Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1/2 Dozen with Margaret Hermes

Where the hell has Margaret Hermes been all my life? Basically, we have a friend in common, writer Quinn Dalton, who told me Hermes might be up for the Q and A. I invited her. THIS below is what came to me.
Dear Lordy. I ADORE this brain, this spirit, this fantastically odd thinker and putter-of-things.

Below you'll find some quotes I now LOVE.

"Writers are magpies; scavenging is in the nature of the bird." 

"The gentleman in question apologized for years for things he had never done, even after I had acquitted him of all charges."

"I had four brothers, no sisters, and shared a tiny bedroom with my maiden aunt for the first seventeen years of my life.  I had no choice but to write."

"I was commissioned to create a book and lyrics for an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fable, The Birthday of the Infanta. I think of it as a musical tragedy for children."

What do all of these quotes have in common? Their birth in the brilliant head of Margaret Hermes.

I have no choice upon reading this interview but to immediately get a copy of RELATIVE STRANGERS into my greedy hands. 

Okay, here goes. Enjoy!

What’s your advice to someone who’s fallen in love with a writer? 

I would say:  If your beloved is a writer of fiction, be prepared to stumble upon bits of yourself and pieces of your life set in New Times Roman.  Writers are magpies; scavenging is in the nature of the bird.

In “Second Lover,” my only story where the protagonist is a writer, Annie confides, “I set about doing what I often do when I feel helpless over something. I wrote about it. I take a kernel of the real thing and I slap fiction all around it and this way I gain some kind of control over whatever is eating at me.” Personally, I take kernels of the real thing whether or not I’m feeling helpless.  Snatches of conversations and moments of observation naturally force their way into a story but, in trying to make characters authentic, it’s the exploration of feeling that is most explicitly stolen from my life and the lives of others.

In our early days, my partner was reluctant to talk about his past, particularly his childhood, and I worked at drawing him out.  I wrote a short story based on memories I had wormed out of him -- and presented it to him as a gift.  Of course, I had changed everything, but not enough to make it unrecognizable to the one who had lived through it.  As he read the manuscript, I was vibrating with anticipation and, when he finished, he threw the pages across the room. “For the Home Team” has ripened into one of his favorite stories and is the final story in my collection, Relative Strangers.  And, in spite of or because of that experience, my partner became much more forthcoming.

It’s not that I typically set out to write about an actual occurrence, but more often that the real and the fictive become tangled, sometimes even mistaken for each other. When Annie is trying to explain how this can happen she brings up an incident involving her friend Colin who had wounded her feelings.  “So I made a character out of him and put him into a story and had him behave very much worse than he had that night. I had him say terrible things. Later I let Colin read the story. I was a wreck while he read it. I thought the story worked pretty well but I was afraid he’d be furious with me. Instead he apologized for all those terrible things he hadn’t said.”  I lifted that incident directly from life.  The gentleman in question apologized for years for things he had never done, even after I had acquitted him of all charges. That was a powerful experience and I think – I hope -- it made me more cautious.

What's your advice to a writer who's looking for a lifelong partner? Any particularly useful traits to suggest in said partner? (Do you want to tell us a brief love story here?)

Find a wealthy reader?

My life partner is neither. Oh, he’s a voracious reader of non-fiction – you know the type – but he does make an exception for my fiction. That is a particularly useful trait.  We are not each other’s dream mate; we are each other’s real mate – we are constantly making exceptions for each other.

Research. We all have to do it. Sometimes it’s delicious, sometimes brutal. Tell us a tale from the research trenches.

I find research seductive. And suctive.  As in sucking away writing time.  I’m embarrassed to speculate as to how many years of research I’ve accumulated – I can research the bejeezus out of something that I anticipate will appear in a story only as a parenthetical phrase.  Sometimes research becomes procrastination, a way of avoiding committing to words while congratulating myself on my dedication and determination to get it right.

