Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ridiculous!

Thanks to everybody who shared or posted news (especially my dear friend Paul Digby--the one who makes videos for me--with his facebook screenshots and entourage of sharing friends) about the BOTYA finalists yesterday. I am especially grateful when people are sweet about helping Lady Word of Mouth for a simple reason, which I will now confess.

As a writer attached umbilically to a so-called career, I am ridiculous.

Why?

I do everything the wrong way round.

What do publishers want? They want consistency. I write short stories, an epic, novels, lyric poems, historical novels, narrative poems, and a few Southern fantasies for children, and more. And you should see the plans in my head--you might even say I have a rage for inconsistency! In fact, you might just say that I am inconsistent to the point of the . . . ridiculous.

Although my first two agents tumbled into my lap and then out again (bless them), I was too uninterested or perhaps downright lazy to look for a third. Ridiculous.

As a result, I chose my last four publishers out of the seven who, in my first year without an agent, happened to ask. Oddly, I wanted to be wanted. I enjoyed being asked. In some ways I liked it better than the old process and my fancy publisher, though it was not practical. Ridiculous!

Yet I'm happy about how my life in words works. Oh, I might like to have a bigger readership. In fact, I very much would--who wouldn't? And I might like sales to go so easily that I don't have to spend so much time fussing with marketing.

But I'm writing exactly the books I want to write, and I don't worry about whether my wild adventure in blank verse will find a publisher (Thaliad--I didn't send it out because I thought it too unusual, and then received two requests anyway) or whether my orphan boy (Pip in A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage) who sails away from disaster on a steam train will find a home and love with readers.

Because I do what I love. It feels joyful, as if I am doing exactly what I am meant to do. Ridiculous.

12 comments:

  1. Your approach is not ridiculous at all (to my mind), so please do not be distressed.
    I think you may be feeling distressed at the slowness of things?

    Your way is probably one of the most 'long-term' appropriate ones for your work, Marly.
    'Publishing' as we have all known it is sinking like the Titanic at the moment.
    You have chosen to place your work in one of the lifeboats. Sensible.
    May take a long time to reach mainland, but it (at least) stands a very good chance.

    Ditch the concern though. That lifeboat will reach land sooner without the extra weight : )

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  2. Good advice--I think I have heaved over most worries. Hope so.

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  3. I think the real key is whether we feel happy and fulfilled when we're doing what we do, not what anyone else (publishers and agents and even the public) supposedly want. (Now, remind me what I just said when I too get discouraged, OK?) But you're certainly not ridiculous, Marly!

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  4. Oh, ridiculous compared to "the way of the world," say. And of course one can turn that around and say the way of the world is absurd. Since it is!

    I was just commenting on Richard Krawiec's thread to a comment on not giving one's work away free, and I think one of my comments gets at the marketing part from another angle: "Whether you are an indie or a small press author or with the Big 6 (or some combination of these), you have to protect the secret part of yourself that wants to make something strong and beautiful. From what I see on Twitter and blogs, it's terribly easy to let private desires and frustrations lead toward a needy, pushy kind of marketing--also, a lot of people think there's a secret way to "game the system" that is Amazon. Obsession with "getting and selling" is coarsening for the soul, bad for future writing. A writer has to puzzle out what's right to do to assist books, and where the lines are that shouldn't be crossed."

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  5. Oh, shall delete Paul's extra comment--I wonder if the reason his is always doubled is that he is a twin?

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  6. If what you do is ridiculous (and I've never actually heard anyone ridiculing you) then long live ridiculousness.

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  7. My way of being ridiculous is doing the opposite of what people tell you to do!

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  8. Hey, I'm ridiculous too! That's why you and I are so well twinned. You write epic post-apocalyptic poems (three words there to sink a good many sales) and I make narrative paintings of saints! (More descriptives guaranteed to put me beyond the pale of many contemporary curators.) Odd therefore that we each have our follower. I must say I'm rather proud that mine are relatively few in numbers thug high in quality, because for a painter to be 'popular' inevitably means being something I don't want to be. Let's just soldier on dear Marly, doing good work for as long as we're able. We'll let the critics argue (or not) over our bones later. All that matters for me is whether I like a painting as it emerges in the studio. No-one else matters. It's the same for you as a writer. That's not to say we don't appreciate it when people praise us, but I know that neither of us works for the praise, and praise would mean little to either of us if we felt it undeserved.

    I'm away to give my masterclass this weekend. I feared no-one would come, but it's oversubscribed. Hey ho off we go!

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  9. Oh please correct the damned spellcheck alterations:


    Followers plural, rather than follower.
    Though instead of thug!

    Sheesh!

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  10. Alas, I can't correct on Blogger, so you'll just have to let your notes be the corrective!

    Those lucky people in your master class know it will be good, but they probably don't know just how precious those hours are. Have fun!

    Yes, trala, we are ridiculous twins of a good sort. I'm glad.

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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.