@richardrusso (LDM Austin, Ep. 1 judge)
An Open Letter to My Fellow Authors
It’s all changing, right before our eyes. Not just publishing, but the writing life itself, our ability to make a living from authorship. Even in the best of times, which these are not, most writers have to supplement their writing incomes by teaching, or throwing up sheet-rock, or cage fighting. It wasn’t always so, but for the last two decades I’ve lived the life most writers dream of: I write novels and stories, as well as the occasional screenplay, and every now and then I hit the road for a week or two and give talks. In short, I’m one of the blessed, and not just in terms of my occupation. My health is good, my children grown, their educations paid for. I’m sixty-four, which sucks, but it also means that nothing that happens in publishing—for good or ill—is going to affect me nearly as much as it affects younger writers, especially those who haven’t made their names yet. Even if the e-price of my next novel is $1.99, I won’t have to go back to cage fighting.
Still, if it turns out that I’ve enjoyed the best the writing life has to offer, that those who follow, even the most brilliant, will have to settle for less, that won’t make me happy and I suspect it won’t cheer other writers who’ve been as fortunate as I. It’s these writers, in particular, that I’m addressing here. Not everyone believes, as I do, that the writing life is endangered by the downward pressure of e-book pricing, by the relentless, ongoing erosion of copyright protection, by the scorched-earth capitalism of companies like Google and Amazon, by spineless publishers who won’t stand up to them, by the “information wants to be free” crowd who believe that art should be cheap or free and treated as a commodity, by internet search engines who are all too happy to direct people to on-line sites that sell pirated (read “stolen”) books, and even by militant librarians who see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to “lend” our e-books without restriction. But those of us who are alarmed by these trends have a duty, I think, to defend and protect the writing life that’s been good to us, not just on behalf of younger writers who will not have our advantages if we don’t, but also on behalf of readers, whose imaginative lives will be diminished if authorship becomes untenable as a profession.
I know, I know. Some insist that there’s never been a better time to be an author. Self-publishing has democratized the process, they argue, and authors can now earn royalties of up to seventy percent, where once we had to settle for what traditional publishers told us was our share. Anecdotal evidence is marshaled in support of this view (statistical evidence to follow). Those of us who are alarmed, we’re told, are, well, alarmists. Time will tell who’s right, but surely it can’t be a good idea for writers to stand on the sidelines while our collective fate is decided by others. Especially when we consider who those others are. Entities like Google and Apple and Amazon are rich and powerful enough to influence governments, and every day they demonstrate their willingness to wield that enormous power. Books and authors are a tiny but not insignificant part of the larger battle being waged between these companies, a battleground that includes the movie, music, and newspaper industries. I think it’s fair to say that to a greater or lesser degree, those other industries have all gotten their asses kicked, just as we’re getting ours kicked now. And not just in the courts. Somehow, we’re even losing the war for hearts and minds. When we defend copyright, we’re seen as greedy. When we justly sue, we’re seen as litigious. When we attempt to defend the physical book and stores that sell them, we’re seen as Luddites. Our altruism, when we’re able to summon it, is too often seen as self-serving.
But here’s the thing. What the Apples and Googles and Amazons and Netflixes of the world all have in common (in addition to their quest for world domination), is that they’re all starved for content, and for that they need us. Which means we have a say in all this. Everything in the digital age may feel new and may seem to operate under new rules, but the conversation about the relationship between art and commerce is age-old, and artists must be part of it. To that end we’d do well to speak with one voice, though it’s here we demonstrate our greatest weakness. Writers are notoriously independent cusses, hard to wrangle. We spend our mostly solitary days filling up blank pieces of paper with words. We must like it that way, or we wouldn’t do it. But while it’s pretty to think that our odd way of life will endure, there’s no guarantee. The writing life is ours to defend. Protecting it also happens to be the mission of the Authors Guild, which I myself did not join until last year, when the light switch in my cave finally got tripped. Are you a member? If not, please consider becoming one. We’re badly outgunned and in need of reinforcements. If the writing life has done well by you, as it has by me, here’s your chance to return the favor. Do it now, because there’s such a thing as being too late.
At the Latitude festival this summer, Lady Rizo appeared on stage and in the first few minutes of the show made not one, but two, fisting jokes. Oh my darlings, you know I fell in love. Not only is she wildly witty with a sharp, dirty mind, she sings like no one else and beautifully.
By the end of the show, she had the whole audience in the palm of her gloved hand. I’m not sure where the small troupe of bright young thing came from, but as she was saying goodbye, to up-beat beat after anecdotes of being a singer on a cruise ship that made us all want to follow our rainbows, kids clad in glitter, torn t-shirts and awning striped trousers stormed the audience and flung themselves into some sort of wild impromptu choreography. Now Violet, her first album, is coming out, she’s touring: London, New York, the West Coast. Download the free track below. Go see a show, and I can’t wait to hear her debut album.
Kanitta Meechubot is showing five new works in an upcoming group show at RK Burt Gallery, London. Of these works, Meechubot says: “For the past four years, I have constantly developed the hand cutting paper from images into three-dimensions sculpture pieces. I explore to keep the beautiful moment of love and pain in life. Within these moments we collect, will engrave in memory lead us to trace back in time.” The seven other participating artists are Pip Dickens, Annabel Dover, Christina Eberhart, Maryvonne Holzer, Soon Yul Kang, Jeff Lowe and Ernesto Romano.
Private view: Tuesday, 19 November 2013, 18.30 – 20.30
RK Burt Gallery 57-61 Union Street, London, SE1 1SG
Exhibition dates: 20 November – 28 November 2013
Monday – Friday 12.00 noon – 17.00
The exhibition is accompanied by a number of lunch time talks.
