of May will mark the fourth anniversary of Snowflakes in a Blizzard, which has already featured more than 370 books from 350 authors. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Come to think of it, I know what comes next — a novel featuring a 73-year-old protagonist and a magical wasp and a compelling book of short stories with a wonderful title — “Skating on the Vertical.” Plus, the return of First Tuesday Replay.

Happy New Year!

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JAN. 2-8.

“SKATING ON THE VERTICAL,” BY JAN ENGLISH LEARY

Jan English Leary’s writing deftly offers insight into the disappointments and beauty of human love. In her new collection of sixteen stories, Skating on the Vertical, Leary writes about individuals who face the challenges of infertility and parenting, estrangement and intimacy, illness and recovery, loss and redemption. At the end of the stories, the characters emerge, sometimes broken, sometimes stronger, always changed.

“CLARA AT THE EDGE,” BY MARYL JO FOX.

Can a rowdy purple wasp, a spirit guide with amazing powers, help Clara confront her past and join life again . . . or is it too late?

At seventy-three, eccentric widow Clara Breckenridge is on a last-ditch journey to to reconcile with her estranged son, finally confront the guilty secrets surrounding her daughter’s death, and maybe find love again before she dies miserable and alone. Rigid and scared, Clara is cocooned in her old house to escape from life. Magic purple wasps saved her as a child from an abusive father and they want to help her now, but wasps only live 120 days and time is running out. When her beloved house is slated for demolition, she insists her son haul the house from Eugene to Jackpot, Nevada, where her orderly life is turned upside down by two troubled young people.

At times surprising and comical, Clara struggles with a past she has to face.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

This month, we will revisit “The Ginseng Gang,” by Bill Tucker, “Through the Eyes of a Young Physician’s Assistant,” by Sean Conroy, “Longing for Home,” by Lisa Wayman, “Crossing the Blue Line,” by William Mark, “”Hometown Heartache,.” by M.J. Schiller and “Americans Bombing Paris,” by Thomas Bartlett.

SNOWFLAKES NEWS

Remember Brian Simpson, author of the first book (“Island Dogs”) to be featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard? Back in November, he announced that he was donating any profits from the sale of his novel to a fund to help the people of hurricane-ravaged Anguilla, the island of his inspiration.

On Dec. 15, Brian wrote: “As of today, I just exceeded $1,500 and almost 360 books sold (since November). Trying to get a few more in before the end of the year.”


And then this from Robert Leonard Reid, author of “Because It Is So Beautiful,” featured on Snowflakes last Sept. 12:

“Wanted to let you know some great news, namely, Because It Is So Beautiful is a semifinalist for the 2018 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Ten nominees to be whittled to five finalists, with the winner to be announced at a ceremony in NYC in February.”

 

Writing: The Good Stuff

festive hanging tree

ONCE AGAIN, I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO HIGHLIGHT ANY SNOWFLAKES AUTHORS OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF DECEMBER, FOR FEAR THAT THESE POSTS MIGHT BE OVERLOOKED AMIDST THE DISTRACTIONS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON. INSTEAD, I’M SUBSTITUTING TWO POSTS INVOLVING SOME ASPECT OF WRITING, ONE FOR EACH WEEK.

TO MEET SOME OF OUR PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS, SCROLL DOWN BELOW THIS POST OR CLICK THAT WRITER’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

AS FOR TODAY: MERRY CHRISTMAS! BELOW IS A SMALL GIFT TO THE WRITERS AMONG US.

— – DARRELL LAURANT.

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(This first appeared on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog, 3/11/15)

Some days, when writers’ block descends, our query letters return like boomerangs and our books aren’t selling, it’s nice to reflect upon what we have going for us.

1. We can travel light. Unlike plumbers and brain surgeons, writers need only a small notebook and a pen or pencil to do our jobs (the current electronic paraphernalia is fine, but ultimately optional). And if you’re one of those fortunate souls able to conjure lengthy passages in your head, you don’t need anything at all.

2. We can eat and drink while we work.

3. We face no institutional barriers.  You can’t call yourself a doctor, a lawyer, a minister or a police officer without jumping through some societal hoops. To call yourself a writer, though, all you have to do is write. It doesn’t have to be how you make your living, you don’t need to be published, and you don’t even have to be good at it.

4. It’s OK to be poor. True, it’s not fun — but our literary culture has elevated the starving writer into something of a noble sufferer.

5. It’s OK to be weird. Indeed, for writers, artists and musicians, it seems that the stranger and more anti-social you become, the more intrigued people are by your work. Creative types also get a pass on habitual drunkenness, self-destructive drug use and sexual adventurism.  Think about it: In what other profession would Edgar Alan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald have been considered success stories?

6. We can change identities at will. All of us, in our darker moments, have fervently wished we were someone else. Fortunately, writers can use a time travel device called “first person” to transport themselves anywhere we like, at any point in history.

7. Writers are allowed to use made-up names, a rarity among professions. How would you feel if your banker told you: “You know, this isn’t my real name … “?

8. The best writers can become famous without the downside of fame — no paparazzi, no autograph hounds. Most of us wouldn’t know any of the current Top Ten best-selling authors if they were standing at our front door.

