Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Adaptation of a Writer

I read an excellent post by John McNally at Emerging Writers Network via Tania Hershman's blog about why anyone would want to write short stories. He makes many very interesting points, but one thing stuck out for me. He talked about excellent short story writers who stopped writing. They were everywhere and highly successful, at least from writers' points of view, and suddenly they were gone. He mourned their loss.

In my relatively short time of writing, just over six years now, I have slowly seen myself change. Against my nature, I have accepted the status quo, in some instances I no longer fight it. I no longer have hope that I might change things. I feel sad about this and I wonder if perhaps these short story writers who have disappeared with their talent decided that perhaps they didn't want to adapt, they would rather do nothing if they couldn't do things as they wanted.

Publishers in Botswana publish for the school market. When I got my first Detective Kate Gomolemo book published, the publisher assured me that they would market it to a mainstream market as even I knew it was not suitable for schools. They didn't do that.

So I moved on to publisher number two and explained what I wanted with the second book. Print it dirt cheap, sell it everywhere newspapers are sold, and build that book buying public in the country. They also reeled me in with all sorts of yes words and then did what they'd always done before- marketed it, primarily, to the schools.

There are four books in the series. All long written. But I'll write no more and I'll not see another one published. I suppose in this sense I'm a bit like those MIA short story writers- if I can't have my way I won't do it.

But too, now I accept if I'm going to write books in Botswana, I must write for the school market. That's it. There will be nothing else until everyone gets in the boat and starts rowing together. I'm sad about giving in to this but, at least for the time being, those are the rules of the game. Survival of the fittest -no sentimentality allowed, no dreams out of the box- the conditions of the environment will make all decisions- and that's quite sad.


Anonymous said...

That doesn't mean you can't seek an agent or a publisher further afield. I don't understand why you haven't been snapped up by a US agent.

I understand how disheartening the state of publishing is at the moment. Everything seems to be a struggle. A writer friend of mine who got a few books of short stories published years ago in Australia has given up writing completely because the market for her work just isn't there. I feel really sad about it because she is a brilliant writer. Sometimes I feel like everything comes down to economics.

Lauri said...

The problem with me and overseas publishers etc. is all I have to offer them is short stories- which they don't want, novellas which they don't want, or one of my two wallflower novels which they don't want. So it's not that they don't necessarily want me they just aren't interested in anything I have on offer. I do have a few children's books that need a home but currently I'm too busy to search for one.

Sad about your friend Selma.

Sue Guiney said...

It's a sad state of affairs, but true. Certainly the big publishers I know in the UK and US tend to publish the same stuff over and over and in the same way. That's why small presses are so important, but in this present economy they're all in danger of folding. Those of us who don't have to rely on writing for their livelihood are the lucky ones (like me -- and I never estimate how lucky I am). But it's a waste and very frustrating. Unless you just keep writing what "they" want just to keep your hand in the game, and then hope that in time things will change....

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Here in the U.S. short story collections are making a comeback. As people sit in airports, and spend their days constantly hurried and on the move they are embracing the short story. If you do a search on GOOGLE for agents that represent short story collection you may be surprised at how many there are nowadays! Don't give up! If all else fails create e-books and market them over the Internet. Who cares how you find your readers. What matter is that you have some.

Lauri said...

Sue I think I'm straddling the line. I write what I want and keep trying to sell it and I write what they want. I must do this if I want to stay a full time writer it is just the reality. Recently I read an article about George Orwell. He wrote book reviews and other journalistic stuff to live and felt that those things sucked him dry in terms of creativity. I have to admit sometimes I feel that way, and that's the sad and scary part of it.

Elizabeth- Thanks for that info. I've never sent a collection of short stories to an American publisher, only novels. I'll try my luck!