Summer of Hope, Summer of Dreams

My Summer of Hope - Ebook Largelatest book, Summer of Hope, Summer of Dreams, was launched yesterday!  (see sidebar to the right to purchase–yes, a self-serving plug, there).  The book was just put out for public consumption, but it was a long time in the making–made even longer due to some delays beyond my control.  The title is a metaphor for the subject matter of the book, and is a play on a Springsteen song title, Land of Hope and Dreams–also in the book.

I grew up in a small steel town in West Virginia and was a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan (still am, of course).  A common theme running through almost every one of his songs is that of keeping hope and having faith.  Although confronted by what seems like a dead-end–in your hometown, or in your relationships, or in the despair of a post-9/11 America–Springsteen sings about the light at the end of the tunnel.  He reasons that in the most trying of times, even though despair threatens to overtake you,  keeping your dreams alive, and allowing yourself to hope and have faith that it will be so, will get you through your darkest of days.  As it is in Summer of Hope, Summer of Dreams.

Becoming an author is a dream come true for me.  Sheer blind faith led me to where I am in my writing today (see the connection?).   Summer of Hope, Summer of Dreams is my latest baby, and it was a true labor of love.  I hope you will read it.  I hope you will enjoy it.  And to that end, I hope that when you finish it, you will feel that sense, as I have since my childhood, that we can have faith in our dreams coming true.

“Once Upon a Time”

“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away …” Can you imagine opening a new book, turning to the first page, and reading those words?   Pick up any how-to book (do they still print those?) or go to any online forum, and you—the aspiring new author—are told to never, ever start a book with: “It was a dark and stormy night…” Or anything of that sort. Why not? Because any literary agent or publisher you are trying to woo won’t get past those first few words. Because, according to them, it’s wrong.

Someone needs to explain that to me. Isn’t writing a form of art? Since when was something artistic capable of being “wrong?” Was Monet wrong for breaking from tradition to help create impressionism? Was Picasso wrong for cubism? How about Tolstoy—War and Peace? Orwell? Kerouac? Salinger? Harper Lee? Tom Wolfe?

Art is like fashion: in today, out tomorrow. It is subject to the whims of society as it then exists. Van Gogh was hated in Arles and sold one painting during his life. Can you imagine if he listened to his critics and stopped painting his way? He may not have achieved fame and fortune during his lifetime, but his art is society’s treasure.

Not every budding author is going to find success or fame. In reality, very few will. But the problem in the literary world—the traditional literary world—is that it is all about the money and not enough about the art. Publishers and the literary agents who feed them their material are the traditional gatekeepers of the art. And they’re failing in that role. Who is to say there isn’t a brilliant author who purposely starts a story “once upon a time,” or “on a dark and stormy night,” who then spins a remarkable tale that is remarkable, in part, because the book began that way? Or is written in a unique voice, or with unique, convention-ignoring grammar? Is that wrong? Or is it art?


Write or Wrong

Can I start calling myself a writer?  Or an author?  Have I earned it yet?

Some background:  A long time ago, on an uneventful day at work, in the days of the poingo poingo of internet connections (read  as the internet was not readily accessible), I sat at my desk pondering a scene that had popped into my brain with complete clarity.  I mean, every sensory nuance of the scene, sights and sounds and smells, was fully developed.  And I didn’t know what to do with it.  So I started writing, evicting from my brain this complete thought that was almost painful to ignore until it was purged.  And what appeared on the screen in front of me was that scene, final draft, no additions, changes or rewriting necessary.

It was the opening scene for a story–a book–but I didn’t know where to go from there.  So I showed it to my wife, and after she read it (and initially looked at me as if I was from another planet), she told me to write the book.  She might as well have told me to jump off a bridge.  But naive person that I was, I tried, and it went fairly well–at first.   Then I got to that certain point in the story that I now know as the line in the sand.  That point in time where you think it’s all garbage and a waste of time and oh my God, what was I thinking?  And at that point you can either push through and have faith in your ability, or you can punt.  I punted.  I put what I had printed into a drawer, and moved on with my life.

Fast forward ten years and endless entreaties by my wife to start writing again, to not push aside those scenes of clarity that kept popping into my head.  And one day, once again, I just had to purge one of those scenes from my brain.  But this time, I decided that good or bad, I was going to finish what I had started, and the surprising thing was that each day that I sat down to write, new thoughts did come into my head, and new scenes and characters and new story lines developed from thin air (i.e. the recesses of my brain).

Everybody writes differently.  Someone once told me that I had to have the whole story outlined and every character’s profile fully developed before I could write the first paragraph.  Wrong advice for me.  Some people, like me, just sit down and start writing and somehow, a story begins to flow forth.  I may have some mis-steps, I may go down a path that ends with the worst thing ever–the delete button.  But that’s how it works for me.

So I’ve completed book one and I’m well into book two.  Book one is getting published–my way, which is the subject for another day.

Have I earned the title Writer?  Author?  Have I?

And Another Thing . . .

Steven Recht's thoughts and musings about . . . well . . . everything

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Steven Recht's thoughts and musings about . . . well . . . everything

Reed Next's Next Read

Steven Recht's thoughts and musings about . . . well . . . everything