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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Masters

   
Author Topic: Masters
WraithOfBlake
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The "old saw" that "a writer must live like one" appeals to me (for which I apologize; yeah, maybe I'm deficient in logic or something?) But, em, inanythehoo, I find myself pretty busily engaged in reading the biographies of authors I admire, right now. /////[[[[So far I've read (1) the 2004 bio of Frances Hodgson Burnett (the biographer said she was called HODGsonBUHnett in England and BurNETT in the US) (2) Trombley's 2010 bio of Twain's complicated association with his private secretary, Isabel, and (3) the biography of Harper Lee; and now I've started (4) the 1966 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Mark Twain by Justin Kaplan.]]]]/////

It's interesting to compare certain commonalities among them.
Such as:


-In the case of Twain and Hodgson Burnett, people were wowwed by their narrative talents, from the start (and, in the case of Lee, people were impressed by her wit, her strong personality and many people took an especial interest in her as both a person and a writer).

-Let's see: They could be said to have been doing basically "genre" stuff, yet were (at least eventually) accorded "highbrow" status, all the while they retained great popularity with the masses. (Hodgson Burnett did ladies' magazine fiction, Twain did humor, Lee wrote one novel based in large measure on her own life that nonetheless used a lot of literary tropes that were cliches in "Southern" novels.)

-Even if they were thought to be somewhat shy in some context or another, each of the three of them were known to be very talkative and entertaining (well, obviously more so Twain and Hodgson Burnett than Lee, in that).

-They wrote for money. All three wanted both professional and financial success and they all achieved a measure of wealth.

-They were lazy with regard to stuff other than writing and not all that successful in 9-to-5ish type of affairs or in business matters that weren't connected with literature (at least in comparison with their writing, anyway).

-Even toward the beginning of their careers they made friends with other literary folks, some of whom also reached various pinnacles.

* * *

On this last point, I'm reminded that just prior to Frances Hodgson Burnett's literary relationship with her main New York mentor and editor, she had submitted stuff to NY magazine publishers and they would write her back with suggestions how to change things blah blah for publication. Which process of mentorship, if you will, went on as she would submit her many story serializations. After awhile, though, of course, anything Hodgson Burnett would submit would be published as is.

Anyway, after she had already become basically the J.K. Rowling of her time, at one point her American editor was on vacation or sick and she had sent in a novel manuscript and a new assistant editor sent back requests for stuff to be changed.

She simply wrote the company and said she was withdrawing her manuscript of consideration by them... And, she wouldn't allow its publication by that company until that particular asst. editor had been fired.....

[This message has been edited by WraithOfBlake (edited April 28, 2010).]


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tchernabyelo
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Just as a general note, I'd be cautious about drawing too many inferences about what behaviours a modern would-be writer should adopt based on the experiences of people writing more than a century ago. The literary/publishing landscape is very different now. I find the experiences of the likes of John Scalzi, Jay Lake, or Elizabeth Bear (to pick a handful of vocal on-line examples) to be a lot more germane to my own efforts.


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WraithOfBlake
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Olden times:

__ Anton Checkhov __
###
(From Wikipedia):

###
In 1884, Chekhov qualified as a physician, which he considered his principal profession though he made little money from it and treated the poor for free.[...]He continued writing for weekly periodicals, earning enough money to move the family into progressively better accommodation. Early in 1886 he was invited to write for one of the most popular papers in St. Petersburg, Novoye Vremya (New Times), owned and edited by the millionaire magnate Alexey Suvorin, who paid per line a rate double Leikin's and allowed him three times the space. Suvorin was to become a lifelong friend, perhaps Chekhov's closest.
Before long, Chekhov was attracting literary as well as popular attention. The sixty-four-year-old Dmitry Grigorovich, a celebrated Russian writer of the day, wrote to Chekhov after reading his short story The Huntsman, "You have real talent—a talent which places you in the front rank among writers in the new generation." He went on to advise Chekhov to slow down, write less, and concentrate on literary quality.
Chekhov replied that the letter had struck him "like a thunderbolt" and confessed, "I have written my stories the way reporters write up their notes about fires—mechanically, half-consciously, caring nothing about either the reader or myself." The admission may have done Chekhov a disservice, since early manuscripts reveal that he often wrote with extreme care, continually revising. Grigorovich's advice nevertheless inspired a more serious, artistic ambition in the twenty-six-year-old. In 1887, with a little string-pulling by Grigorovich, the short story collection At Dusk (V Sumerkakh) won Chekhov the coveted Pushkin Prize "for the best literary production distinguished by high artistic worth."
###

* * *

Today:

__ Scalzi __
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Scalzi

John W. Cambell "best new scifi writer" winner, 2005

__ Jay Lake __
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Lake

John W. Cambell "best new scifi writer" winner, 2003

__ Elizabeth Bear __
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bear

...has won (according to Wikipedia)...

###
"the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Tideline," and the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Shoggoths in Bloom." She is one of only five writers who have gone on to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (the others being C.J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card, Spider Robinson, and Ted Chiang)."
###

[This message has been edited by WraithOfBlake (edited April 28, 2010).]


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JamieFord
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This reminds me of a writing conference I went to years ago. The workshop leader asked all of us, "Which do you like more, writing, or the idea of being a writer?"

There is a difference.


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Robert Nowall
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I kinda avoided the literary works of the past few centuries, and didn't start getting to some until my mid-to-late twenties. Mostly till then I concentrated on the Greats of Science Fiction and / or Fantasy...how they got where they were, what their lives were like, were they doing something I could do too?

Probably the SF / fantasy writers lives I've observed most closely would be...

Isaac Asimov
H. P. Lovecraft
Frederik Pohl
Robert A. Heinlein
...and the SF group collectively known as "The Futurians," who include two of the above...

I've observed others, but probably these most of all, simply because details of their lives entered into my range-of-vision through assorted books and magazine articles when I was young and starting out.

One lesson I took away from them is that I'd be better off if I did something for a living and wrote in my spare time. The "for a living" part worked out relatively well, though the "something" is something that doesn't thrill me, and the writing part hasn't worked out well at all...


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Unwritten
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quote:
This reminds me of a writing conference I went to years ago. The workshop leader asked all of us, "Which do you like more, writing, or the idea of being a writer?"

When I'm writing, I love being a writer. My muse has been floundering lately though, and sometimes I find myself pressing forward simply because I've told so many people I'm a writer, and they think it's the most interesting thing about me. If I stop writing, will everyone think I'm too boring to associate with?

On the other hand, I know things will eventually hit the boiling point again, and what I want will have very little to do with it. Then I will write because I need to write.


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