Standing on the Shoulders of the Little People

The lilacs are just now starting to pop. The air is warm and still. Spring at last!

This morning at the gym, the 7am Zumba class was well under way when we left. Lots of people show up for this class – easily thirty every day. Possibly more. We walk past the windows and they’re in there, dancing and smiling. It’s clearly an exercise people love to do. Always a good thing, I think.

Not everyone does.

I used to teach a Tai Chi class at the Senior Center. People loved that class, too. At least, at first.
They glowed and smiled, learning the movements, practicing the graceful form. Then my teacher, the head of my school, would come visit and tell them Tai Chi wasn’t good for older people. That studies have shown that *anything* that gets a person up and moving around improved their health. Tai Chi Ch’uan didn’t have anything special, he’d tell them, unless they did it right. According to him, they could never do it “right” because it’s a martial form and unless they learned it for combat, it wasn’t real.

If you read martial arts magazines (which I don’t recommend in the least), you’ll see a lot of this kind of attitude.

As you can imagine, many of the seniors would not return after these lectures. My teacher said that was good, weeding out the weak. He took pride in his school, his students and himself by elevating us in comparison to everyone else. Himself most of all.

The last couple of days, people have been abuzz about Jennifer Egan winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Lovely to see a woman writer win such an honor. However, the excitement quickly turned sour following this interview in the Wall Street Journal, where she said:

My focus is less on the need for women to trumpet their own achievements than to shoot high and achieve a lot. What I want to see is young, ambitious writers. And there are tons of them. Look at “The Tiger’s Wife.” There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?

As one of Egan’s erstwhile fans, Jamie Beckman points out:

When she says “the Harvard student,” she’s referring to Kaavya Viswanathan, a very young novelist whose first young-adult work of fiction, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, plagiarized veteran chick lit authors Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Megan McCafferty. The book was pulled from the shelves by publisher Little Brown and Company, and Viswanathan’s contract for a second book was canceled. It was ugly.

The remarkable part of Egan’s exhortation – the thing that has the literary community beyond dismayed – is that Egan seemed more bothered that the young woman chose “banal and derivative stuff” to plagiarize.

This attitude is far from new. There has always been, and perhaps always will be, a contingent of writers who seek to elevate their work from the banal and derivative stuff – however they might decide what that is. Usually it’s by dismissing entire genres, completely disregarding that there’s good quality and poor quality in everything. Usually the person doing the dismissing has never sullied themselves by reading any of that “stuff.”

I suppose this is part of our society, that we seek to validate our own choices by dissing others. Zumba isn’t *real* exercise. The way I do Tai Chi is better than yours – I don’t care if you enjoy it. My books are far more elevated than yours.

I hope Jennifer Egan enjoys this tremendous honor. She just disappointed an awful lot of readers.

Missing the Moon

I missed the moon this month.

Back in September, I promised to do a post each month on the full moon. I’ve hit them all until this month. I don’t really know what happened. The Planter’s Moon rose on schedule Sunday night. At first I was too early to catch it, then I was too late. I tried to photograph it setting in the morning, but the light was wrong. Here’s one of the landscape shots I took while trying to capture the faint moon at dawn.

Some months it’s just not meant to be.

I can say that it’s been ferociously windy lately and so I haven’t been lingering outside. It’s a good thing we haven’t been planting, because the 40- and 50-mile per hour gusts would have ripped the seeds from our hands. Springtime here is windy. I think of it like lake turnover – all that cold air warming up and rising, a turbulent transition. It will settle soon.

In promise of that, this morning is gorgeous warm and still. Everyone is loving it.

Besides, it’s not like any of you called me on it. The full moon. All the blogging advice says you have to keep these contracts, to satisfy your readers. “They” also say you have to keep the same schedule. Then there are the massive exceptions like Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half. She has only posted three times so far in 2011. Her third post, which went up last night, already has over six hundred comments. The love is not lagging.

Instead of the exception proving the rule (how I hate that line), the exceptions prove there are no rules, I think.

And that, every once in a while, it’s okay to miss the moon.

Unreal Books and Sales Figures

Our spring here is being a lion one minute and a lamb the next. The grape hyacinths bloom in serene splendor even as the wind whips away the patio furniture cushions.

Yesterday I went to this costume shop to get a few things to supplement the RT wardrobe. I went in Saturday and the gal said most of her stuff was at home and she’d bring in possible pieces and meet me with them on Sunday. When I got there yesterday, she had a friend there waiting to meet me. I’d explained I’m a writer, about the RT Booklovers Convention and the costume balls. In the course of introducing me, the shop owner said “And you write real books, too, not those ebooks, right?”

I said I write both. Technically true.

It amuses me, though, that I’ve now sold more copies of my unreal ebook, Petals and Thorns, than were ever printed of my real book, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. I know it will still take time for the concept of ebooks to permeate through the population. The shop owner also asked me to bring in photos of the convention and, since she already had my card, I told her that I’ll be posting photos all week, if she wants to look at my blog. She said she’d have to get someone to show her how to do that.

Meanwhile I flipped through my alumni magazines for my sorority and my alma mater last night. I might be a few months behind. Both magazines are glossy, full of rah-rah articles and hopelessly boring. They seemed to focus on things that I simply don’t think about much. Such different worlds we can live in now.

I know that people will adjust their ideas about what a “real” book consists of. They already are. Over and over I see people comment online that they received an ereader for a gift, weren’t sure about it at first and now love it.

I haven’t shared stats on Petals & Thorns in a little while. The numbers keep going up, which continues to astonish me. Each month I open my royalty statement expecting a crash like back in October or January. But no.
As you can see from the percentages, Fictionwise has sold the most copies. It looks like All Romance eBooks and Loose Id are neck and neck, but that’s a bit of artifact – most of those Loose Id sales were back before October. In fact, all sales through October were Loose Id’s. The All Romance sales were after that. It will be interesting to see what happens from here!

Posting will be sporadic this week, but I’ll try to throw up photos, at least, from the convention.