Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Favorite Books, Favorite Songs, & Writers Pestering Writers

From Paul Levine...

THE COMPANY JACKIE KEEPS! Our Jacqueline is rubbing shoulders with Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Joseph Heller, William Styron, E.L. Doctorow, Raymond Chandler....and other hoity-toity scribblers. They're on mega-bestseller Lee Child's Top 40 list of favorite books. About "Maisie Dobbs," big Lee writes: "The first in an amazing new series."

A SOFTER WAY TO SAY NO! Last week, Jim Born pointed out Josh Olson's screed, "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script." Here's a nicer way of saying much the same thing from John Scalzi, in a piece entitled, "On the Asking of Favors from Established Writers." Excerpt:

Dear currently unpublished/newbie writers who spend their time bitching about how published/established writers are mean because they won’t read your work/introduce you to their agent/give your manuscript to their editor/get you a job on their television show/whatever other thing it is you want them to do for you:

A few things you should know.

1. The job of a writer is to write. So, I’m looking at one of my book contracts. It says that I need to write a certain type of book (science fiction) of a certain length (100,000 words) by a certain time (er… Hmmm). In return, I get paid a certain amount of money. So that’s the gig.

Here’s what’s not in the contract:

1. That I critique the novels of other people;
2. That I offer any advice to people on how to get published;
3. That I arrange introductions to my agent, editor or publisher;
4. That I do any damn thing, in fact, other than write the book I’ve agreed to write.

The job of a writer is to write.

Your thoughts?

WHY WOULD SOMEONE ASK AN "ARROGANT, TALENTLESS ASSHOLE" FOR HELP? Multi-talented screenwriter/novelist Lee Goldberg recently ran into the same buzzsaw. After Lee declined to give a critique to a total stranger, the guy blasted him on Facebook: He was: "sick of arrogant TV writers who write crap that we have to watch on TV...I am talking about Lee Goldberg...what a f'n snob...and he sucks."

Lee's reply:

These jerks know nothing about me, or the time and effort I devote to sharing my experience with others. They don't know about the many days I spend each year teaching TV writing, giving seminars, or speaking about writing at high schools, universities, conferences, and libraries locally, nationwide and around the world, mostly for free.

In the last six weeks, for example, I spent seven days at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky teaching, speaking, and moderating seminars on tv and mystery writing to the public. At no charge. I taught a three-hour course on TV writing to students at Cal State Northridge. At no charge. And I spent a day giving a seminar on TV writing to a delegation from China Central Television.

But what I didn't do is drop everything in my life to read some stranger's treatment, listen to his idea for a TV series, and coach him on how to pitch.

So obviously I am an arrogant, talentless, asshole.

MAD ABOUT "MAD MEN" One recurring theme of "Mad Men" is that the corporate world will chew you up and spit you out. Sometimes literally. On Sunday night's episode, a John Deere riding lawn mower chomped the foot of a corporate go-getter, ending his career. As a boss noted, the guy could no longer play golf. How the heck can he do business with clients?

IT'S THIRD AND EIGHT. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR SCREEN PASS IS? Most amazing stat of the college football weekend: USC 0-10 on third down plays in the massive upset at Washington. Pedestrian play-calling, oh you mighty Trojans? Are we sad about it? Ha!

THE PROBLEM WITH COLLEGE FOOTBALL, CHAPTER 383: It comes and goes too quickly! The regular season is already 25% gone!

ARE YOU ABLE TO WRITE WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC? I can't, unless it's all instrumentals. With lyrics, I want to hear every word. Same with Michael Greenberg, who lists his favorite songs . Well, no wonder. Who could write while listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, et al?

LOUSY CLOCK MANAGEMENT: If you watched the Monday Night NFL game, you saw the Dolphins fritter away at least one minute of the last 3:19 before losing by four to the Colts. Horrible.

MIAMI CITY COMMISSIONERS ARE NUMBSKULLS: The City is broke, the people are against it, but along with County dunderheads, Miami is spending more than $400 million to build a baseball stadium for the Marlins, a/k/a "the team nobody gives a shit about." The New York Times analyzed the situation here yesterday.

Paul Levine


  1. Once upon a time I could write with music playing. It drove my wife crazy. She'd stick her head in the door and say, "Play something else. I'm sick of hearing Paul Simon's 'Graceland.'" Or, alternately, Basia's "London Warsaw New York." Those, at that time, were the biggest offenders, I gather, because I would always play one or the other while writing.

    Now I almost never play music when writing, and absolutely not if it has vocals.

  2. Paul, I know you must be overjoyed that PSU is #4/5 in the polls, what with 25% of the season over.......Uh-oh,after 1/4 of the season, you'll finally be playing an actually competive program this Saturday...good luck.


    PS:Re: MNF [fins vs colts] JoPa WOULD have done a MUCH better job of clock management, no doubt about that ! I can't believe how many "professional" games I see where there is significant clock mismanagement.

  3. Jon,
    One wasted time out. Another called late. A QB sneak on 3rd down. Lazing up to the line early in the drive. Many, many colleges do a better job of coaching the 2 minute drill. And the Fins had 3:19!!!!! Beyond belief. Don Shula must have had heartburn while eating his Nutra Systems dinner.

  4. It's crappy somebody would blast Lee Goldberg like that because he's a great guy, generous and funny.

    Reviewing other people's work poses a dilemma. On one hand, you want to help. On the other, it takes a great deal of time to do it right. After four published books and a couple of short stories, I still belong to a writer's group because Jim Born refuses to read my shitty first drafts.

  5. you are spot on with your observations , Paul.....so many pro teams, at the critical point/time execute like a pop warner teams!
    Actually I think Shula, Marino, Golic and L T, all get together for nutri parties on Monday..on ESPN 8

  6. from Jacqueline

    Paul, I just love your Tuesday morning opining (is that a word?).

    I can't listen to music while writing, because I end up listening to the music and not writing. I surprised myself by being able to write in a coffee shop - and a very productive session it was too. I thought I wouldn't be able to think because of that swishy-wishy latte-making noise, but wrote up a storm.

    I think we all do as much as we can to support new writers, but reading through manuscripts takes a good deal of time if you want to give a well-considered response. Most of us don't have loads of time on our hands but we make the best effort.

    And Patty, I am sure you do not write shitty first drafts.

  7. Some people don't want critiques. They want to be told, "brilliant, don't change a word."

    Here's an idea. Next time someone asks you to read a m/s or script, agree to do it on the condition that it be a true learning experience for others, too. That requires the person agreeing to have the work plus the critique posted on-line.

    How many people want others to read this interlineation I have been known to use? "That sentence should be taken out and shot."