Sunday, November 10, 2019

An Author’s Thanksgiving

By Karen McCullough

I think there’s some kind of unwritten rule that November blog posts in the U.S. have to be about being thankful--and, really, that’s a good thing! Cultivating gratitude as a top-of-the-mind trait is something we should all do and it’s great we have a special time of year to remind us to do so. I’m more disappointed than I can tell you that retailers are turning a beautiful holiday into a gateway to the profligate spending money for Christmas season, the antithesis of what Thanksgiving should mean.

But anyway, back to gratitude. I firmly believe that gratitude isn’t something you do. It’s one of the most important underpinnings of how you live your life. It’s an attitude that everything you are and everything you have is a gift. It means taking nothing for granted.

With that in mind, I want to take a slightly different slant and talk about some things I’m thankful for, strictly in my capacity as an author. Some of these may be controversial, so feel free to disagree in the comments. Here are some of them:

Computers and word processing software – I’m old enough that back when I was in college all my term papers and theses were produced on a typewriter. I developed into a fairly speedy typist, but not a very accurate one. The typewriter I used was old enough that when you messed up, you had to either use that messy white-out stuff or just retype the whole page. I shudder to think how many times I would’ve had to retype each of my book manuscripts to get a reasonably clean copy.

The freedom to write what I want – I’m grateful to live in a country where I have the freedom to write pretty much whatever I choose. But let me be clear, freedom to write whatever I want doesn’t absolve me of responsibility for my words. I can write what I want, but the rest of the world has the right to object to my words, to refuse to buy my books, and to write scathing reviews. They can sue me if those words are stolen from someone else (something I’d never do, by the way), or hold me responsible if someone uses my words as inspiration to commit a crime. (I like to think my books are inspirational but not that way!)

The ability to travel for research and inspiration – I love travel and it inspires me with ideas for stories, settings, and characters.  And several of us here on this blog have talked about the importance of getting details right in your settings. There are some substitutes for actually visiting a place, but none will give you the richness of detail of the actual experience.

Libraries – As a kid, I hung out in libraries as much as I could. I loved to read, and I loved to research odd facts, pursuing all sorts of information. I don’t go as much as I used to, but it still gives me joy to be in a library. Usually when my grandkids are visiting, we’ll take them to the library and let them check out a few books to read during their time here. I love that they regard that as a huge treat. In the early days of my writing each book would require several trips to the library for research purposes. The staff at the research desk knew me and sometimes I could just call to verify a few facts.

Google and Wikipedia -  Google created the first search engine that delivered really accurate results, speedily, and Wikipedia created the first crowd-sourced, comprehensive encyclopedia. I do a lot of my research using them. I don’t take everything I read on the Internet as gospel, but at the very least, the articles I find suggest leads to more authoritative sources. I try to verify everything I learn with another source.

Amazon – I know not everyone will agree with the gratitude here, but Amazon did create the first online bookstore and, let’s face it, that has changed the world. Before Amazon I bought books at the local bookstore, but frequently would find an author I liked and had to go searching through used   Not to mention the time I’ve saved because I can do most of my shopping online and have everything delivered right to my door! That’s more writing time for me!

bookstores to find the rest of the author’s works. Since my taste runs a bit off mainstream, I often had to special order books I wanted and then wait, and wait, and wait some more for them to arrive. And Amazon popularized the ereader. It’s hard to describe what a boon that has been for people like me, with poor eyesight. Now every book can be a large print book! And for the author, the advent of epublishing has meant I can make my backlist available as I get the rights back to my older published books, and also have a chance of putting out those other books that mainstream publishers didn’t want – usually because I crossed too many genre boundaries!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said. The publishing world has changed (and is changing) rapidly. Though it's sometimes hard to keep up, it presents new opportunities. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.