I think I’ve done it.
I think I’ve manage to make a print on demand version of my book. That is to say, I’ve made a print of demand version of something, but I’m going to wait until I have the copies I ordered in hand before I really start believing it.
I am going through Create Space, which is somehow affiliated with Amazon. The proofs look good, so I went ahead and ordered five copies. Assuming that I don’t see any errors I can’t live with, I’m going to donate one copy to the university where I work. I’ve already talked to the librarian, and he’ll put it on the shelf no matter how bad he might think it is, just because I wrote it.
I mean, he didn’t say that in so many words, but it’s clear that he has doubts about anything written by the guy who changes the light bulbs and unclogs the toilets. I’m okay with that. People who have invested heavily in their own education usually don’t understand self-taught learners. I hope he’ll give it a try and be pleasantly surprised.
The main thing, though, is having a real book on a library shelf. That, in my head, will make me a real writer. It won’t me suddenly able to quit my day job and write full time, of course.
Still, somewhere deep inside me is a little boy remembers wandering the stacks of the big library downtown, dumbstruck with wonder at all those books, all those magical worlds, and has been whispering to me for forty years, “someday… someday my name will be on the spine of one of those books.”
Looks like he was right. Go figure.
I’m also going to give a copy–signed, natch–to one of the instructors. When I started working at this school I had no intention of taking any classes, although they offer full tuition reimbursement for undergraduate courses for all employees. (I have since found out that is very generous for universities.)
However, the school does have a poetry magazine that comes out once a semester, and I submitted some work, mostly did it because I like confounding people’s expectations. I am host to a very healthy imp of the perverse. At work I tend to come across as the kind of knuckle-dragging neanderthal who lives under a bridge and eats bones, so I picked a selection of my more highbrow stuff, full of flowery language and obscure literary allusions.
Well, they took some of them, and the head of the English department and poet-in-residence started stalking me. He wanted me in his poetry seminar. I resisted for a while, but in the end, I have to work with the faculty and I figured if I gave in and showed him just how unsuited I am for academic pursuits he’d back off.
It didn’t work like that exactly. It turns out that I really enjoyed being in his class and he really enjoyed me being there. I’ve taken several since then, and we have the greatest arguments. The rest of the class would usually just stare at us wide-eyed while we got into full-contact no holds barred cage match exegesis and threw Elliot and cummings and Yeats around the ring. Great fun.
(As an aside, don’t tell me I use too many Latin words in my work. I have Latin tattooed on my body, okay?)
We also got into arguments about my work. He wants me to concentrate on poetry and get an MFA and get a job teaching poetry.
Me, I figure I need a Masters in Fine Arts like I need an inoperable brain tumor, and teaching? Not going to happen. Yes, I do love language and I love talking about language and I get a real kick out of critiquing other people’s work and seeing what works and what doesn’t work and how to make it work better. If I could get someone to pay me to have arguments about metaphor and simile in a room full of writers I would jump at it. Unfortunately I’ve worked at a university long enough to know that’s only a very small part of what a college instructor actually does.
Anyway, last semester he told me that I shouldn’t write genre fiction, that basically I was too good to be wasting my talents with something like Catskinner’s Book.
“People who read that sort of thing,” he claimed, “won’t appreciate the level of your prose.”
I think he’s wrong. I read that sort of thing, and I always have, and that’s what I love. I don’t believe that writers like Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker and China Mieville and Tanith Lee write this sort of thing because they aren’t good enough to write real books. I’ll put any one of them up against Joseph Heller or John Irving.
Anyway, I’m going to give him one of my first copies of my novel. Here it is, big guy, a real book.