On 15 November, for one night only, the Los Angeles arts community will flood Antebellum Gallery in Hollywood with love and artworks, in the memory of Carlos Batts and to raise funds for his widow April Flores. Batts, filmmaker, photographer, artist, passed away suddenly, unexpectedly, at age 40 on October 22. His wife and muse April Flores has been hit with costly bills and the community is rallying to raise money to defray these charges.
Carlos and April were two of my favorite people to run into when I lived in LA. Their light, light of love, of creativity, of kindness, shone brightly, uniquely. Carlos’s vision for the place and the expression of the erotic in culture is necessary and potent. I loved how his body of work unfolded. The fabric of his work was woven together with his muse, April. Having a partner in crime, a partner in art, is a blessing. Looking at the outpourings of love and support, I get the feeling that the community will keep the light of love and art burning for April, from this day and beyond. I wish I could be there to give my support. So instead, dear readers, go to Antebellum, spend the night supporting April, getting to know or remembering dear Carlos.
The fundraiser and silent art auction will take place at Antebellum Gallery on Friday, November 15 from 6 – 9 PM. Antebellum Gallery is at 1643 N, Las Palmas in Hollywood 90028 (323 856~ 0667, firstname.lastname@example.org). 21 and over. No host bar.
Works of art will be on display and ready to be picked up by winning bidders that night. All of the proceeds will go to medical bills and funeral expenses.
Artists include some of the biggest names in contemporary art including Coop, Matthew Bone and Shepard Fairey have donated works. Photographers including Gregory Bojorquez, Patrick Hoelck, Eric Kroll and Estevan Oriol will have work in the silent auction. Adult Entertainment icons Buck Angel and Nina Hartley will also have artwork available for bid.
A partial list of participating artists follows and more are expected:
Ramzi Abed, Buck Angel, Axis, Matthew Bone, Greg Bojorquez, Tommi Cahill, Jim Caron, Rick Castro, Collin Christian, Sas Christian, Chas Ray Crider, Bob Coulter, Michael Delahaut, Steve Diet Goedde, Shepard Fairey, Ed Fox, Roger Gastman, Nina Hartley, Chris Haston, Dave Naz, Kimberley Kane and more.
PayPay email address:
Donations can be directly sent to Bank of America account:
3250 3004 6353
Visual Editions’ (VE) Where You Are live events give you the chance to hear Geoff Dyer and Joe Dunthorne, and Sheila Heti and Tao Lin tell you all about growing up in Cheltenham, mapping literary landscapes, modernising the I Ching to help find your way when you’re lost, and mapping crazy sci-fi hamsters in 2027.
It’s their very first venture into the world of Google Hangouts (and mine, too). Geoff will join VE from the US, Joe will be in the VE in the office, Sheila from Toronto and Tao in Manhattan.
Nov 14th at 4pm GMT/ 11am EST with Geoff Dyer and Joe Dunthorne
Nov 19th at 4pm GMT/ 11am EST with Sheila Heti and Tao Lin
Join us if you can. And join the conversation on Twitter using #whereyouare.
For Houstonites, Peter Turchi will be live and in person at Brazos Bookstore on 15 November at 19:00. They’re also selling Where You Are for $30 (instead of $50). Good deal!
‘I think in the beginning it was a crisis. I started to write because I felt the need to fit in, and not be an outsider… I have felt bound to an outsideness and an otherness.’
I was wondering where-oh-where this podcast had gone. Its arrival on Granta.com completely slipped past me amidst the whirling waltzes of late. I had the honor of translating Lina Wolff‘s short story “Nuestra Señora de la Asunción” for Granta 124: Travel. Wolff writes in Swedish, but this story and her debut novel Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs are both set in Spain. When she came to London for the launch of the Travel issue this summer, we talked about the tension between a rational way of being and a magical way of thinking, Lorca, Dante, literary travellers and their guides, irrationality and the artistic temperament.
Visual Editions, one of my clients, is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund photographer Jacob Robinson’s two-week camper van trip through La Mancha. Why? They’re reimagining Don Quixote using the pics he takes on his trip. If you love paper or print, check it out.
On Tuesday night at Rich Mix, we’ll be raising a toast to the latest issue of SCARF, featuring artwork by Kanitta Meechubot (the heart, it’s her work…), another story from David Hermann’s London novel of cocktails and clashing subcultures and one of the ‘vignette essays’ that I’ve been writing to set the tone and language for my novel. The featured book of the evening is Sai Murray’s debut poetry collection and Kwani?’s Diaspora issue. Join us for readings, drinks music and a pop-up market… Tickets are 5 pounds and can be bought here or on the door.
The official London launch of Numbi resident poet Sai Murray’s debut poetry collection Ad-liberation. Delighting in cut-n-paste wordplay and following in the committed political footsteps of Gil-Scott-Heron and Linton Kwesi-Johnson, Sai’s poetry offers personal takes on racism and challenges the inevitability of corporate power, consumerism and ecological blight. “wit and joyful engagement with language carries these poems to the heart”
Christelle Kedi, Beautifying the Body: In Ancient Africa & Today
Funmi Adewole, Sea Salt in the City
Dorothea Smartt, Ship Shape” & “Connecting Mediums
This 7th edition documents Diaspora journeys historically and geographically through fiction, creative non-fiction, photography, illustrations & infographics. You will also have the opportunity to meet some of the contributors of SCARF magazine and pick up a copy of our latest edition – “The H-art of the Revolution”. Keep it locked!
Plus there will be a chance to do some late night shopping at the Numbi pop-up market.