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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blues and resolves

Under the tree for Canadian artist Marja-Leena Rathje!
Love being on Christmas (or any time) wish lists...
It's the 6th day of Christmas, and I am feeling a wee bit, just a tad depressed. Maybe I need to spend less or more narrowly focused time on the internet because I am heartily sick of bumping into language focused on creative entrepreneurship for artists, on how every artist has to be a business person now, on art as "product," on sales and marketing, on attention-wresting hooks, on the leveling of taste in contemporary democracy, and so on. It packs my head with lint!

In that context, in that world, perhaps I am simply insane. I felt a call. Twelve books so far are my passionate answer to that call. I am devoted, obsessed, committed (another insane word), enraptured, and bound. Playing with language is my great joy and a very large part of what makes my life meaningful to me. Having readers complete the work by reading is splendiferous. (That said, my least favorite part of my life is the weariness of travel to promote books, though I love doing events if people turn out for them in good numbers.) Clearly I do not fit particularly well in the bright-and-shiny-and-brave new world of self-promotion, entrepreneurship, and business. Maybe that is what "insane" means for me, then...

And here's a copy at the house of nihongan
painter Makoto Fujimura. I'm wondering
about the book underneath--Conversations?
About form, it seems.
But who cares? I'm not going to stop, am I? Not at this late date, surely... And so here are my word-related resolutions for 2015: I will
  • Pick up extended work that has been sitting, almost finished, for years. Finish it! Particularly The Book of the Red King. Maybe cobble together another poetry manuscript out of the mountains of poems lying about in disorderly fashion. Maybe finish the book for young people, The Aerenghast Trilogy, which has been almost done for long eons of the sun and will be dedicated to my youngest child. He'll probably be of legal age before it's published!
  • Begin that secret, utterly enticing novel that is in my head.
  • Quit festering (as I don't normally do but did this year) and enjoy readers and friends in the arts more. (Thanks for the mail and tweets and messages, kind readers.) Go to lunch with painter and writer friends more often.
  • Make more effort to keep up with the friends in the arts elsewhere who are inspiring to me (and I to them, equally important, as tossing thoughts back and forth is fruitful.)
  • Get Catherwood into ebook form without using any of the kind publishers who have offered to do it for me.
  • Figure out the right amount of help that a book needs. Don't go nuts trying to get the word out about Maze of Blood next fall--it's a university press book, after all, not a mass-market paperback bestseller.
All right, now I must do that not-very-writerish but quite humanish thing and get back to cleaning house for my in-laws. (True blues source? Maybe. Still trying to reconcile truth, beauty, and housework.) And I must do it with a will and then have a merry 6th day of Christmas...


  1. I wish I could share a universal recipe for banishing the blues. Only one thing works for me: forget the past, ignore the future, and focus only on the present moment -- and then indulge yourself by gobbling down a handful of chocolates!

    1. Chocolate is always good. I just had some coconut-and-cherry chocolate... Mine are pretty mild today. Probably more about cleaning house than the state of the arts!

    2. Be envious, y'all. I just had a handful of chocolate covered pecans from Mississippi. Ah, the guilt . . . the pleasure . . . the pounds . . .

    3. Yum. Although I did just have some pecans covered in magic froth--dunno what it was, but tasty and crisp on the outside. Lot of cookie and candy madness still going on here. Eh, diet after Epiphany!

    4. Georgia pecans, that is... We're Georgians on both sides of my family, except when we're South Carolinians. A few of us stray elsewhere.

    5. See, you're feeling better already! Just was the doctor ordered!

    6. It's because I've taken a big break from cleaning! AGH. I'm off to dance with the vacuum!

    7. A laudable bunch of aspirations my friend, as usual, and I'm certain you'll accomplish every single one.
      And yes, I understand the frustration. It's the time of year one feels it most.

    8. Such things are the way they are... I just don't want to participate in them being that way.

  2. Yes. It feels much better to focus on the work than on publicizing the work. Serious reading and serious writing are curative (though so is chocolate).

    1. Much joy in your writing and reading next year, Lesley!

  3. I'm glad you liked my photo of the Christmas gifts - can hardly wait to read them! I often feel a wee bit depressed at the change of the year - probably because I think of how time flies too fast, and ever faster as I get older.

    Oh, and self-promotion - the artist's bane, certainly for me, and my downfall! Now that is a depressing subject, sigh!

    Great list with a few items to aspire to for me as well. Yes, I wish we could sit over coffee and cake and share inspirations - must call up some artist friends next year.

    All good wishes for more achievements in all the New Years ahead, dear Marly. Don't forget that you have already published TWELVE!! books - how many writers have done that?

    1. Hi Marja-Leena,

      Yes, the turning of the wheel is melancholy for those of us old enough to look back over many years, old enough to know we won't have an equal number remaining.

      You know, it is a somewhat depressing subject, but what is aggravating is the way marketing has taken over everything. And so we are pelted with other people's marketing and advice about marketing and articles about how the role of the artist is utterly changed and so on.

      It's good to be with other people striving in your field or some allied one--good to complain about things other people don't know so intimately and to hearten one another. And eat good food! I wish we could get together also--would be such fun.

      I do feel surprised that the books have mounted up. I can remember meeting a writer with two books when I was 18 and feeling that it was quite something! So that's . . . odd.


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.