Saying that a character “takes over” and steers the story in a direction the writer hadn’t intended is a common conceit. But I find that sometimes it’s the research that sends the story off its projected course, changes its trajectory.  For “The Bee Queen” I had planned to write about a vivid incident involving wasps that had haunted me since childhood and decided to spend an afternoon at the library familiarizing myself a bit with stinging insects.  That research stretched not only over time but into my main character.  The facts that fascinated me gave rise to Bette who also found them fascinating, even if most of those facts didn’t make it into the story. And the childhood incident became, in that character’s view, her “pivotal experience” instead of the story.

What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer?

I had four brothers, no sisters, and shared a tiny bedroom with my maiden aunt for the first seventeen years of my life.  I had no choice but to write.

When confronted with the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer, “A writer, a nun, or a spy” – all of which had similar attractive characteristics.  All three professions were shrouded in mystery (one taking it to the extreme of shrouding the body in flowing cloth).  All required the careful observation of others.  All kept you apart from the mainstream and seemed to demand a kind of purity. As time went by, my choice narrowed.

People always talk about the writers they aspired to emulate. I’d love to know the writers you most hated as you were coming up and how those tastes shaped you. 

I hate the plays of Sam Shepard.  I’ve experienced them on the stage, not the page.  Does that count?

I’ve squirmed through performances of Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, True West, and Fool for Love.  The emotional violence in those plays undoes me.  It would be one thing if I emerged from the theatre galvanized by the caustic take on American family life but I just feel battered.  And then there’s the portrayal of women. Do they give a Tony for Best Misogynist Play?  I came of age at the peak of the feminist movement and have a hard time sitting through the objectifications of those women on the stage or, often, offstage.
Ironically, my only experience in writing for the stage involved a production whose primary female character is cruel and one-dimensional.  I was commissioned to create a book and lyrics for an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fable, The Birthday of the Infanta. I think of it as a musical tragedy for children.  

Have you learned to strike a balance between your writing life and the other aspects of your life? 

I haven’t managed that. I find guilt often trumps writing.

Environmental causes in particular haul me out of my chair.  Phobic about what we’ve been doing to the planet since well before I started having nightmares about global warming, I’m marking my thirty-first year as a volunteer for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. I cotton to them because they’re not reluctant to sue when necessary.

I started out writing for the environment, serving as indentured slave to renowned anti-nuclear power activist Kay Drey.  I went on to edit the Coalition’s newsletter and a cookbook and to compose pamphlets and press releases, but a lot of my efforts call upon skills other than writing. 

When a piece of Saint Louis’s glorious Forest Park was sold off, I lost a year to working on changing our city charter so that no more parkland could be sold or given away without voter approval.  I somehow evolved into an event planner (whose only prior experience had been children’s birthday parties) for annual dinners and fundraisers and have been serving as the organizer of a triennial art show and auction that benefits the Coalition. That becomes a full-time job for several months every three years. eARThworks 2012 is coming up this November and I’ve already been at it part-time since February.

I guess I’m fortunate to have been blessed with insomnia.

Faith. Do you consider yourself religious? If so, how does that manifest in your work and/or your process?

Growing up, our family would pile into the car and, if the ride were to last longer than fifteen minutes, our mother would pull a rosary out of her purse and lead us in prayer. This was in the days before seat belts, so the Blessed Virgin and St. Christopher were called upon to get us safely to our destination.  I suppose praying the rosary in cars ended with mandated seat belts and, since the dawn of the airbag, passengers can even afford to indulge in impure thoughts.

Some years back I settled on the label Catholic Atheist. Catholicism shaped me.  I attended Catholic schools K through U, kindergarten through university.  I am absolutely the product of a Catholic education and upbringing, though probably not a product the Church would claim.  One of my stories is titled “Transubstantiation,” which is the miracle that takes place during Holy Communion where bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, though retaining the appearance, taste, and texture of bread and wine.  While the story is not about religion, the religion I was raised in provided me with a way to give scope to my character’s transformation.

