Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is a "real" writer?

Nancy Famolari posted a blog entry entitled "Are You a Real Writer?" She stated a group set the criteria for being called a published author to mean a published author is a "writer" who receives an advance from a publisher.

In other words, that group considers one is only an author if he or she becomes indebted to the publisher. Yes, that's what an advance is -- a debt that will be repaid by royalties being withheld until the advance is repaid.

According to Joe Quirk (novelist, humorist, and ghostwriter): Your advance (from a publisher) is a LOAN with your career as collateral. If borrowing money from your credit card at 8% interest to support your writing is a bad idea, than borrowing money from a big New York publisher against books you haven't sold yet is a catastrophic idea. Bankruptcy ends after 7 years. The Red Mark next to your name is forever.

Therefore, according to the narrow, unrealistic definition of a published author by that group, only a writer who goes into debt to a publisher qualifies.

I am a writer because I write. Emily Dickinson never received an advance, was never paid for her work, and wasn't even "discovered" until after her death. Yet, no one can deny that she was a writer, an author: because she wrote, used words as colors to create images on the canvas of sheets of paper.

Yes, I've been paid for some of my writings and I've received some royalties, but I was a writer before I ever received a penny. I used words as my tools to create visual imagery on paper and computer screen. That action makes me a writer.

Other bloggers addressing this topic:

Harry Gilleland
Karen Cioffi-Ventrice


Nancy Famolari said...

Vivian, Thank you for that wonderful response. I agree. I don't want to put my career in hock to a publisher. I want to be able to write what feels right to me.

Emily Dickenson is an inspiration to all of us. She perfected her craft without an advance, a publisher, or even an audience and her works has survived, probably because she cared. To me that's the most important thing. Make your writing the best you can, say what needs to be said. I wish everyone the best career as a writer they can have.

Thank your, Vivian for a terrific and inspiring post!

Beth Bence Reinke said...

I remember having a similar discussion recently in one of my e-mail writers' groups about being a "writer" vs. an "author." No matter what we call ourselves, we write because we must. :o) Whether others consider us writers or not doesn't change who we are and what we do, right? :o)

Write on, Vivian!

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Ah, Emily Dickenson, thanks for the reminder!

And, for the insight into what an advance means.

You're right, writers write!


Anonymous said...

Emily Dickinson ~ splendid example ~ had a similar 'discussion' when responding to the question, 'Are you a writer or a poet?'
My answer, I'm a writer of poetry and prose.

I also like the relevant example of 'advance.'

Keep Writing!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like your view, Vivian. I think Joe nailed it with his humorous observation.
Besides, if one isn't a writer until that advance, how did one get the advance in the first place?

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

Karen Walker said...

Thank you so much for this post. Why should it be different for writers from other careers. Is a teacher only a teacher because they get paid by the school system? Is a computer programmer only a computer programmer if they are paid by a company to write programs? Sheesh.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I like your Emily Dickinson example. I think with the rapid changes occurring in the publishing world, that group will soon be rethinking their criteria.

Rena said...

Great post, Vivian. I've heard of some people turning jobs down because they weren't offered advances. I don't understand that, but to each his/her own, I suppose. I always thought I wrote because I enjoyed it. Now that I have my first book out, the real joy is hearing stories from people telling me how much their kids liked my book. To me, that's what it's all about.

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks for the reminder. Very encouraging.