So you can read my books

Monday, May 19, 2014


Carrie Butler has a novel idea:


Please write a letter/note to yourself when you first started writing toward publication. The only thing I ask is that you keep it under 800 words, including as many (or as few) of these elements as you like:

- A lesson you learned the hard way

   - Something you didn’t expect about the industry (positive/negative)

   - A writing-related resource you could never do without now

   - One thing you’d change about your journey

   - One thing you’re glad you did

   - Your number one tip for pursuing publication

   - Anything else you feel is worth passing on
I am not a successful writer.  It looks as if I never will be. 
But being a Sci Fi/Fantasy writer,

I thought how fun it would be to exchange letters with John Steinbeck when he was a struggling writer in the Depression
So here is the exchange --  (530 words)
{John Steinbeck - 1931}

Pacific Grove
December 1930

Dear Roland -

     What a stupendous thing Samuel McCord has done for me.  In his presence I reflected how might the struggling author 100 years from now compare to my own starving state. 

     And as a Christmas present, he has arranged for us to send letters back and forth.

     How wonderful is that? 
I do not mind that I must not inquire what my fate will be.  Judging from my plentiful rejections, I doubt you even know my name.
     Thank you for your letter. I am sorry I must answer it from memory.
     Tillie Eulenspiegel, the Airedale, has puppies, as sinful a crew as ever ruined rugs.
     Four of them found your letter and ate all of it but the address. I should imagine they were awed by the address if I had not learned that they hold nothing in reverence.
     At present they are out eating each other, and I must try to remember the things I should answer. 

     I thank you for your own Christmas present in response to my question of what might a bestselling book be like in your time.

     I read only a page or so of The Da Vinci Code. The pages I read seemed to be a hodgepodge of quotations and confusing logic. 

     Brown's words are virtual blunt instruments of prose.  My brain feels positively bruised. 

     Christmas broke Carol and me, so that we must live nine days on two dollars and five cents.

     I think we can do it although the last few of those nine may find us living on rice. That doesn’t matter either. It’s rather amusing. 
     At least I try to tell myself that.

     I have been filled with a curious cloying despair. I haven’t heard a word from any of my manuscripts for over three months.

     It is nerve wracking. I would welcome rejections far more than this appalling silence. My new novel slumbers. I doubt myself. This is a dreadful, crucial time.
The other day I asked a young friend to read a story, and he felt that he should criticise because that was what one did to a ms.
     So he tore a pretty nice story to pieces and showed me how to do it.
     It was funny because he hit all the places which are simply matters of opinion and tore up some of the nicest writing I have ever done.
     Such things reassure one in the matter of believing critics.
     Has that ever happened to you?  How do you deal with criticism of your work, Roland? 
     Do you ever feel guilt for putting those you love and who love you under such strain from the clinging to your dream?
      That is all I can think of. If there was more to be answered it is in the stomachs of those khaki-colored devils in the garden.
     They are eating the fence now. The appetite of a puppy ranks with the Grand Canyon for pure stupendousness. I am very grateful to you for your interest. 
     Has Man grown kinder by 2014?  Or is the human heart withered by all it has endured?

     Tell me how your work proceeds.  No particulars on what you are writing as McCord forbids that, just how you find it within yourself to continue when all you receive are rejections.


What would you tell John Steinbeck were you me?


  1. I would agree with him about puppies (and kittens) and reflect that we have never known anything (even a critic's tongue) as sharp and as penetrating as their teeth.
    And I would thank him - and I do all writers for his patience and his perseverance and his passion. He, you, and all the other writers enrich my world.

  2. Rejection is better than hearing nothing.
    Too bad the pups ate your letter, Roland. Although pups are better than a nice rug.
    And you are a successful writer!!

  3. Elephant's Child:
    You enrich my life by visiting and by your constant friendship!

    And puppies do have sharp teeth: those little rag-muffins!

    But when they climb all over me, licking my face, I can't help but laugh like a little child again!

    One I got a manuscript back with only a dirty footprint on the cover letter! Ouch!!

    YOU are the successful writer. Me, not so much. But that is all right. If one or two are entertained for a moment by my tales, I have written in vain. :-)

  4. Wonderful letter from John, Roland. To be honest, as long as the critique is private—in other words, not a published review of my work because Amazon and GoodReads feedback are only good for promotion—I'd rather hear criticism. Praise does nothing to help me grow as a writer.

    Rejections, though, are something else entirely. They're tough. Rejections tend to come without explanation: all the pain and none of the benefit.

