Went to an MWA chapter meeting last night, my first in a long time. The usual suspects: several wannabes, a few very modestly successful authors, some spouses/partners dragged along for the ride, a decent speaker from the Seattle PD explaining the differences between a real CSI department and the fakery seen on television. In other words, bad food, decent company, entertaining speaker.
What struck me most, though, was the fact that so little has changed from the time I went to my first MWA chapter meeting in Chicago in 1988, awestruck when I met Mary Shura Craig (who self-immolated shortly thereafter), Barbara D'Amato and others. I wasn't a wannabe--well, I was published, but still a wannabe in that I wanted readers, glowing reviews, six-figure advances, movie deals, etc.
No, what I heard last night was what I've heard, and felt, for the past 20 years of writing--how hard it is to find an agent, how hard it is to find a publisher, how hard it is to find readers, generate buzz and get noticed. Most of all, I heard how hard it is to write--a fresh voice, original plots, interesting characters. How hard it is to write, period. How discouraging, too, given the amount of rejection we all face. Yet we can't not do it. Why? What is this masochistic compulsion?
Got into a discussion, too, about the Edgars. Wondered why they aren't more like the Oscars. Why aren't they? Why do mystery writers allow a committee of five or six to short-list and pick a winner from all the previous year's works? Okay, so maybe if we all had to read a couple hundred novels or short stories each year, we'd never have time to write. But what if the Edgar committee short-listed the top 50, or top 25? Then all the novel writers would have to read those 25 and vote. All the first-time novelists would have to read first-time novels for "Best First." Same with short story writers, and so on. Wouldn't it be not only more democratic, but also less subjective?
Another random thought. How do all of you keep up with all the blogs and crap--I mean interesting stuff--on the Internet? How do you still have time to write after checking websites all day? I barely have time to read the daily digests of a few Yahoo groups let alone read blogs and write blogs all day. How do you do it? The only reason I'm writing this is because I'm taking time from reading the Sunday paper (when I really should be working on an article for a trade magazine that's on deadline).
My two cents for the day.