Pubfishing

From Linda’s opinion page:

blogthumbl.jpg Author thoughts: You have literary work finally out of your mind and onto paper or anxiously awaiting rescue from your hard drive. Now, how do you share the story you spent months or years tediously toiling over if you have ‘no name?’ Not too long ago, I facilitated my “Bumpy Road Toward the Land of the Published” workshop in my hometown for a writers group who are a little up in age. I shared with them different approaches toward getting published, to include a variety of vanity presses and self-publishing methods that I support as acceptable, suitable trends and realistic paths for first time authors. I overheard one lady tell another “Oh, that’s not for you. Your work is much too good for that.” When I looked at the lady receiving the advice, I felt saddened to think she may never see her story in print. What a shame to miss that joy. I firmly believe that if you have a story to tell, people somewhere want to read it. Finding those people without the traditional publisher backing will be a challenge of course, but marketing is another issue. It’s quite evident from the comment made during the workshop that, for a variety of reasons, the debate rages on between those choosing to self-publish and those who believe traditional publishing is the only venue with any credibility. It’s more a personal choice than a debate, really, but unfortunately the self-published, quite often, end up paying a higher price than the fee recorded on their invoice for the POD package they chose. Those who self-publish also risk being viewed with less respect by those who harshly perceive the unread self-publisher’s work as not “good” enough to be considered by a TPH. Since written work is so subjective; interests and tastes so varied, “good” or even “great” by whose standards? I’ve read many a book, traditionally published and extravagantly hyped, that left me wondering, why (?). And don’t people know and maybe they don’t, that Lewis Carrol, Mark Twain, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Virginia Wolf and the list goes on, all self-published? Yes, they represent a different time and times are definitely different now, or maybe it’s the people who are truly different now. I’ve spoken with some “writers” who care more about the possibility of a windfall than their art or the message they wish to convey. In the case of the elderly folks in the workshop, I think they were just unfamiliar with the progressive choices. The bottom line is, traditional publishing houses are in the business to make money, not to turn out literary masterpieces. The dollar is their focus and as many dollars as possible their goal. Traditional Publishing houses have no interest in me if I’m not a celebrity or affiliated with those of celebrity status, unless I managed, through some freak incident, to capture fifteen minutes of outrageous media attention. Those anonymous chunks of fifteen minutes happen quite often in the world and afford traditional publishers the convenience to fish out of a fairly congested barrel. Let’s be real. If I were walking alone through a meadow and accidentally fell into an uncovered but brush hidden, wet well, was unable to climb out and had to tread water for fifteen days, subsisting only by catching minnows with my teeth as they swam past my mouth before my rescuer, a seven-year-old Asian boy who’s only been in this country for a week, found me while playing with his dog, Lucky Penny, who he just saved from euthanasia two days ago, some “Traditional” publishing company just might want my story. I would have to be one of those extremely rare fortunates or unfortunates. Every time I watch a talk show and see an author promoting their new book, I always wonder (if I haven’t seen that person in the headlines in the last year or so) what connection they have with the talk show host? It usually comes out during the segment. Oh . . . she’s the wife of the chef of one of Martha’s favorite restaurants. Oh . . . he’s the brother of the lead singer of a band that Ellen is so crazy about right now. Oh . . . she’s the Mother of the guy Oprah is trying to fix Gail up with. Our lives are the stories we share and sharing life through fantasy or reality is what writers and storytellers are compelled to do. Written work becomes something personal between the author and the reader. I don’t know why we should or would allow traditional publishers, solely, to decide for us what is publication worthy. The traditional process is also very time consuming, and time is a commodity most of us don’t like to waste. As a first time author, sending your manuscript to a traditional publisher when you don’t have that “Kevin Bacon” connection, is very much like buying a lottery ticket. I think we all know the odds aren’t in our favor. Since I had my druthers, my choice was to stay out of the barrel and still take the opportunity to tell my story. Self-publishing, especially for the first time author, just might be “Intelligent and Realistic Publishing.”