A considerable impact on my formation as a writer and as a woman resulted from being educated primarily by nuns.  Nuns take a lot of abuse now, supposedly for handing out a lot of abuse then.  There were some wackos/whackers, of course, but most of the nuns I experienced were smart, dedicated teachers.  Interestingly, they also served as role models of strong women who valued education for themselves and females in general and had found a way to live outside the confines of conventional marriage. 

This is a vast question. Interpret it at will. What’s the future of publishing?

Will Amazon still be operating in this future?

Margaret Hermes grew up in Chicago and lives in St. Louis.  Her collection of short fiction, Relative Strangers, was selected by Jill McCorkle as winner of the 2011 Doris Bakwin Award and has just been released by Carolina Wren Press. Her work includes a mystery novel, The Phoenix Nest, a stage adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fable, and assorted essays.  Her short stories have appeared in such journals as the Missouri Review, Sou'wester, New Millenium, Phoebe, River Styx, The Madison Review, The Laurel Review, and The Literary Review, and anthologized in the collections Under the Arch from Antares Press and 20 Over 40, the University Press of Mississippi. Equal parts writer and environmental activist, she has also written about the dangers of radioactive wastes and worked on behalf of a better built environment as well as for clean streams, the preservation of parkland, and the protection of wilderness areas.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Oh, Esquire. So close and yet so far? Or, wait...

My first thought on the headline "Esquire to Publish E-Books Devoted to Men's Fiction" might surprise some of you as you might think of me as mouthing off on sexism in the publishing industry. (Here's my piece from the Washington Post not toooo long ago.) And although I believe that equal praise for equal work is a systemic issue in the industry, I also know that fiction about men -- good, high-quality, literary fiction about men as well as male coming-of-age stories -- is harder to get published.

What? I hear you screaming at me. But listen, I'm saying that because women read the bulk of fiction, novels in which they're the lead and their concerns are prioritized are easier to sell to publishing houses. Talk to a literary agent. This is common knowledge. Ditto the male coming-of-age for teens and even the whimsy of middle-grade. You don't believe me, I know. You're yelling at me about the careers of male writers prized over the careers of female writers. You're talking about the literary canon so filled with men coming-of-age and going to war and surviving the wilds and the seas that you want to jab me in the head with a fork. You're shouting Harry Potter and Franzen and what not.

Look. I'm not talking about those things. I'm talking about books to market -- what makes it into those books. (Seriously, go up and click on the Washington Post piece if you want my opinion about what happens to these books once published...) These books do make it out there, but not in the same numbers that books about women do. And perhaps, you're saying, rightly so. If women are reading the bulk of the books, then the bulk of the books should prioritize them. (I still wonder what we're missing out on.)

My final thought after reading the article, however, might NOT surprise you. David Granger, the editor in chief of Esquire, defines fiction for me as “plot-driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another... And also at the same time, dealing with passages in a man’s life that seem common.”

Ah. Gotcha. (Double Agent and his Prostate, right?) After listing male writers they intend to first showcase and belittling the scope of those writers, to my mind, by this definition, he seems to be saying this is what male writers write (not women writers) and what male readers should read (if they define themselves as real men). All of this feels shallow and stupid and like honing in on a market that's pretty well taken care of ...

But wait -- there's a logic issue at work here. If these writers are being short-changed for their scope, then maybe we will get some good work after all -- hopefully something not just male readers will respond to. In that case, it's Granger's words that are off.

Is Chiarella at the helm of this endeavor editorially? I've found him to be a great champion of writers and good fiction.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1/2 Dozen with Eowyn Ivey

Eowyn Ivey and I met this winter. We were in one of those big halls, sitting behind stacks of our books, while booksellers rushed and roamed. I liked her immediately and though I hadn't yet read a word of her (wonderful) debut -- THE SNOW CHILD -- I had the feeling I was with a real writer -- one who seemed to be keenly smart and warm and really human, real, genuine. Those traits can translate sometimes onto the page -- but not always. In this case, they have. And it's my great pleasure to introduce Eowyn Ivey -- if you haven't already met her on the page. 

