Up until a few years ago, I worked on the prairie dog cubicle farm of a corporate office, daily wondering how I might widen or heighten my bright blue upholstered walls or how much it would cost to install a miniature retractable roof like the big baseball stadiums have. Now I work in an office in my basement where fifteen coworkers do not stop everything to listen in on a heated conversation with a client and I don’t have to pay $5 to wear my Levis on a Friday. I still have the same collection of Matchbox cars and trucks lined up on my desk, though, and I still drive them across the wood grain to calm my nerves during those phone calls or when I’m trying to work out the impossible accident scenario a customer might be describing. Right now I’m polishing the window on my little yellow school bus and wishing that my office looked like this old red bus that an Hungarian artist has converted into a sleek little work space.
Before I went to work on the cubicle farm, I worked Main Street, selling fine gift items and custom framing family portraits and wildlife prints. Every year, on the day after Thanskgiving, we all put on our festive holiday clothes and served flavored coffees and shortbread cookies to shoppers who stayed around town to shop close to home. This weekend, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Main Street again celebrates Small Business Saturday, with expectations for a higher margin of shoppers choosing to patronize their local small business to launch their holiday shopping than in 2011. In good news for independent booksellers, the American Booksellers Association reports that among expected shoppers, bookstores are the third most popular retail destinations.
Because Random House’s agreement to merge with Penguin Books is all of a month old, it’s time to throw the publishing world into great uproar again. Now, News Corp., which owns HarperCollins, wants to acquire Simon & Schuster. With the “Big Six” publishers rapidly becoming the “Big a Lot Less Than Six, ” Ariel Bogle of Melville House wonders what will happen when we can say and then there was one:
Coming so soon after the Random House and Penguin merger however, one wonders if this trend continues, what will the world’s only remaining publisher publish? Endless iterations of Fifty Shades of Grey?
If you’re thinking of washing your hands of all that and are ready to go it alone and self-publish your must-read manuscript, you might want to read Lifehacker’s 4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Publishing a Book.
4 Poetry at Work
As much as I might like to crawl out of bed in and take that sweet red bus for my all-in-one commute and work space, some folks think that the answer to our cubicle farm woes isn’t just a redesign of the workspace but a redesign of how we work, creating spaces that reflect the growing merger of our private and work lives, flex time and play. Some of the images and concepts in this article at the New York Times remind me of Glynn Young’s recent call to consider how we find poetry in our workspaces.
For all of us who survived junior high: a new study shows that the experience of rejection can lead to greater creativity. Of course, this depends on how we choose to respond to the rejection. Those who view themselves as more independent and individualistic than collective tended to have even better results. And, while I’m not sure that a whole study was necessary for this part, the research also confirmed that those who did not go off and sulk after rejection made greater gains than those who did.
So. Rejection happens. Make it your friend. Pull up your high water pants, straighten your taped-up horn-rimmed glasses and get back in there.
Brain Pickings has been running an ongoing collection of great tips from celebrated writers, recently featuring nine from Helen Dunmore: “Don’t worry about posterity — as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed ‘What will survive of us is love’” and six from John Steinbeck: “In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
But more than the fifteen combined, I appreciated Steinbeck’s afterthought:
If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”
We’ve been enjoying–and being perplexed by–surrealist poems all month here at Tweetspeak. Every Day Poems recently featured a poem by Ruth Mowry, “I Dreamt That You Were Eating Dirt.” All I could think when I read the title was growing up with older siblings, and it wasn’t a dream but my real back yard. But the poem is actually quite deeper than that. Ruth places those fascinating, graphic, and troubling images in masterful juxtaposition. It’s worth another read:
I dreamt that you were eating dirt.
But it was all right.
It had been refrigerated in earth.
Read the rest of “I Dreamt That You Were Eating Dirt” at Every Day Poems.
Valerie Eliot, the wife of T.S. Eliot died earlier this month, a loss to the poetry community of one of its strongest advocates. David Morley writes of his encounters with Mrs. Eliot:
What was so very striking was Valerie’s ability to draw you into a place where it felt all right to be a poet–where she made you feel at ease with all the attendant murderousness of being alert to the enchantments and entrapments of language. After our conversations, she always left me feeling that I was “all right”–that it was all right to be self-annihilated by words. Can you imagine how it must have felt for TS Eliot?
Ever since the introduction of Redbox movie rentals in my grocery store I’ve been fascinated with the varied potential ways to capitalize on the vending machine. They remind me of childhood daydreams of machines that would make my daily life better. Now, I’d love to see the new Biblio-mat introduced into my small town with its limited library. For just $2, the contraption will shoot out random titles from its collection of 112 million. And if all that technology plus a bottle of grape soda is too much for you, perhaps you’d prefer to join the movement of Little Free Libraries–a growing collection of freestanding structures containing books to lend, borrow or exchange–springing up in front yards across the country. Except, we’re sorry to report, in certain parts of Wisconsin.
10 Sound n Motion
I have friends in the midst of an organ transplant journey. Their story is a poignant one, of deep need paired with a deep desire to give. The whimsical stop-motion animation that follows–based on the recipient of a donor heart–is a two-year collaboration between illustrator Molly Crabapple, singer/songwriter Kim Boekbinder, and animator Jim Batt. The story of “I Have Your Heart” goes a step further than the tangible transaction of an organ donation to the rather secret relationship between the “good girl with a bad heart and the boy whose death will save her life.” Boekbinder, who wrote the video’s song, explains:
The idea for the song came from a story on “This American Life” about a teenage girl who received a donor heart from a boy who was killed in a gang fight. I was struck by how this young girl felt so much pressure to have a really good life–that in order to deserve another person’s heart, she had to be good enough for two people. In my version of the story there is a little bit of romance between the girl and the boy that she has never met. She feels his heart beat everyday and thinks of him as a separate entity inside herself.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better writer. In November we’re exploring the theme Surrealism.