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Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of ‘Save Them All’

www.bergman-althouse.com


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Coming Together

If there exists such a thing as a normal, or let’s say routine, day at the wildlife shelter, it would be one of manning the phones and admit desk, examining incoming patients, preparing specie specific diets for delivery at meal time, administering medications, cleaning and disinfecting kennel cabs, sweeping, mopping, taking out the trash, locking every patient in for the night and setting the alarm. If there’s a moment of down time in all of that, the small crew of two or three rehabilitators come together to discuss patient care or what’s the latest happening in each of our lives over a spot of afternoon tea in the humans’ kitchen. February 8th started ‘average day’ enough, but turned out to be anything but routine. I witnessed an “in the wild” incident so rare it begged for a camcorder bolted to the top of a helmet, similar to those worn during extreme sports or the super bowl, which I should surely be required to wear while tending tasks at the wildlife shelter. Of course, no one at the shelter wears one, but without videotape, who will fully appreciate or believe my story without seeing it play out for themselves. Still shots can only do so much, but here goes. Passing through the kitchen, I stopped to watch the over wintering hummingbird hovering near the nectar feeder outside the window. My hummingbirds at home packed up and left for Brazil or Costa Rica months ago, but this little chubby guy is still hanging tough in our 40-degree weather. At the same time, a Great Blue Heron passed over the building, straight as an arrow, his long thin legs dangling after him like the tail of a kite.

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I ran to the gift shop window to see if he was coming down to our pond. Although Herons find swampland more suitable at mealtime, they visit our pond occasionally and he did. I didn’t know if he would stay long, though. Being solitary hunters, I thought the presence of so many ducks and geese may prove annoying for the lanky fisherman. I yelled for Maria to come watch and through binoculars we saw him gracefully move into position behind the bare limbs of a bush whose roots drink from the pond. With head lowered, he stalked all movement under the water and despite twenty geese paddling over to nose in his business, within minutes his head shot into the pond, catching a six-inch Bluegill with his spearlike bill. He immediately took flight over the building with the fish tightly clamped in his mouth, so we ran to the back window to see him go. By the time we reached clear pane, he was turning around and heading back toward the pond with no fish. The fish was way too wide to swallow whole, so we figured the large, gray seabird dropped the fish, but why didn’t he just come down and get it? Maria and I decided to go outside and look for this fish out of water. If it were still alive, we’d throw him back in the pond. Come on, it’s what we do. Donned in puffy vests we spread out and walked toward the aerial path taken by the Heron. “Stop. Don’t move,” Maria whispered loudly. Within 25 feet, we stood face to face with a stout and sturdy Redtailed Hawk on the ground, her talons securely embedded in the fish the Heron accidentally dropped, or quite possibly, the aggressive, territorial bird of prey caused the Heron to drop it. We will never know for sure, but something told me it was probably the latter. With her mouth open, the Redtail, North America’s largest hawk, looked at us, then down at the fish and back at us. Since her eyesight is eight times more powerful than a humans, we knew she was seeing us and our intent much more clearly than we were seeing her. We backed away slowly and like a CH-46 Sea Knight, the heavily built Redtailed Hawk lifted to a sturdy pine branch, Bluegill in tow and proceeded to dine on fish.

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I’m not sure if she’d ever eaten fish before, as they usually feed on small rodents and an occasional snake. After watching her tear into her alleged stolen food for a few minutes, I went back to the gift shop window and found the Heron, planted and waiting patiently in the same fish blind he’d used before. The geese had lost interest in his presence. It only took a few more minutes until the Great Blue surfaced an even bigger Bluegill, at least 8 inches, which he toyed with a bit before seriously making a piece meal of him. Even in nature, good karma (at least for the Heron . . . not so much for the fish). This extraordinary experience was compelling, absolutely powerful and took all of ten minutes. Those precious moments were a once in a lifetime “coming together” of Heron, Hawk and Humans. Though brief, a strong message was sent and well received . . . . I’m walking this journey fully awake.

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All”
www.bergman-althouse.com

www.owlsonline.org