Writer’s Desk: Keep Trying

There is almost no greater cliche in publishing than reminding aspiring writers that even Stephen King got rejection letters by the basketful early in his career. But it is still worth repeating.

To that end, here’s a few notable bestsellers that were originally considered unworthy of publication:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Quote of the Day: Book Burning

fantasticbeasts1When the verbose and gloriously opinionated J.K. Rowling had the temerity a few weeks back to tweet her thoughts on President Tiny Hands’ travel ban, the pushback was about the same as what happens whenever an athlete ventures into the realm of politics.

The conservative troll brigades swarmed and told Rowling the usual things: Stick to writing, woman, and stop saying what you think about anything. (Nevermind that her Harry Potter books are all about tolerance and the acceptance of minorities.)

Things hit a particularly ugly pitch when one twit tweeted that they would “burn your books and movies.”

Rowling’s response was one for the ages:

Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.

Writer’s Desk: Freedom to Offend

It’s an intolerant world. All writers know this. There’s nary a one of us that hasn’t been on the receiving end of some kind of attack based on what we’ve written. The hate comes in all forms, from a simple “you idiot” screed to something more devious, hate-filled, and agenda-based.

That doesn’t mean that we censor ourselves.

It also doesn’t mean that we try and censor others.

When J.K. Rowling, who used to work for Amnesty International, spoke at the PEN America Literary Gala earlier this week, she talked about how “flattered” she had been to find her work so frequently banned and excoriated by religious zealots.

But she refused to countenance the repression of “alternative viewpoints,” even for the likes of somebody like Donald Trump. When an audience member clapped at her mention of an online petition to ban Trump from England, here is what Rowling said:

I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot … If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral ground on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the fight for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on them grounds that they have offended you eat, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification…

To put it another, more bumper sticker-friendly way: Mean people suck, especially when they hate your writing. But the alternative is always worse.

Readers’ Corner: J.K. Rowling and Pseudonyms

jprowling-popupThere’s a piece of mine that published at PopMatters today about the recent kerfuffle over J.K. Rowling being unmasked as the real author of the little-noticed mystery novel The Cuckoo’s Clock, previously credited to one “Robert Galbraith.”

It’s called “What’s in a Pseudonym?“:

It’s not as though Rowling hadn’t branched out from her Harry Potter success. Last year’s novel, The Casual Vacancy was set in real-world Britain, with nary a spell to be found. Why would she put that out under her own name and not The Cuckoo’s Calling? The easy answer probably goes back to the old literary / genre divide that one would have thought had disappeared in a time when people aren’t embarrassed to be seen reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the train and adults happily own up to reading YA fare like The Hunger Games

Previous to this news being broken, The Cuckoo’s Clock (well-reviewed, by the way) had sold 1,500 copies when attributed to Galbraith. The publisher just ordered a rush printing of 300,000 copies.