Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keep moving forward, by Chuck Sambuchino

Keep moving forward. That is some of the best advice I can give you as you continue toward your writing goals. Keep moving forward. 2011 has been a strange year for me. The first eight months seemed to be filled with near-misses and small disappointments concerning my writing. Things just weren't going my way. I vented to those who would listen; my wife told me she could take no more so I should start complaining to the dog instead.

But then, in the last 45 days, I've had a flood of good writing news. One thing I blogged about recently was that we sold Japanese rights to my Gnome Attack humor book. I also spoke about how, finally, after 10 months of talks, Sony fully executed the film option to the book and a feature-length screenplay is being written by professional scriptwriters I've never even met. And then there's amazing book deal news I can't fully talk about until 2012. All this happened in the past 45 days -- all because I kept moving forward.

You can't control who will say yes to your work and when the timing will be right. You can control not giving up and always moving forward. Do that, and give yourself the best chance at success.

Until next time, good luck writing, agent hunting, and building your platform!

Chuck Sambuchino

Editor, 2012 Guide to Literary Agents
Author, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack


Robert Genn on whether to get an MFA or Not

MFA or bust?

Dear Sherrie,

In response to a blog by Canadian artist Shary Boyle, someone with the avatar "Wrongtable" wrote, "I think that young people shouldn't hedge their bets by getting a Masters of Fine Arts. MFA doesn't imply talent. Talent comes from dedication and often desperation. Art funding spoon-feeds artkids, and the result is often wallpaper."

This response is typical and makes a comment on the changing face of professional arts. Common questions I'm asked these days are, "Should I go for an MFA?" and "Will any art degree help in my professional career?" The evidence is out there. There are now enough MFAs to fill the Astrodome, and most of them are doing anything but art.

Our world is coming down off a prayer-rug that faced New York, London and Berlin. For decades, a lot of poor quality art has emanated from these centres, and the world of art schools and University art faculties have encouraged the worship. This mass delusion has undernourished countless echelons of idealistic "artkids." Sure, some make it, often for the reasons Wrongtable mentions.

Don't get me wrong, academia has done a remarkable job of prying open the gates of imagination and broadening artistic literacy, but many of the artkids I'm talking to these days are asking for something else--how to create light, how to handle shadows, how to compose in a traditional manner, how to draw. "I want to draw like Ingres," said one.

Fact is, there's a rising class of home-workers and plein-air painters whose aims are the old fashioned ideas of quality and life-enhancement. Whether or not they have a MFA is immaterial. These days, people don't walk into galleries and ask if there's anything by someone with an MFA--although there are still many who would like to see it happen. Even in this distressing recession, art sales in many areas are strong, and young people who have dedicated themselves to developing advanced skills are thriving. In desperation, perhaps, these artkids decided to get good. Their reach may not always include the haughty halls of New York, London or Berlin, but they can be mighty celebrated out here in the backwaters.

Is this not enough? To be happy in our work and produce daily and freely? To be relieved of price one-upmanship, star-jealousy, the welfare of grants, and the poisonous-pens that hinder progressive careers?

Though we may hop in a small puddle, through the Internet we are still part of the great Brotherhood and Sisterhood and, who knows, little tads can sometimes--if they're not grabbed by the crows--become quite remarkable frogs.

Best regards,


PS: "If you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows." (Old English idiom)

Esoterica: Of all of the advice I've dished out over the years, perhaps the most effective and commonly remarked upon has been "Go to your room." Aspiring artists, credentialed or not, who find it within themselves to do this are the ones most likely to get the "talent." Sticky word, "talent." But it's out there. We see it every day. And it makes for a great life.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mark David Gerson on "Steve Jobs's True Legacy"

Mark David Gerson
Steve Jobs's True Legacy

"...the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."
~ John 14:12

"Follow your bliss."
~ Joseph Campbell

"Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don't fence me in."
~ Cole Porter

I was packing up to leave Starbucks from an afternoon's writing on Wednesday when I heard about Steve Jobs's death. The news came to me in a terse email notice from the MyAppleSpace social network. The subject line read "Steve Jobs is dead."

