Almost twenty years ago or maybe even longer … I remember attending a writing group with my then girlfriend. At the time, I was pursuing filmmaking (and screenwriting). Still, every once and awhile, I’d attended my girlfriend’s workshop fiction groups.
Every so often, I’d bring a screenplay with me and no one would know how to workshop it being that everyone was focused on fiction.
One of these sessions was at this bearded man’s house. That’s all I remember of him. Yet twenty years I can still see the outline of his face. He was a strange man, a science fiction lover and could tell a good story or two. I guess that’s why I’m writing about him today.
I don’t remember where he lived. I just remember rows of similar houses under a grey blue evening sky. His house was filled with stuff. Bookshelves lined the wall. They overflowed with various knick-knacks but they were mostly filled with old out of print genre novels.
We did our workshop in his house and at the end of it, he explained he was working on a series of books about a child being raised by a computer on the moon. He explained that he had written at least six of them, and then he showed me the books.
The cover art was really basic, but I was impressed that he was a published author. He gave us a book and I remember my girlfriend reluctantly putting it into her purse.
On the drive home I remember talking to my girlfriend mentioning that he wasn’t any kind of writer. He was – hold nose – a self published writer. Back in those days, that was a real stigma.
In a matter of seconds, this strange eclectic guy morphed into a sorry recluse in but a few words. Of course he was self published. His fiction wasn’t that strong and I do remember him resisting the idea of workshopping.
Now, years later, I see this strange man may have been ahead of the curve. Publishers are nothing but gamblers and writers are the dice.
You can spend years on a manuscript, shop it around, and at the end of the day, you have a thick bundle of papers and a business card that reads “wannabe writer”. You could have workshopped the crap out of your manuscript but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t fall into the right hands, your effort was wasted.
Yet, there is something fulfilling about being published.
My last story – after a year long submission process – was published in 2015. At the time, I didn’t intend to submit any more, but I still felt pride in the accomplishment. And I still do. I do think there is a place for submitting your work but I also believe there’s a place for selling your work directly. I guess my opinion has evolved.
If I met that bearded guy today, I wonder what I’d think today. I also wonder what ever happened to his series. Did it make it beyond his circle of friends and acquaintances? Or did he find a larger audience for it? The things is .. self publishing is now very viable and every day, there seems to be a new break out success.
So did this man do well? Is he is still writing and has found comfort in the digital age?
Sometimes the question is far better then answer so for this time, I’ll ask and be content that there is no response.