Simple Steps to Literary Lionhood, A Retrospect
At age seventy, I abandoned myself to the literary craving and became a full-time writer.
That was in January 2016.
During an apprenticeship marked by small successes, the possibility of “doing a blog” was often brought to my attention.
The notion was preposterous. It would suck up all my time, leaving me none for serious writing. Besides, how could I ever think up enough new content?
Every fiber of me railed against it, but in April 2019 I started this blog. In the process, I conferred on myself the title: “Your New Favorite Writer.” Well, if I didn’t do it, who would?
That was over four years ago. I have posted about a thousand words almost every week since then. It does take a lot of time, about a day a week. But on the other days I have still gotten some serious writing done.
Besides, I have made an interesting discovery: The blog itself is serious writing.
“Be that as it may, O New Favorite Writer—how do you balance such unequal tasks as posting a blog and writing the Great American Novel?”
The answer, Dear Reader, is that it’s all of a piece. (And thank you for asking.)
It’s All One Thing
When I say “all of a piece,” I mean the writing life cannot be forced into small, separate pigeonholes—or narrow silos, if you prefer a farm metaphor. It is not that you must move your book forward at the expense of your blog. It is not that you must spend all your time writing, to the exclusion of reading what others have written. It is not that you must devote yourself only to the art of narrative and pay no attention to sales, trade, and the soil of commerce.
No, Gentle Reader. You must do it all at once.
General Sherman said, “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.” Your New Favorite Writer says: “Writing is a mess, and you cannot parse it.”
About the time I started this blog, it dawned on me that to be a serious writer you must become a Literary Lion, and you dare not put that off until your first Nobel Prize. If you are to have any chance at all, you have to jump into the Literary Lion business right away.
Armed with this stunning insight, I posted a series titled “Six Simple Steps to Literary Lionhood.” The six steps are:
- 1. Cut the line. Skip straight to literary lionhood.
- 2. Write.
- 3. Get feedback.
- 4. Associate.
- 5. Submit.
- 6. (Develop Your) Platform.
When I wrote six pieces, one a week for six weeks, about these six steps, I continually warned readers that “simple” does not mean “easy.” Each step is simple. But you have to do them all together, continuously. If they were easy, everybody would be Stephen King.
Some time later, I was compelled to revisit my six simple steps several times to enlarge or clarify, based on my new experiences. But in the main, the six steps have held up well.
Proof of the Pudding
It seems to be a law of language that common sayings and nostrums get simplified over time. One example has to do with proof and pudding. People today commonly say, “The proof is in the pudding.” That’s an interesting saying, but in isolation, rather mystifying. Why should proof be in pudding? Why conceal evidence in pudding?
Listen, Fair Reader: Your New Favorite Writer is old enough to remember when the saying was used in its original form: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Ah! Clarity. If you want to know how good the pudding is, eat it. The eating will tell you what you want to know.
I offer my journey as proof of the pudding of achieving Literary Lionhood in Six Simple Steps.
I have been on the loose in the literary world for slightly longer than seven years. During that time, besides establishing and tending this blog (“One of the best writer’s blogs on the planet,” according to Laurie Scheer), I have:
- Had a dog story published by Fetch! magazine.
- Had three short stories published by The Saturday Evening Post.
- Had my debut historical novel, Price of Passage, published by DX Varos Publishing, under a traditional, royalty-and-advance author’s contract.
- Completed a middle grade novel, Izzy Strikes Gold!, currently seeking representation and publication.
- Begun a World War II historical.
But that’s not all. Besides these obvious milestones, I have been busy associating. I have attended six or seven writing conferences. I am a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. I am de facto leader of two small but important writers’ mutual critique groups in my home town.
The moment you sign a book contract you become a salesman. So I am learning about that. I visit bookstores and ask them to stock my book. I do author events from time to time—signing and selling fests, where the books are purchased one by one after actual conversations with readers. I am scheduled as the featured speaker at a couple of events in the near future. And, with the help of publicist Valerie Biel I am learning how to sell books through Facebook advertising.
I have become a fixture at my local public library, regularly reserving and carrying home more books than I have time to read. Stacks of books—all kinds of books—litter every horizontal surface of my home. I read as much of this conveyor-belt feast as I can manage.
And a lot of great books are being published by folks who have become personal friends of mine—Nick Chiarkas, author of the excellent, heart-filled New York gang novels Weepers and Nunzio’s Way; Gregory Lee Renz, whose debut firehouse novel Beneath the Flames delighted critics and book buyers alike; Christine DeSmet, author of the Fudge Shop Mysteries series; Kristin A. Oakley, author of Carpe Diem Illinois, God on Mayhem Street, and the forthcoming The Devil Particle—and many others.
Me, Me, Me
This is all about me. Does it sound like boasting?
So be it. But my purpose, Gracious Reader, is to show how all these activities lean in on one another. A writer’s life comprises all of them, and more. If it’s just one thing—or two, or three—it will not sustain itself. It will not endure.
And what is success? Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. If literary success is measured in dollars, I am, to date, a miserable failure. But if personal satisfaction may be considered, the past seven years have made me a wealthy man.
The proof of my pudding is in living the dream. You can quote me on that.
Larry F. Sommers
Your New Favorite Writer