Sunday, March 11, 2012

Letters of Note - A book is like a man

I recently subscribed to the newsletter from Letters of Note, a blog dedicated to the preservation and circulation of private correspondence that the author believes merits wider circulation. Some of the letters are hilarious, some are tragic. Almost every one I have read has made me stop and think. This one hit very close to home.

While he was writing East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote this letter to his editor: Steinbeck: A Book is Like a Man

This letter first blew me away and then made me think -- a lot. For one thing, Steinbeck, as a traditionally published novelist had an entire team working for him:

As you know better than most, Pat, the book does not go from writer to reader. It goes first to the lions—editors, publishers, critics, copy readers, sales department. It is kicked and slashed and gouged. And its bloodied father stands attorney.
As an indie author, I'd love to have that kind of team working for me, to hone and polish my stories before turning them loose. That makes me a little sad, but I know that the world in which I am writing is different than Steinbeck's world in 1952, and I have to deal with the realities of now.

One thing remains the same: ultimately the reader is the one who gives meaning to the story.

Well, by God, Pat, [the reader's] just like me, no stranger at all. He'll take from my book what he can bring to it. The dull witted will get dullness and the brilliant may find things in my book I didn't know were there.

And just as he is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.

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