Monday, November 26, 2012

When Is a Novel a Novel?

I've written six novels though none have been published and may never be published. Who knows what that great and evil publishing god has in store for us? Now, here's the problem. Is it a book if it's not published and what does one define as published?

At a recent writer's conference the literary agent asked me the standard question of me:

"What have you written?"

I said, "Six novels, 250 short stories, magazine articles, etc. etc."

And she said: "Are the novels published?"

My answer: "No."

Her smart-ass reproof: "Well then, they're not novels then, are they? To be a novel it must be a tangible book with an ISBN number and front and back covers."

My smart-ass comeback: "So if I write some tripe and self-publish, you'd consider that a novel?"

Her bored reply: "Yes. If it has an ISBN number, pages, and covers, it's a novel."

Like Peter Griffin said, "That really grinds my gears." I would rather have six half-decent manuscripts collecting dust than self-publishing junk and selling the books out of the trunk of my car like an Amway rep. To me a manuscript has earned the right to be called a novel or a book.

Here's how I write, which I am sure is different than most writers:

I take a few months to research and outline and then I write about 50 chapters in longhand through blisters and calluses. Then Pam types them up for me to organize and edit, which I do about four times. At that point I have my small writer’s group go through it and then I send it off to Castle Walls Editing for a final check-out. When I receive it back, I do one final edit and then self-flagellate myself by pitching it to bored agents and editors.

So, we all agree. It's a novel, not a manuscript.

Let's compare it to art and music. When Leonardo da Vinci finished a painting, could it be called a painting? Here's a conversation he had with a relative, Luigi da Vinci, one of the Luigi brothers.

"Leo. What's that you got there?"

"It's-a the Mona Lisa."

"What's wrong with her mouth?"

"I screwed-a it up-a so I rubbed it with a Kleenex and now-a I make them think it's-a supposed to be that way."

"Why are you talking like that? We're both speaking Italian so what's up with the this-a and that-a?"

"That's-a the way I talk. What do you think of my painting?"

"Leo. Baby. It's not a painting until you sell it and people see it."

"No, Luigi. It's a painting. It will end up in the Louvre some day when-a those French pigs steal it from us. You'll-a see."


And music. Is it a song if it's created by a songwriter and not published? If not, what do you call it? This was a conversation between George and Ira Gershwin.

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy."

"Hey, that's good George. My lyrics are great so how come you get top billing. Why not Ira and George Gershwin? "

"Because the music is more important than the words, Ira. The song's the thing."

"It's not a song, Georgie. Not until it's published."

"It's a song, my song."

"That you stole from black cotton pickers."

"Yeah, well, what do I care, I'll be dead in three years, anyway, and a good thing because then I won't have to hear Sammy Davis Jr. mess it up."

So, there you have it. If a song is a song and a painting is a painting then your manuscript is a novel.

And if you write a novel in a month, (NaNoWriMo) then it ain't no good.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


These are translations of conversations. The first part is what they actually said, while the translation part is what they actually meant.

Husband and Wife:

Him: Are you going shopping tomorrow?

Translation: I want to play golf.

Her: No, I thought it’d be nice if we spent the day together.

Translation: You want to play golf.

Him: Oh.

Translation: Damn.

Her: I heard there’s a good movie on at the mall.

Translation: Three hours for the movie, then a walk around the mall, then dinner, some place nice for a change.

Him: I told the guys I might be busy.

Translation: I want to play golf.

Her: Good. They can get by without you one time.

Translation: You play every damn Saturday!

Him: Although they did book a tee time for four already.

Translation: I want to play golf.

Her: If you really want to go, then go.

Translation: I know the divorce laws in Florida.

Him: No, that’s okay. I’d rather spend the day with you.

Translation: Maybe I could get the guys to change the tee time to Sunday.

Dog and Master:

Dog: Woof

Translation: I want food and I want to go outside and poop.

Master: How’s my puppy? You hungry, boy? You hungry? Puppy boy hungry?

Translation: Same.

Dog: Woof

Translation: I want food, and I want to go outside and poop, and I want to go without a leash and chase every animal I see.

Master: That’s a good boy. That’s a good boy. You like it when I scratch behind your ears, don’t you boy? Good boy. Good Puppy Wuppy.

Translation: Same.

Dog: Woof

Translation: Oh yes, that’s it. Right there. I love it. God help me, I love it.

Old Man and Young Cashier:

Old Man: I have coupons for some of those items.

Translation: If the store didn’t charge so much, they wouldn’t need coupons.

Young Cashier: Oh, yes, sir. I’ll deduct them at the end.

Translation: You could have told me at the beginning.

Old Man: Put back one of the tuna fish. I’m not sure I have enough money.

Translation: We haven’t had a Social Security cost-of-living increase in four years thanks to those politicians you kids voted in.

Young Cashier: Yes, sir.

Translation: They have a new innovation called credit cards. Check it out with your friends at the home sometime when you get a chance.

Old Man: What’s the damage?

Translation: What are you robbers overcharging me for the groceries?

Young Cashier: Eighteen forty two.

Translation: Ironically, the amount shown on the display screen right in front of you, if you would just look!

Old Man: Why, when I was your age the cashier had to figure out the change by herself. No machine did it for her.

Translation: My generation was smarter.

Young Cashier: Yes, it’s a lot easier nowadays.

Translation: Did they even have money when you were my age?

Friday, November 16, 2012

My White Trash Picture Learnin' Book

I was thinking about writing an irreverent picture book. Here's the start of it. I would appreciate any comments, threats, suggestions, thoughts.  Thanks to both of you readers ahead of time. John


By Karrielynn Jackson
This is my White Trash Picture Learnin' Book and I am six and I have two brothers and 1 sister and none of 'em knowd as much as me.
There are 4 things on the kitchen counter an one of  'em is dead.
The others you kin eat.
If Becky et one and Joshua et another, and the dead one is still dead, how many do you got left?
Answer: One-that ain't dead.
Animal Sounds
Neighbor's dogs go Bark, Bark, Bark and don't never goddamn shut up.
Cats go Purr, Purr, Purr 'cept when your daddy throwd them off a bridge in a pillowcase.
Armadillers are for hittin' with the truck and don't say nothin'.
Hogs squeal Oink, Oink, Oink and r hard as hell to trap.
Fun Facts
If you hang meat from a rope and tell a Pit Bull to go on and chomp on it, that Pit Bull will jump up and chomp on it and never let go of it, lest you tell 'em to let go. They'll just hang there till they die.
Momma's Ecernomics
1. You send the check you wrote to pay the power company to the phone company.
2. You send the check you wrote to pay the phone company to the power company.
By the time they send 'em back and say you mixed 'em up, you done got your paycheck to pay 'em anyways.