How I Became A Famous Novelist

Like the Fantastic Mr. Fox, I love me some flannel pajamas.

So, I had the flu over Christmas (post-Santa Claus, thankfully, so my son’s illusions are still intact for the moment. I was able to perform my usual magical holiday duties before the virus grabbed me.) Anyway, I received a book at the recommendation of my friend Judy (hey, Washington!) called How I Became a Famous Novelist. Now, many of you know that in my quest for fame, fortune, and critical acclaim, I’ve struggled with what/how to write, what genre, what topics, and of late it has been very illusive. What was so wonderful about Hely’s book is that 1) it is flat out hilarious, especially if you’ve ever published or wanted to publish  and 2) it made me realize that writing because you want to please someone else (basically what the world defines as success means, I guess) doesn’t work.

In his book, Hely’s main character makes the decision to become a writer primarily because he wants to work in his pajamas. I will not deny that this has a strong appeal to me as well. I am a big fan of pajamas, although I have not yet succumbed to Pajama Jeans, those things advertised on TV. (My gay son told me he would disown me if I bought a pair.) So, Hely’s main character studies the best seller lists trying to find a pattern, a secret, a path through the maze of publishing. He concocts a literary piece of crap called the Tornado Ashes Club (can’t you totally see that being on Oprah? I mean, when she has just one show and not a whole  network?)  He writes the thing, sells it, starts doing publicity, achieves his manipulated dream, then crashes and burns when a real writer calls him on his manipulation.

I love to write. I’ve done it since I was a kid. I actually got more joy from it when no one saw it but me. But now, as an adult, I have a burning need to write and have someone else read it, enjoy it, be moved by it. As Betsy Lerner (my favorite writing blogger) said, writers try to get their visions of the world onto paper, perhaps as some means of immortality (my interpretation there.)  Part of the equation is communicating. I won’t lie: I desperately want to communicate through a book, I want to move someone or many someones, I want to be on the NY Times Bestseller list. In some ways, I wish simply writing was enough for me, as it was when I was young.  It was just exciting, a discovery of self, and maybe that’s why it was fun: I was communicating with a stranger (me) and effectively exchanging ideas with my inner self. Now I’ve spent years doing that; talking to myself is no longer satisfying, even if it looks funny and makes people give you spare change.

I am going to the SDSU writer’s conference at the end of the month. I’m meeting with an editor about OUT. I am trying to remember that it is my story, and if other people don’t like it,  that doesn’t mean it’s not good. So, I guess I’m sort of back to talking to myself. Except this time, I guess I’m listening a little bit better. Maybe it will be more satisfying than I think.

Link to Steve Hely’s HILARIOUS book


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. MacDougal Street Baby
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 00:00:30

    I hope you are able to find your way back to yourself. For what it’s worth, I think you have a very interesting voice.


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