Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Proud to be a writer

Last Saturday, I attended the 10th anniversary of Genrecon, a very small festival held in Sarnia, Ontario every spring. Most of my reason for going was to support the two fantastic librarians who began and continue to run this event, Ellen Dark and Jeff Beeler.

The idea is to mix writers of genre fiction together and see what happens. The conversations generated by the panelists is always interesting and stimulating. Unfortunately, not a lot of people attend, which is a real shame. Genrecon is far different than the usual literary events, and as a writer and lover of fiction, I always find it stimulating and fun.

The drive out, early on a beautiful Saturday morning, gave me lots of time to clear my brain of mundane things and think not only about the novel I’m attempting to write (I say “attempting” since it’s hard to find time to work on it these days), but also about the promotion of my fall release, The Fallen One from Dundurn Press.

By day’s end, I was tired and feeling a bit cranky and the three-hour trip home didn’t seem as appealing as the drive out had been. Perhaps that explains what happened at the rest area.

Just before reaching Woodstock, I pulled off the 401 to make a pit stop and get a little something for my growling stomach. Needing some protein, I bought a small burger and a bottle of water. Sitting down, there was a forty-ish guy wearing jeans and an expensive leather jacket at the table next to me. I’d brought in a book I’d purchased at Genrecon and was prepared to read a few pages while munching.

“What’s the book?” my neighbour asked. After I passed it over, saying it was something published by a friend. “A friend?”

I explained that the author was a guest, as I had been at Genrecon. “You an author?”

More explanations as my not-very-good burger congealed in its paper wrapper. I should have gotten up and left, something inside told me to do it, but I overrode the warning.

I got the usual: “Have I heard of you?” “How many books have you written?” “Is there any money in it?”

I answered frankly, probably not a good idea: “No, you probably haven’t heard of me unless you read Canadian crime fiction,” “My eighth is coming out in September,” “There’s a lot of money in it, but you have to be lucky as well as good.”


I explained about promotion, the lack of dollars suffered by every publisher, and the fact that many great books fall by the wayside every year for one bad reason or another.

“So why do you keep writing?”

That required at least an hour’s answering and I wasn’t willing to spend the time. “I write because I have to. It’s like an addiction. I enjoy telling stories. Plus, it’s sort of a cool thing, holding a brand-new book in your hand, a book you’ve written.”

My neighbour sat back. “Well if you don’t mind my saying, it sounds like a stupid thing to waste your time on. If you’re not making money now, you never will.”

“I’ll leave something behind when I’m gone. People may be reading my books a hundred years from now.”

“You seem like a smart guy. Get a real job and make some real money. That’s what I do.”

At that point, I’d had enough of his condescension. “I have been there. The moment you leave your job, you will be forgotten. Two weeks later, it will be like you’ve never even existed. I think I’d rather leave some books behind when I go.”

Getting up, I threw the remains of my burger in a waste bin and left. It could have been a better conversation on my part, I could have caused a fight (he looked like the kind), but you know what? I felt I was completely in the right.

Regardless of anything, I’m a writer, and on the rest of the ride home, I determined that I’m going to be damn proud of that from now on.

Speaking of holding new books, I received two ARCs of The Fallen One from my publisher yesterday. It looks lovely. Stay tuned. I foresee a contest coming up on Type M…


aaron said...

I say f*ck the 40-year-old "cheerleader"!! He evidently is not particularly happy with his own life, so he obviously has to disrespect complete strangers in order to feel better about himself, which is a shame but an unfortunate fact of life. You have your eighth book in hand and he has grease stains and bitterness. Nobody- let alone a complete stranger- is worth disrespecting yourself and your dream...whether you have 100 dollars in your bank account or a million dollars in your bank account, you have physical proof of your accomplishments. Be proud of your integrity...I'm a complete stranger, too, and I am proud of your integrity!!

Vicki Delany said...

That's really weird Rick. Keep up the good fight!

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks, Aaron and Vicki. I seem to attract people like this, always have. Vicki could tell you a good story about a person who accosted me during a signing at the Oakville Chapters. Normally, I would have just walked away, considering what an ignoramus the guy was. As I was phoning my wife to give her an update on my trip home, the guy came out, got in his car (Porsche) and drove away. I reflected that I'd rather have my books than his car. I hope he got a big fat ticket on the way home.