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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Great Shouts, Whole New Linguistic Category

Came across a column I did from my old newspaper days and really liked. Hope you do too. If you have some Great Shouts to add, put them in the comments field.

At a newspaper where I once worked, I had the occasion to run into the press room and yell “Stop the presses!” The effect was immediate. Ink-smudged men, who before barely had grunted an acknowledgment of my existence as night editor, scrambled. Buttons were pushed. The roaring noise of the press subsided. The run of papers through the Goss machinery had just begun, so we did not lose too much money by pulling one of the plates to correct a gross error (mine) in a headline that would have made us  the laughing stock of the town.
I ruminated on the event, remembering how the phrase “Stop the presses!” had, by itself, bellowed with magnificent authority from my own terrified lungs, galvanized pressmen into immediate action. I realized they reacted not because of any authority I possessed, though in editorial control I was, but rather from the authority of the shout itself. There was no doubt about it. “Stop the presses!” was a Great Shout. I had discovered a new linguistic category.
Regular shouts like “Ouch!” or “Stop it!” are mere visceral reactions. A Great Shout is a specific phrase voiced for a particular situation that demands it be shouted so that the moment is not only described but requisite reaction understood: “Stop the presses!”
“Fire in the hole!” is perhaps the greatest of the Great Shouts. It relates the essence of the situation and leaves it to you to decide within the next second or three, how you should react.
“Timberrr!” is likewise a Great Shout. If you are in the woods and hear it with enough volume to know it may affect your actions in the next few seconds, you will cast your glance rapidly around you. “Timberrr!” shows the economy with words Great Shouts possess. A kind of genius, really. It’s pretty easy to imagine how “Stop the presses!” originated. Two editors probably looked at each other and said, with shock showing in their eyes, “My God, Fred, we’ve got to stop the presses.” They probably marched back to the press room, found the foreman, and -- with presses roaring in the background -- each issue coming off adding to their sweat -- said to the foreman who bent his ear close so as to understand what they were saying, “Bob, we’ve got to stop the presses.” Bob probably said, “What?” At which point one or both of the editors yelled at the top of their lungs, “Stop the presses!”
How did “Timberrr!” arise? “Tree about to fall!” must have died an early death. “Falling tree!” is beneath the dignity of any lumberjack. Some spark of insight realized that the act of cutting the tree, its falling to earth, was making it into timber and so a new Great Shout rang forth in the forests.
“Timberrr!” is in the warning category of Great Shouts. I don’t think “Heads up!” is a Great Shout, although when yelled by a gym teacher will bring attention from his young charges. War, however, has given us some forceful warning Great Shouts. “Hit the deck!” for example. But since economy of words is the hallmark of a Great Shout, “Incoming!” from the Vietnam War is a beaut. It really says it all. You can’t beat “Dive! Dive!” when accompanied by klaxons for romance, although “Bogey at three o’clock!” isn’t bad. Perhaps the oldest Great Shout from war is simply “Charge!” And it will still give order and direction to a gang of boys in a snowball fight. “Hey Rube!” accomplished the same thing for circus workers.
I can’t think of any Great Shouts from the entire arena of sports, which is filled with yelling. Baseball has many Great Silences, for example when you wait to see if a ball will make it out of the park. “Going...(silence)...Going...(silence)...Gone!”
Great Shouts cut through to the essence of communication. If you were on board a ship and heard “Man overboard!” you would help pass the cry forward to the helm without correcting to “Person overboard!” “Thar she blows!” culminated days and weeks of searching for whales. After months on the water, “Land ho!” must have been a beautiful Great Shout to hear.

Yes, the publisher the next day at that newspaper had some of his shouts of his own for me for having to stop those presses, but none of which I judged to be great.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why Write? Here Was My Answer

Came across this from 2005 when I was really, really down. Sort of a "buck up" message to myself that what I was doing with words was important to myself. And necessary.

Writing, oddly, fills me with confidence. Trying to get published floods me with self-doubt. I stopped trying to get published many years ago and just concentrated on writing--developing what was in me, making sure I had my voice, not a formula voice; making sure that each novel, each story, was unique to itself, was its own world; and knowing the book was finally finished when I found myself emotionally satisfied with its final sentence.

Then I started sharing my work with others: People who went to bars, people who played pool, people who worked in hospitals. The emotional connection was there for them. After reading one of my novels, a man in his 50's confessed to me he had been molested as a boy by his uncle. Two women told me they actually cried at the denouement of another work. High praise. None could compare my work to anything else they had ever read.

I have a 10,000 word short story that probably never will find a home simply because of its length, and yet those who read it find it remarkable. I am at work on a highly unusual piece that fits no genre and thus, is unmarketable. My novels sound silly when forced into a synopsis. My beginnings are not jarring enough to make them stand out from other beginnings. And yet I believe a good sentence contains a rhythm that connects to the heart more than to the brain. There is harshness in my work, but tenderness; brutality, but compassion. I have no idea how to market those qualities. I have come to loath the very word "market," and how can I do something I loath?

I write because only when I'm involved in a "project" am I fully myself, only then do the many aspects of myself come together in my word-created world.

I fear I may never be published because I simply will give up trying. It leads to despair. That, too, I turn into the soil of myself from which will come the next "project." I re-read Frost's "Build Soil" and await the budding of my next work.

Now I've published many of the works mentioned above.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dog Days of Summer, but Reasons to Howl

I haven't done a general update in some time.

July was my worst month in selling books via Amazon and other platforms. No one knows what is really happening with the self-publish, ebook phenomenon. Certainly, the ease of self-publishing has brought an enormous number of books to the market, so the challenge how to gain attention increases. Noise level is very high.

My current marketing strategy is to get-my-mug-and-books in front of people. I'm searching for events where I can set up my stand, show my books, and talk to potential readers.

I joined about 50 other authors at an event at The Town Crier, an Indie bookstore in Emporia, KS. Sold three books. Stopped at a bar on the way out of town, had fun with the bartender, and sold two more. So I made gas money. Left some books at the Indie store and later got a check for almost $80. They must have sold those books.

I went to Pomona, KS for a book signing–read that hope-to-sell-books event. Pomona (Pop 832) is southwest of Kansas City. Its library is in a corner of its community center/city hall. There were about 10 other authors also hoping to sell their wares. I sold three books: gas money. But it was also worth the trip to see Pomona Lake and meet the folks who came by my display. But that evening, when I got home, I felt an incredible tiredness. It baffled me. It wasn't that long of a drive. I think I understand now.

I had eight books on display. To see another human being pick up a book you have, in some cases, spent years writing and now selling for $10, examine it, put it back down, and walk away from ... it just drains something from your spirit. But near closing, one lady, Jane, bought a book and asked if she could write me a check. Sure, I told her. Check in hand, I then told her I had donated to the library a different book so it was available. Jane said she would go over and reserve it. I saw her do so. Sleep revives one's spirits. I hope to gain an audience one precious reader at a time. I think instead of cashing Jane's check, I may frame it to hang over my desk.

On the creative positive side, I have now finished going through the edits and making changes on two novels, Tortured Truths and Heart Chants that Curiosity Quills, the publisher of Blow Up the Roses, will publish this fall. And the anthology they are publishing this month will contain The Notebook.

This cool thing happened today: I've had so many story rejections over the decades it's quite remarkable–certainly a first for me–to submit a story and have it accepted the same day. Here's to the digital age! There is a caveat: no money for the story. It's going in an anthology and profits will go to support ‪Cystic Fibrosis Trust, which helps patients and families. It's rather nice to think that writing It Was Me (I) may help someone else.

And a new work, Stop Time, progresses.