Grumpy Old Bookman

From: Jack Saunders
To: Grumpy Old Bookman
Subj: A New Model for Writing

By the time I decided to become a writer, September 1, 1971, in America, people who wished to enter the profession went to a good writing program, in a university, to get the credential, meet people who could help them in their careers, learn what one must not do. Then, commonly, they moved to New York, mingled with the smart set, or taught writing at a university. They won grants and prizes. They held writer-in-residence positions or were invited to arts colonies and writing seminars.

Writing was a career and they were careerists. Apparatchiks.

I couldn't do this. None of the writers I admired had done this. I didn't admire any of the writers who did do this.

I wrote about it.

This was not a smart move.

Not being able to find a publisher, I published my own stuff, in pamphlet form, and made allies in the small press movement, outsiders, who published my stories, poems, essays, interviews, letters, and, occasionally, books.

When the worldwide web came along, I started publishing things online.

I got my own website in March of 2000.

I have published a book a month, online, daily, since. Usually, while working at a full-time job, but also while on sabbatical, drawing unemployment, after my last corporate employer laid me off; on a Last Ditch Attempt (LDA) grant I gave myself, by cashing in the annuity I rolled my retirement distribution over into; and by calling myself a SUB Fellow, after the subliterary form Charles Willeford identified in New Forms of Ugly, the immobilized hero novel, quitting my job, and living on some money my mother left me when she died.

These three sources of income gave me four years at the house, out of the last six.

My money's gone now and I am looking for a job.

A small press published a book of mine, Bukowski Never Did This: A Year in the Life of an Underground Writer and His Family, which I had posted at my web site.

I traveled around, selling it at street fairs and crafts shows. And writing books about doing that.

I didn't make much money, on the book, but I didn't have to pay to publish it, and I did earn some money.

The book didn't get much notice, but it got some.

It's not available in the chain bookstores, but it's available over the Internet, and in independent bookstores near my home.

I sell it directly to readers at poetry readings, book-signings, writers conferences, etc.

I'd like to report I don't care about what happens in the bigger arena, but I do. This distracts my focus and mars the work. I approach equanimity asymptotically, or by two steps forward and one step back.

It's hard not to pay attention to the fate of the midgets who are prospering in your stead.

Writers are a competitive lot, a jealous lot, an insecure lot. At least, I have found myself to be competitive, jealous, and insecure.

I wish I weren't, but I am.

I put this in the books, because not to is to bowdlerize myself, and give less than a whole picture.

Some people object to this. Other people find it a strength. Some people are inspired by it. It keeps them sane.

My hat's off to the writer who can do this without worrying about the fate of her work in the world or her standing, vis-à-vis her peers. I cannot.

But I have produced a body of work, my stack, invented a form to present it in, daily typewriting, and discovered a medium to get it out to an audience through, the worldwide web.

Enough is as good as a feast.

With every year that goes by it's a scandal, an open secret, that something is happening in the boondocks New York does not have a clue about.

I am reaching critical mass.

Nothing to worry about.

You know, except my head exploding.

Being a writer is tough on a person psychologically.

The effect is cumulative.

You turn into a monster.

Think of Barton Fink at the USO dance, saying, "You monsters, I create."

You have to see the humor of it.

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