In my mailbox this morning I found the thick glossy program from the Mystery Writers of America ‘s Edgar Awards Dinner. I didn’t attend; it’s too pricy for me. But I did splurge enough to attend the symposium* the day before. I was especially inspired by Julie Smith’s interview with this year’s two Grand Masters, James Lee Burke and Sue Grafton.
The program’s article about Burke by his daughter Alafair Burke brought back memories of his talk. He published three novels as a young man, but his fourth, The Lost Get Back Boogie, was rejected over 100 times in the next nine years. Throughout that time, he never stopped writing. She quotes from an article he wrote for the New York Times:
“A real writer is driven both by obsession and a secret vanity, namely that he has a perfect vision of the truth, in the same way that a camera lens can close perfectly on a piece of the external world. If the writer does not convey that vision to someone else, his talent turns to a self-consuming bitterness.”
Since he’s published 27 novels and is still going strong, he obviously managed to write his way through that tough period. Note his emphasis on reaching “someone else” through writing. How many readers do we need in order to steer clear of that “self-consuming bitterness”? And how long are we willing to toil away in solitude without them? For me, it’s not all that many and not all that long. That’s why I chose the POD option – for the time being, anyway. Endlessly delayed gratification is not for me.
*The MWA’s Edgar Week Symposium is available on CD’s and/or DVDs. You can order individual sessions, but a better deal is to order a complete set of three MP3 CDs for $35 or six DVDs for $50. I’m not getting them because I heard them all live and in person, but it would be a worthwhile purchase if you have a local writers’ group to share it with, or even just as a treat for yourself and your friends. Details are on the Mystery Writers of America website.