    I would give anything to have a puppy, especially my own little devil. I often wonder if he remembers me.

    VR Barkowski

  5. Please may I have one of the puppies?

    I know that much as I say I appreciate a stranger's critique of my work, deep down I am cringe-ing, hugging my cats, and wanting the earth to open up and swallow me never to spit me out again! LOL!

    Take care

  6. VR:
    I am human enough to want praise. An area obviously in which I need to grow!

    Goodreads seems so vicious. I usually stay away from there.

    But a word or two on where I could make my novel better is always appreciated ... after the pouting. :-)

    Like you, I hate rejections, for they tell me nothing on how to improve!

    I am sorry about little devil and you. I long to have a Sheltie (border collie) again. Sigh. Not until I become self-supporting as a writer ... which seems very, very far away ... if ever. :-(

    Sam tells me that time-traveling puppies are a no-no! :-) I still begged for one like you, though!

    Criticism hurts and seldom helps me, for it usually seems like the critic read something other than my book! LOL.

    Thanks for visiting!

  7. That feeling is familiar, like watching a phone and waiting for a call that never comes.

    John, neither man nor society has changed much, regardless of our technology and how much more we know 100 yrs after your time. There are many writers in our time, with many levels of expertise.
    Thanks for letting us send a comment back in time. Trust Sam to think of it. Couldn't they clone Sam?

  8. D.G.:
    Poor Sam stirs up enough trouble without having a clone of him!

    I gave up on that "call" a long time ago. If I had waited for that call, none of my novels would have published that have been.

    I will send your comment about society to John in my next letter to him. As then as now, so many authors in various degrees of ability in the prose market. Sigh.

  9. Hi, Roland, Hi, John,

    KINDER? HA! Hardly. People of today have now manners, no respect for anything. Sadly it;s a face-paced, dog-eat-dog world, John.

    HOWEVER. You would be happy to know that this doesn't pertain to our writing community. In the age of computers, internet, and information, we, as writers, are supportive, caring, and a bit blunt, but good. All on a similar road, holding each other up when we fall.

    This keeps us going. This keeps us writing.

  10. Getting criticism on our work is hard, but important. It's how we learn and build a thicker skin. I agree with Alex that a rejection is better than no reply what-so-ever (which in itself is a rejection), but I'd rather have a rejection in black and white than to be left hanging. Except I wish they would offer at least a couple of sentences for why they are giving a rejection. It sucks to keep getting rejections and not know what is wrong with the work, if anything.

  11. Michael:
    What you say is sadly true of most of the world -- and happily is true about our writing community. I will pass your words to John, who will appreciate them I know.

    It is always good to hear from you, old friend.

    You would think I would have rhino hide by now! Ouch!!

    But just a word or two why would be bliss, wouldn't it?

    Jessica Amanda Salmonson kept rejecting my stories -- but the wonderful woman would tell me why and HOW TO IMPROVE.

    If I am any good as a writer, much of the credit goes to her!

  12. "Brown's words are virtual blunt instruments of prose. My brain feels positively bruised." Bwa-ha-ha-ha! That was awesome. Oh my. Thanks for the riot of a time.

  13. What a great variation on the theme! Very entertaining, and quite an eye-opener to think that household names today had their own struggles at the time.

  14. cRYSTAL:
    The credit all goes to Steinbeck who wrote me! I and he are glad you got a good laugh out of it. :-)

    I thought it might give encouragement to some struggling today to know that a great writer like Steinbeck struggled for years without being published.

    It was only his perseverance and his wife's support that helped him achieve his dream.

    I am happy you liked my post!

  15. This was a nice reminder that even the most famous writers had desperate times when they didn't know what lay ahead of them. The success of Dan Brown gives us hope, too. Like John, I only managed a few pages of The Da Vinci Code!

  16. I think all writers face desperate times, depending on their attitude to reaching their goals.

    I gobbled up Da Vinci Code. I'm able to suspend disbelief and enjoy a good yarn.

    Hope all goes well, Roland.


  17. Nick:
    I had hoped that John's struggles of years before being published would encourage my friends. :-)

    I liked the puzzle aspect of the the Da Vince Code, but his prose style thunked me on top of the head most pages!

    I am caught up in the fires of my THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT. I fear the exact words will fade from my mind if I do not put them down as they occur to me. Silly, huh?

  18. And to think, I read this after just having to clean up a puppy mess... ;)

    Thank you so much for participating, Roland! It was a clever twist on the prompt.