Clearly I have been listening to Gary and Jonathan too much because I am about to ramble. Hopefully a coherent post will result.
My starting point is Justine Larbalestier being smart about publishing, which in turn led me to Diana Peterfreund torpedoing some really bad advice to young writers. Can I just echo what Diana said? Look folks, I run a small press. That doesn’t mean that I want to publish sub-standard books. Wizard’s Tower Press exists primarily to help existing writers get their backlists into ebook form. It will also run projects like the Colinthology that a bigger publisher wouldn’t touch, and I’d love to publish translated fiction if I can afford to do so. I’m not in the business of publishing books that can’t get published anywhere else because they are not good enough, and I suspect that most other small press owners would say the same.
So, young writers, please do have some ambition. The point is not to get published, the point is to learn to write really well. Getting rejected is part of that process.
And talking of ambition, this month’s The Writer and the Critic features books by Kate Forsyth and Lavie Tidhar. Kirstyn and Mondy liked them both, which pleases me in different ways. I reviewed Kate’s first novel for Emerald City. It was terrible. So I’m absolutely delighted to hear that, 15 years later, she’s got to be really good. I shall get hold of a copy of Bitter Greens, because I owe that to Kate for having savaged her early work.
See, young writers, even getting published by a major publisher doesn’t mean that you are good. You can still have a lot to learn.
And then there is Osama, which as Kirstyn says is wonderfully ambitious. And I totally agree with her, I would much rather read a wildly ambitious book that isn’t 100% perfect than a merely competent one. Which takes us back to the beginning of the podcast where Mondy says he’s sick of short fiction and Kirstyn says she’s having trouble getting the enthusiasm to read novels. It happens. When you read a lot (which they do, and I do as well), you can get really jaded.
Osama ought to be a cure for anyone who is jaded. I didn’t say too much about it in my review because it is way too easy to be spoilery (and the podcast is massively spoilery — you have been warned). However, one of these days I want to write a critical essay about how clever the book is. I’m bearing in mind Damien Walter’s sage advice here, but academic tongue firmly in cheek I’d like to note that I think Kirstyn and Mondy missed something very important about the book. And that has specific bearing on Kirstyn’s concerns about the book being noir.
Finally I note that next month’s episode of The Writer and the Critic will focus on ebooks recommended by listeners. Two of them were recommended by me (and possibly by others). They are Anticopernicus by Adam Roberts, and Paintwork by Tim Maughan. They are both in the bookstore, and both are short and cheap. So if you want to play the game of reading along with Kirstyn and Mondy (and shouting at the podcast when they get things wrong), you know what to do.