Here goes:

I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

The Snow Child really did come to me in a sudden jolt of inspiration. I was shelving books at Fireside Books where I work here in Alaska, and I came across this little paperback children's story with illustrations. It was a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka, about an old man and woman who build a child out of snow and she comes to life. In all honesty, I have never had a moment like that as a writer. Right then I  knew this was the storyline I had always been seeking. BUT, that spark lit a fire that I had to keep going. Sometimes the fire crackled along nicely, but other times it was like I was feeding wet twigs into a dying fire while it rained on my head. Inspiration is a wonderful feeling, and one that keeps me going as a writer, but bringing that initial burst to fruition, at least in my case, demands a lot of tedious work that sometimes feels a bit like drudgery.  

Are you a writer of place? Is place always one of your main characters?

Absolutely. Alaska is where I start as a writer. I never come up with plots or characters and then think, "Where should I set this?" Instead I start with the place and search for a story I can set here. I think artists often have mysteries they are trying to solve, resolution they are seeking, through their creative process. As a writer, I am still trying to figure out this place and what it means to me.

What's your worst writerly habit?

I both resent and need deadlines. I left the newspaper business in part because I hated always having deadlines looming over me. And yet, I can't seem to write without one. Like my grandmother says, it's not that I work well on deadline, that's just the only time I work. One reason I finished The Snow Child was because I figured out a way create my own illusion of time pressure. My mom, Julie LeMay, is a poet, and we agreed that each week I would give her a new chapter and she would give me a new poem. Nothing terrible would have happened to me if I didn't come through, but I felt like I had made a commitment. Apparently I have to trick myself into making my own deadlines in order to get anything done.

Writing Tip #38 for Aspiring Writers.

Write what you like to read. This is so obvious, and yet it took me years to figure it out. I got my degree in journalism because I needed a practical way of making money, and I don't regret that decision. But in my free time I wrote nonfiction essays, because I thought that was logical. I don't love to read essays. I don't love to read newspaper and magazines. What I devour are novels, and I always have. I think I wasted a lot of time writing other stuff because I didn't follow my heart.

Tell us a tale from the publishing world – something, ANYthing about that process from your perspective.

I have one of those crazy, dreamy, fairy-tale kind of publishing stories. I was about three-quarters done with The Snow Child manuscript when I attended the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference here in Alaska. My mom and I went because we wanted to learn more about our craft and visit with other writers. But when we got there, I saw that the presenting literary agent was Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, and I recognized some of the amazing titles he had represented. My mom encouraged me to sign up to talk to him, but I balked. My novel wasn't finished. I wasn't ready to talk about it. But finally she convinced me. I sat down with Jeff and told him what I was working on, and to my complete shock he asked to read the first 100 pages. But I hadn't brought the manuscript with me! I spent the afternoon trying to contact my husband, who was outdoors cutting wood, so that he could go to the nearby library and fax the pages to the conference. The fax never came through. Eventually, I got an email version to Jeff. It was all very exciting, but I figured nothing more would come of it. But the next morning, Jeff approached me at the conference. He said he had read the manuscript and wanted to represent it. I literally had to sit down, I was so overwhelmed. Nearly four years later, and The Snow Child has landed on bestseller lists in the US, Norway, the UK, and is being published in around 30 countries. I never would have dreamed.

This is a vast question. Interpret it at will. What’s the future of publishing?

As a bookseller, I am frightened of this question. The publishing world is changing so fast, and brick-and-mortar bookstores are the casualty. As a reader and writer, though, I think this is a really exciting time. Technology is allowing people to get the books they want more quickly and easily, and writers have more ways to get their work into the marketplace. In the end, I'm not sure the basics will change. There will always be readers. There will always be writers. And there will always be people we can look to for recommendations, whether they are booksellers or bloggers or reviewers. In the end, the written word will survive, whatever the format.

