Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The House of Words (no. 17): Metanoia: Philip Lee Williams


Another kind of metanoia: Philip Lee Williams. 


Today we'll start an interview with Philip Lee William that, among other things, looks at why he has altered his mode of communicating with his readership and moved from relying on New York publishers to the university press.

Phil and I have been correspondents for more than a decade, although we only met in person a few years ago. Oddly, we are both winners of The Michael Shaara Award, but Phil has wheelbarrow loads of awards and books and is a Georgia institution all on his own... If you don't know his work, you may pop over to www.philipleewilliams.com and take a look at his novels, nonfiction, and poetry (as well as some of his musical compositions.) A blog for his sixteenth (or is it seventeeth?) book, The Divine Comics, is also there. 

In addition to being an award-winning writer, Phil holds solid title to being one of the kindest men on the planet. That quality is not always rewarded in this world, but for me it has been a great pleasure to be his friend. And so I want to say that Phil is the most positive sort of proof that it is possible to be both a good man and a good writer.



Marly: Phil, you have published many books, won awards, been honored--how and why have you changed the way you relate to your public and to the publishing industry?

Phil: It has been nearly 27 years now since my first novel, The Heart of a Distant Forest, was published by W.W. Norton. (It's still in print, btw, in a trade softcover edition from the University of Georgia Press!) From the spring of that year until the summer of 2010, I did many, many dozens of appearances, autographings, speeches to benefit causes and so forth, from New York City to Los Angeles and points in between. I loved meeting with readers and fans of my work, and for many years, I traveled extensively. I published books with major NY publishers such as Random House, St. Martin's, Grove Press, Norton and so forth, as well as university and smaller regional presses.

By last summer, however, I realized several things. First off, I felt a sea-change was necessary in my public life. Where in the past I had spoken everywhere to help push my books and meet my readers, I began to believe that the old model of just showing up in person and signing a few books was no longer the best way to meet the public. Instead, social media, blogs, websites, and so forth are much more effective. I have even done hour-long phone hookups with book clubs that are fun. I also realized that I had simply run out of my need to travel and sell. As a result, I made a decision to severely limit my public life. I announced that I would no longer tour or do routine speeches, lectures, or autographings. Frankly, I wanted my private life back.


Continued

2 comments:

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.