9. Everyone has the right to our opinion. If you stood up in a bar or on a street corner and told the world what you thought about some controversial issue, you’d risk being punched in the face or arrested (or worse, in some countries). But if you express your opinion in writing, you generally need fear only a few nasty e-mails.

10. You may never be published, but chances are you will have the ability to write memorable responses to creditors (See No. 4 above), devastating breakup letters to end bad relationships, and, if worst comes to worst, suicide notes.

Let’s Treat Writing as a Real Job

Image result for college students photos free download

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS ARE “LOVERS AND LONERS,” BY JEAN RYAN, “KAFKA’S ROACH,” BY MARC ESTRIN, “THE LYNCHING OF LEO FRANK,” BY ZVI SESLING AND “GHOST TRACKS,” BY MARK SABA. THEY CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

ONCE AGAIN, I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO HIGHLIGHT ANY SNOWFLAKES AUTHORS OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF DECEMBER, FOR FEAR THAT THESE POSTS MIGHT BE OVERLOOKED AMIDST THE DISTRACTIONS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON. INSTEAD, I’M SUBSTITUTING TWO POSTS INVOLVING SOME ASPECT OF WRITING, ONE FOR EACH WEEK.

— – DARRELL LAURANT.

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I recently received an e-mail from a Texas woman named Sonia Brock about her pet project, an organization called “Future Literary Professionals of America.” She envisions it as a possible component of high school education, and is very enthusiastic about it. As she should be.

“We plan to have the students complete one publishing project each year,” she wrote. “It will incorporate every aspect of publishing from the beginning to the end (marketing, distribution, etc.).  The plan is to Skype with industry mentors each week as the group progresses with the project.”

It seems to me that she’s onto something. Certainly, the current glut of books and prospective books has left most publishing houses and literary agencies badly understaffed, creating a creative bottleneck. Ms. Brock’s idea may help ease that.

At the same time, though, I’d like to see it expanded not just for publishing projects, but as a means to nurture and develop writers.

For whatever reason, we don’t place professional writing in the same category as engineering or law or even plumbing. By consequence, writers often wander into their profession almost by accident. One of the things I ask for on the form for Snowflakes in a Blizzard authors is an “author profile.” So often, the story is the same — the person always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t know quite how to go about it, so they took a number of other jobs first. Eventually, “writer” became the default option.

My first job out of college was washing dishes in a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. From there, I spent some time operating a Ferris wheel at an amusement park.

I remember my father coming to me and saying: “Son, we’re confused. We sent you to college, and you’re running a Ferris wheel. Couldn’t you have done that if you didn’t go to college?”

I was 24 and newly married before I hooked on to a weekly newspaper, along with two other jobs. It took another five years to establish myself in the newspaper profession. That eventually bled into writing books, the thing I had always wanted to do.

It reminds me of these lines from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”:

“And then one day you find/ten years have got behind you./ No one told you when to run./ You missed the starting gun.”

Today, more than ever, that’s true. Given the landslide of books triggered by the technology advances of the ’90s and beyond, publishers and agents are overwhelmed with eager authors. Quite naturally, they tend to gravitate toward writers they know, or who have a definable track record. Thus, the old Catch 22 — how do you get published if you’ve never been published?

Obviously, many people manage to get past that. Still, when you look at their histories, many started out with valuable connections — either the professors who taught them, or friends who referred them, or any number of other secret passages through the publishing wall. Some are actually lucky enough to find publishers or agents willing to take a chance on promising new work.

The remaining writers simply query and hope.

When you think about it, this is not good for publishers, agents or the reading public, either. Many books rejected or ignored by the gatekeepers could have been much better, had the writer only been able to receive early guidance.

Here are a few other things to ponder:

  1. Not everyone wants to be a writer. You’re talking about the the two students out of a class of 30 who actually get excited about their term paper assignment. The rest would rather undergo a root canal.
  2. Writing is not a magical gift, at least in most cases, but a skill that needs to be learned and developed over time. The “magical gift” theory ends a lot of writing careers prematurely, because the writer responds to his or her first rejection by thinking: “Well, I must not have the gift. Guess I’m not a writer.”
  3. The possibilities open to writers today are almost endless — journalism, blogs, Websites, books, screenplays, commercials, public relations, magazine articles, and on and on. Even the President of the United States needs someone else to write most of his speeches. Ever look at the long list of articles at the bottom of many Websites under the heading “Sponsored Content?” Somebody needs to write all of them. Meanwhile, as Ms. Brock points out, there are potentially lucrative jobs in publishing, editing, printing, etc.

What if something were established in schools similar to that group of young people who always coalesce around theater groups or the marching band? While it’s important to expose students to the iconic “great writers,” perhaps one class a semester could be more about the craft of writing– beyond just exercises in grammar — with local writers enlisted as occasional speakers.  Maybe each student could contribute a short story to an annual book that would then be edited, illustrated, published and marketed by the “literary professionals” side of the program.

Maybe that would help move popular culture beyond its current image of writers. At this point, the struggling novelist or screenwriter or poet has become a stock character in films and books, usually working in some menial job and receiving rejection after rejection. Or else he or she is handicapped by some sort of addiction.

As a society, we need to begin seeing the business of writing not as something mystical or doomed to frustration, but a feasible opportunity