Eowyn Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her debut novel The Snow Child is a New York Times bestseller published by Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown & Company. Ivey works as a bookseller at Fireside Books.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dancing with the One Who Brung Me.

Dave and I go to this old lodge of a place to dance. It has a live Big Band. Aside from some friends my parents met while here, we know no one and no one knows us. And even those folks have flown north as summer's coming to Florida. And though we're nice enough to people, we strike up no new conversations. We're there as if this is a competition and we've all got numbers pinned to our backs. Plus, we only want to talk to each other anyway. But if we're gunning for any prize -- and there are no prizes -- ours isn't one that would exist anyway. Most ... Abstract? Most ... Odd? Most ... (and this is generous) Interpretive?

Here are some dances we've made up.

Paul Giamatti and Meg Ryan Dancing Together at a Bad Wedding. (We nail that dance. I'm all clompy as Ryan and he's all wide footed like Giamatti. And we're serious about it. Giamatti's a little pissed, of course, and Ryan's got that oblivious face on...)

Two people about to get Divorced. In this dance, we're doing a standard jitterbug but we stop occasional to try to kick the other person's feet out from under them. For two people with no intentions of getting divorced, it's a lot of fun. Better if you murmur things you want to get in the settlement.

Last nite Dave did this kind of push away, baggy pants, turn around and come back thing and said, "That was my good old boy I don't need you, I want you back move." And he nailed it. The slumpy shoulders the then sudden regret.

Sometimes we hear something and say, "Yeah, this will be abstract." It might even be Glenn Miller, but there's something in the horn section that says, "Just listen to me." And we go with that invite.

And then there's Freshman Homecoming. And we'll slow dance it.

Last night, they played Patsy's "Crazy" -- and halfway through I felt like I should just kind of break it all kinds of down.  

Then a tango, and I'll remember slow slow side together close and we'll do one earnest awful crappy beginner tango. Just to prove we really are bad at this.

Mostly only the two of us seem to exist -- each trying to entertain the other. Why after all these years do we still so want to entertain each other? I don't know. We just do.

But, my God, when we do lift our heads and look around, there is some beauty there -- an ancient couple -- the wife's stare has gone vacant and yet she remembers this music, down deep, her body remembers the steps, and the husband leads her slowly slowly across the floor. It'll take your breath, make you want to burn the music into your molecules -- make it last and last and last.

Monday, May 7, 2012

1/2 Dozen with Jon Jefferson

Jon Jefferson, a New York Times bestselling author known as part of the Jefferson Bass duo, talks about his previous life in television, his childhood reading (in rhyming riff), and his idea of good-enough -- a humble notion (my, my his novels have gotten some wonderful praise). He's a dynamic writer, a creator of great mysteries and thrillers with a keen understanding of humanity, and a great big heart ... and his latest is here: THE INQUISITOR'S KEY. 

I despise the pervasive myth of inspiration – the idea that an entire book can exist simply because of an accumulation of inspired ideas – but I don’t deny that inspiration exists. There are things that have no other explanation. Was there a singular moment of inspiration for this book?

Uh … define “moment”? The Inquisitor’s Key was inspired by a singular couple of days, though I didn’t know it until many years later. In 1998, I was making a television documentary about the Vatican. On the way back from shooting in Rome, we did a two-day shoot in Avignon, France — a place I’d never even heard of before the Vatican project. (I grew up in rural, Bible-belt, Protestant-prone Alabama; somehow, the fact that a string of 14th century French popes thumbed their noses at Rome and holed up in Avignon had escaped my childhood notice.) When I saw the Palace of the Popes — the biggest Gothic palace in Europe — I thought, “It’d be so cool to set a movie here!” I forgot the idea for a dozen years, but a year or so ago, it bubbled back up. Not having my own Hollywood studio – but having a deadline for a crime novel looming large – I started writing.

What's your worst writerly habit?

Note to self:  deal with this one later …

What kind of child were you, inside of what kind of childhood, and how did it shape you as a writer?

