KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

From Hieroglyph to E-book

Holy Cow

Once upon a time, I translated the entire Egyptian Book of the Dead from hieroglyphs. It took me about 10 years. I was asked by my then father-in-law if I thought I would be able to make a profit of $40,000 a year through my writing. I have to say up front, I’m not married to his son any more, and I was never in this business of writing and translating for the money. I was in it for the long haul, because it is through language and thinking about language that I process and experience the world.  (For more on why writers really write see Lynn Pruett’s Nov 18 post.)

This afternoon, however, I found a letter in my mailbox from the current publisher of my book Awakening Osiris (1988) asking me if I would amend my contract with them. They’d like for me to give them the rights to sell my work as an e-book for 15% royalty.

This is one of those times that thinking about money rather than words might be a good thing. You see, I distrust e-books.  (See my previous KaBoom post on the issue.) I am, by goddess, a hard-core paper and ink kind of writer. I realize that in our digital days/daze more people are reaching for their Kindle. Most of them buy their e-books from Amazon.com.

And I don’t really like it when Amazon starts to sell hardback copies of my NEW book –just released a month ago—at a discount price that is so steep I can’t afford to buy it at that price because the shipping and handling costs me nearly 100 times more than the royalty I’d earn from the book.  What sense does this make?  If there is relatively little cost to the publisher to produce an e-book, what advantage do I, the author who spent 10 years writing it, have to give away the pittance of royalties I do make? The e-book takes money out of my pocket and seems to put it into theirs.  (See a literary agent’s calculations of the actual cost: http://andyrossagency.wordpress.com/tag/royalties/)

Might there be a copyright infringement problem with e-books down the line? Heaven knows I already see much, too much of the inside of my books on Google Books or Amazon’s “Click Here to See Inside” feature.  Heck, I can even search my own text and footnotes faster online than I can by going to the bookshelf right next to me and looking in my own book.  So I am not sure I like this new publishing world. It worries me. It should worry any author.

Let’s face it, Gutenberg all but ruined the beautiful illuminated text of the Middle Ages.  Then what about all those beautiful hieroglyphs that got turned into hen scratches which became the demotic and Greek alphabets.  I realize, of course, that writing as a product changes as the world that produces these texts changes.  I just don’t want to let go of my paper and ink just yet, or my royalties. Sadly, even the paper and ink money is about to bite the dust.  All money is virtual anyway.

But wait… Isn’t my contract written on paper, and doesn’t my signature need to be in ink. There must be some value to paper and ink after all, right?  Okay, if it were your book, what would you do?

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Writing and Time

This week has been a rich one for public events. On Monday Elizabeth Strout read from her Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection, Olive Kittreridge, at Centre College. Wednesday night contained both the inaugural Bryan Station High School Poetry Slam and the live stream of the National Book Awards, culminating in “the best acceptance speech ever given” by poet Nikky Finney

This morning I’m considering how time works in a writer’s life. I mean the span of time, not the daily increments that most writers have to defend. Ms. Strout wrote the work in Olive Kitteridge over seventeen years, a time segment that yielded two other novels. The exuberant and courageous students on the Bryan Station stage could have forty years to go before they might find themselves winning a National Book Award. Or sixty, if they are to be like John Ashberry who earned the lifetime achievement award. The writing life is for life. The writing life is a life. It is not a smooth climb up a ladder, though we all wish it were. Good work takes time and patience and faith. It is during the long slow path to possible grand reward that we deal with the daily portion of work we do. It is the daily work, the placing of stone next to stone, word next to word, that takes us to our destination.

Should we tell the young eager poets at the Bryan Station it might take decades before a first book is in print? Would any of us have set out on this arduous pilgrimage if we had known how many years would pass before we achieved a modicum of success? That thought daunts. But, if one truly loves playing with words, testing them, tossing them, catching, and grabbing the newest combinations, the freshest truest thoughts born of a startling arrangement, then yes, we do and will keep on playing, working–you choose–until we can no longer speak.

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“From the Crossroads of the West”: Revision

Yes, you’re looking at a photo of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a photo I took last week. I rose early in Salt Lake City to stand in line for the Sunday broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word,” program #4284. The show dates back to 1929 and is the world’s longest continuing network broadcast.

I didn’t need to arrive early to ensure a good seat. The tabernacle has no bad ones. Although it was built in 1867, the building has acoustics that permit a pin dropped on stage to be heard from any seat in the house. My early arrival gave me plenty of time to consider that any art, whether music, performance, or the written word, shares a common process.

Choir members, all of whom are volunteers, go their separate ways during the week and labor over the next Sunday’s selections on their own. They reconvene at the tabernacle in Salt Lake City for a Thursday night rehearsal. Even this first attempt at coming together is open to the public, the trials of producing a thirty-minute live performance laid bare for hundreds of witnesses.

The group returns to the tabernacle early Sunday morning for a dress rehearsal prior to the actual broadcast. I heard the program twice through, heard the choir members warned against rattling their music during the organ solo. I heard how conductor Mack Wilberg’s feedback on the spiritual “Walk Together, Children” resulted in a crisper rendition the second time round, the voices ascending as if held aloft by a host of balloons.

“Now would be a good time to cough,” joked the announcer just before the live broadcast began. Members of the choir and audience laughed, then dutifully rehearsed coughing.

How hard this business of rehearsal and revision, yet how necessary. Revision brings us one step closer to the perfect product, the product that matches our goals. How amazing the longevity of the choir and its sustained energy, the constant drive toward honing craft, the role of coaching, the awareness of an attentive and unending audience.

I’m sure the choir has its critics, but I believe the performance is made the best it can be through sheer dint of hard work and revisioning. The end product delighted the assembled group of diverse ages and nationalities, who by the end of the polished performance were ready to receive the closing message: “May peace be with you this day and always.”

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