Monday, October 18, 2010

Positive Envy

We writers are an envious lot.

It shows when a peer gets a good review. We grumble when another has a successful signing. A good contract—well, you get the idea.

It may be human nature to covet the good fortune of others. But such expressions of spite are negative envy, which is not a good thing. In its stead we should employ positive envy. Positive envy, you might ask. Is there such a thing?

Most definitely. People, however, have a tendency to envy others and pass off their good fortune as luck. Webster defines luck as a casual event or accident. A secondary definition is having good fortune or being successful.

In one form or another, luck crosses our path every day. How we respond determines the outcome of these exposures. The same applies to our reaction to the luck of others.

One positive aspect is to employ envy as a stimulus. Instead of being jealous examine what the other writer did to achieve good results. Consider how you might profit by their example.

You might also consider what I have dubbed OPW. This is a most valuable procedure many overlook. In business there’s a principle called OPM (Other People’s Money) which means you get someone to assist when you have insufficient resources. With OPW, you utilize another person’s labor to supplement or conserve your own energy.

You can start by seeking mentors, people with wider knowledge and experience who are willing to share what they have learned.

Another aspect is that of cause and effect. It may be a cliché, but we really do get what we give out. The Internet has vastly expanded opportunities for networking. But don’t forget, networking is a two-way street. Be prepared to share. If you want your work critiqued, be willing to do something in return. If you want a contact, be willing to offer something in exchange.

For example, Ray Bradbury never went to college. Instead he educated himself in the public library, spending all day, three times a week for a period of 10 years. In gratitude, he now makes a habit of organizing fundraisers for libraries.

A chance encounter with British writer Christopher Isherwood in a bookstore provided Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles in the hands of a respected critic who gave it a glowing review.

And—though they might not seem to have much in common—it was Truman Capote who recognized Bradbury’s talent and pulled his story Homecoming out of a slush pile and convinced an editor to publish it in Mademoiselle. In turn, Bradbury helped Hugh Hefner get Playboy off the ground by giving him copy at a price he could afford.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Free Kindle For Me

Over at Shelfari ( there was a contest going on for a free 3G Kindle. Since I want a Kindle and getting one for free would definitely be a plus, I jumped to the site to see what the contest involved.

To qualify members of the Shelfari librarians and editors group (I’m eligible) had to post contributions on the current New York Times Bestsellers lists prior to October 5. So, I took a look at the lists.

In the area of hardcover fiction I found only one book I had been interested in reading: Stieg Larrson’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Now that was a book I liked and I supposed it would be possible to post some positive facts. But that probably wouldn’t be enough to win me a Kindle. The situation in hardcover non-fiction wasn’t much better. The only two books on the list I want to read are Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon.

I fared a bit better in paperback trade fiction. I’ve read and adored Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, Larrson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire and Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. I’ve also read and liked Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese is on my TBR list and at some point I’ll probably also read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls and probably could be tempted by Grisham’s Ford County or King’s Under the Dome.

In paperback mass market there were the two Larrson novels, Ford County, Dave Baldacci’s True Blue and Robert Parker’s The Professional. Mass market non-fiction offered Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink as possibilities.

The final choices were hardcover and paperback advice where I found absolutely nothing I cared to read.

I guess I’m going to have to buy my own Kindle.