I lived for my books. My books, books, books, books.
For books and more books – take a look! Take more looks!
Dr. Seuss was my favorite, the best of the bunch;
I read him at breakfast! At dinner! At lunch!
He made me love words and he made me love rhyme,
He made me love home-sick-from-second-grade time.
I love it today like I loved it back then:
To say and resay and resay yet again!

What’s your reading life like? Do you have any current favorites or sleepers that may have flown under our radar?

Most nights at bedtime, I read aloud to my wife, Jane—a pleasant way to wind down, and a sweet ritual. Our best recent read: Richard Marius’s An Affair of Honor, a novel about a murder and the subsequent trial (and an astonishing web of other things), set in a small East Tennessee town in 1953. Beautiful descriptions, fascinating characters, scary-as-hell moments. Marius’s lush writing reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s, but his vision of the world seems less bleak.

What other jobs have you had -- other than writing or teaching writing? Did one of these help shape you as a writer?

I spent half a dozen years making television documentaries – History Channel shows about warplanes and ships, A & E shows about the Vatican, Paris, Florence, and several other way-cool places; a couple of National Geographic docs about the Body Farm. The Nat Geo gig led directly to my current bookwriting phase; more generally, though, writing television scripts taught me to write fast and to write “good enough.” Before writing scripts, I’d had this vague notion for years that I might make a decent writer, if I ever got “the chance.” Thing is, I was too intimidated by the inner critic I’d developed as an English major to take the chance. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to Shakespeare or Faulkner, it’s gonna be tough to finish that first novel or screenplay. The liberating thing about television was that nobody cared if a script was great; what counted was that it got done, and that it was good enough. “Jefferson Bass” and the Body Farm novels are a bit like that. It’s a book-a-year franchise; the books aren’t Faulknerian, but they get done, and they’re good enough. Some of them—especially The Inquisitor’s Key, I think—are better than just “good enough.” And they are—I hope—a great limbering-up exercise for something far better someday. You know: Someday when I get “the chance.” 

Are you a writer of place? Is place always one of your main characters?

Place matters hugely to me. Most of the Body Farm novels are set in East Tennessee, partly because ... well … that’s where the Body Farm is. But also – mainly – because it’s knock-you-flat gorgeous there. In the fall, when the mountainsides are afire with yellow and red, it’s as if the world is going out in a blaze of glory; in spring, when the redbuds and dogwoods burst out in riotous rebirth, it’s like one giant fertility rite. When I moved to Tallahassee three years ago, I fell in love with another intoxicatingly sensual landscape, so I set the next book, The Bone Yard, in the Florida panhandle. And while I was researching the new book, The Inquisitor’s Key, Avignon — present-day, living-museum Avignon and 14th-century, boom-town Avignon — totally seduced me.

Jefferson Bass is the pen name of Jon Jefferson, writer, and Dr. Bill Bass, renowned forensic anthropologist. Dr. Bass, founder of the University of Tennessee's "Body Farm," is an author on more than 200 scientific publications. Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker; his two National Geographic documentaries on the Body Farm were seen around the world. Jefferson and Bass have collaborated on 2 nonfiction books and 6 crime novels; their 7th novel, The Inquisitor's Key, will be published May 8, 2012. 

For more on Jefferson Bass, LIKE them on Facebook, join them at the blog, follow along at Twitter, and visit their website. Available now: a 99-cent e-story prequel to The Inquisitor’s Key entitled Madonna & Corpse.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Death of Blogging and ... Blogging.

I recently read an article about the death of blogging -- or perhaps a certain wheeze in its lungs and a tricky heart valve -- and my own heart danced a little. Do I want blogging to die? Well, I'm a writer who gets paid to write. I have four college tuitions gunning for me -- like red dots of light quivering on my chest, oh, the high-powered rifles have me in their sites. I've always worried about the effect of unpaid content on writers, collectively, especially the writers who write the kinds of pieces I have for The New York Times Modern Love column about a therapist who wrote me a poem or Boston Globe about humans versus zombies game showing up in the college classroom where I'm teaching a workshop or Real Simple about writing a love letter on behalf of a stranger on a plane...