Incredulous, I thought it was a hacker's prank. Only when I had double-checked the news against a reliable source could I bring myself to believe it.

Like many, I received and verified the news about Jobs on products he had pioneered. For me it was a MacBook Pro laptop and an iPhone.

And like so many around the world, I was grief struck.

Here was a man who had spent most of his life bucking the system, never letting fear or conventional wisdom get in the way of what he knew to be right and true. Nor did he ever permit the legions of critics and pundits who declared him foolhardy and misguided to stop him from following the path he knew in his heart to be the correct one.

Was he a saint? Hardly. Few geniuses are. Could he be cruel and cutting? Apparently so, for he is reputed to have had little patience for those who doubted or stood in the way of his passionate vision.

Few in the Western world remain untouched by that vision. Even those who swear they will never touch an Apple product have been affected by the revolutions in computing and music distribution that he incited.

Did he change the world? Absolutely. Did he do it uncompromisingly and on his own terms? Undoubtedly.

Is his greatest legacy the products and software systems he engineered? Not hardly.

Through the day or so following Steve Jobs's death, I was deeply moved, sometimes to tears, but the outpouring of love, respect and grief for this man. But by Friday night, as I scrolled through the unending stream of Jobs tributes and Jobs quotes in my Facebook news feed, something about it all began to trouble me.

Don't get me wrong. The sentiments expressed were true and powerful, and I clicked the "like" button on many of them.

But I began to wonder, as I read them all, how often we latch onto the words and lives of others as a way to avoid expressing our own words and living our own lives.

Back in 2006 while visiting Toronto, I was privileged to attend a Barbra Streisand concert. It was a performance that more than filled the city's vast Air Canada Centre. I wrote about that experience here two years ago, in a post titled Larger Than Life.

"Whatever you think of Barbra Streisand's talent or personality," I wrote, "when you are in her energy field, you touch that [limitlessness of your soul's natural state] and your soul cries out, 'Me too! That's who I am, too!!'

"Here in the Western world, where we have been taught to play small, we transfer all of our natural desire for the fenceless world of a life lived large to our movie stars and sports heroes.

"If we can't play out our own passion and power, we play it out through a celebrity cult that's no healthier than any other cult, one we also find in countries with charismatic leaders/dictators, in religions with unapproachable gods and in all situations where we abdicate the expression of our infinite nature to someone or something outside of ourselves."

How much of the grief for Jobs, I began to wonder, is not about the death of a brilliant man whose visions touched so many but about the death of a figure who publicly lived so much of the courage, vision, sense of purpose and uncompromising adherence to inner truth that so many of us shrink from in our own lives.

Steve Jobs was not unusual. We all have the same access to the same infinite pool of wisdom, courage, purpose and inner truth that he did...not to mimic his journey and follow his bliss, but to uncover and follow our own...wherever it might carry us.

In my novel, The MoonQuest, very much a metaphor for all our journeys, the main character, Toshar, is destined for a greatness he continues to resist. Yet destiny, as he is constantly reminded, is not cast in stone. There is always a choice.

"Every choice you have ever made," Toshar is told, "has led to this moment...of choice."

"The power to choose is always ours," I wrote in Larger Than Life. "In every moment and through every situation, we're offered the opportunity to choose our greatness, our passion, our light."

The best tribute to Steve Jobs is to not quote his words but to live them, to not restate his wisdom but to find and write your own, to not honor the choices of his heart but to listen to and honor the choices of yours, to not look backward but to live in the present moment as you step forward into the next.

It's time to awaken your vision. It's time to rekindle your passion. It's time to live your greatness.

If that becomes Steve Jobs's legacy, the revolution in each of our lives -- and in the world -- will only have just begun.