Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lucha Libro


Due to circumstances beyond our control, this week's episode of "How To Get Everything You've Ever Wanted Right Now," will not be shown.

Instead, we present this blog post that was hastily assembled at the last minute with no budget or product safety testing. We apologize for any inconvenience or discomfort, but we ain't liable. In fact, we'll probably laugh.

This week has seen more rewriting and submitting than creating new material. I've got two stories entered in two different competitions. I won't know the results until next year, but it feels good to be doing it. Both contests make room for several honorable mentions along with the top winners.

For most American writers, winning a competition is a great way to pad their publication credentials. It gives them exposure, prestige, and valuable experience. However, many successful writers have never entered competitions.

But for the people of Peru, they don't have much of a choice.

Take a look and see what I mean.

Is that hardcore or what? There have been days when I'm working on a novel or other long term project and I struggle to make the daily quota. It's usually no less than 1,000 words. But a whole short story in just a few minutes, and a book contract at stake? Talk about pressure!

Peru has been through some really bad times, like many South American nations. But that's no reason the voices of her people shouldn't be heard. However, as many American writers are beginning to learn, money troubles equals book troubles. Publishers get really protective of their assets and only publish material they are convinced they can sell.

It's a business, and in a nation like ours that enjoys unprecedented riches, we tend to forget that. The editors and agents have to feed themselves and their families. They might love your work, but if it won't sell, then we can't hold it against them for rejecting it.

I got you in the ring for three minutes. Three minutes of play time!

Peru's example shows how a little ingenuity can keep people's dreams alive. I predict that the writers who participate in this contest year after year will have razor sharp skills.

Something else I talked about last week was using real life and casting it in fiction. I mentioned Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Kerouac. But someone I didn't mention was Ralph Ellison, author of "Invisible Man." The book has been consistently rated as one of the most influential novels of the 20th Century for its portrayal of race relations.

I found this video where Ralph talks about his work and a number of things (including a book in progress which he never managed to finish, it would be called "Thee Days Before the Shooting").

I found it interesting that he used a tape recorder to test the feel and rhythm of his words. Just goes to show that you ought to stick with whatever works. If any of those recordings survived, I imagine they're very valuable.

My final thought this week regards the "banning" of certain books. I remember when I was in 7th grade and the Harry Potter series was published in the U.S. People were up in arms over "that story about witchcraft." They were sadly disappointed when their kids didn't turn into blood-drinking pagans. My generation proved that kids (or any reader) aren't stupid. They can invest a lot in a story without confusing it with reality.

I don't know what half of these words mean, but they speak to me...

Books are usually banned for a variety of reasons. They might challenge a social norm. They might contain profanity or other questionable content. They might attack one of our society's sacred cows.

In an interview, Kurt Vonnegut once gave his opinion on why people get offended by works of art. To paraphrase, he said: People are conditioned by advertisements. These ads always tell them something nice because they're trying to sell things. Art doesn't appeal to what you want. It speaks a message that you may or may not like, but that's not the point.

Power to the pen!

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