I've continued to publish essays but this blog takes up the same head space that writing for money does sometimes -- and I'm conscious of that.

And, that said, I'm worried more broadly about free content in the Information Age and -- amid the incredible inundation of things to read -- how do writers of books convince the public that some words still need to be paid for? Have I contributed to a cultural message that words are cheap, if not free?

It's hard to talk about making money as a writer in our culture, in general. Why?

1. You're in a career where the most common adjective used to describe your job title is "starving"; Poe died in a gutter. Real artists shouldn't expect to make money, right? (The Poe reference is an important one -- as Poe was a writer who certainly wrote for money to support others.)

2. Many people believe they can write books -- unlike, say, perform brain surgery -- and so writers aren't doing anything particularly remarkable.

3. Many people want to write and writers should be thankful to simply get published at all. Who do we think we are, anyway?

That said, there are working writers out here who support themselves and sometimes families -- and as I just had lunch with writer Rowan Jacobsen who's just back from writing about some very dangerous territories -- some of these writers risk their lives to get words to us.

Why do I write this blog? Well, long story, but let's say I do it to show editors that I work hard to connect with readers. Like most authors, I've been told that this kind of platform helps writers build an audience for their books. However, this is the research that's coming back to us: blogs -- even those with huge followings -- do not necessarily translate into huge book sales for the author of those blogs/books.

The other issue here is that I have a bunch of different audiences. Baggott, Asher and Bode are very different voices. Baggott alone has many different voices. My writerly voices doesn't necessarily match my own voice. And so what you get here isn't what you're going to get in PURE -- a post-apocalyptic world of swirling ash. My blog is no dark thriller. Sometimes I think that knowing the author affects the reading experience in ways that interfere with the story instead of enhancing it. (Is this true? I'd love to hear what you all think of this.)

What I do like about my blog is that it gives me the opportunity to shout out to other writers -- both up-and-coming as well as established and award-winning. But do the interviews really drive much by way of sales for my interviewees? I don't know that either. (I enjoy introducing them to you nonetheless.)

Too, it gives me a space to sometimes work through ill-formed ideas that eventually become well-formed thoughts.

(And my mother, Glenda Baggott, is an ardent follower. How could I let her down?)

The past month my entries have been spotty. I've been promoting PURE, doing a final rewrite of FUSE, and starting to dig into Book III of the trilogy, BURN. And I'm developing ideas that will one day many years from now become books on shelves, I hope. I'll be on tour for a chunk of this summer -- with European publishers of PURE -- the UK, Spain, France - which means trying to maintain as much incubation right now as possible to get the best foothold in the novel I'm at work on.

I've been thinking intensely about the publishing industry in general. (In chaos, isn't there also opportunity? And I'm gearing up to write a piece that's a challenge to my fellow writers on that score.)

I've also been thinking about transmedia -- which has been an area of focus for me for the last two years. Some of those thoughts are actually coalescing.

We're also moving this summer -- which entails incredible planning and paperwork and eventually much much boxing up.

And, of course, I have four kids so... one broke her foot and there's much care-giving; it's prom season, people; end of the year teacher meetings; auditions; performances; art shows, mentoring; gearing up for summer camps and pre-college; SATs; dance performance; the 12 year old scored 7 goals in the regional tournament and went on to states for his bracket -- stop me now before the truly maniacal bragging kicks in.

I come back to: What is the purpose of this blog? If it's not really creating a platform that translates into sales, and I don't really have a voice that propels people into the worlds of my books ... what is this? And, moreover, what role will writers have in the coming years, how will we as a culture support those writers, how will writers support each other in an ever-increasingly competitive environment?

Again, I don't know.

And yet ... here. Here's one more post. It's free. But it's not -- not in the grand scheme of things.