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All about words




Posted by nancyfreund11 on November 17, 2016 at 12:50 AM

Some people believe there’s no such thing as too much information, but I’d say it depends on the category. For example, I love a certain level of gross. Last week at my folks’ house in California we had Jake the awesome pesticide guy help us out with what we learned were pantry moths in my dad’s office. (Hidden stash of pistachios behind his computer – highly NOT recommended. I may never eat a pistachio again in fact, and they were previously my third favorite nut!) But I bravely/foolishly asked Jake to tell me the grossest thing he’d encountered in his work. Let’s just say maggots, flashlight, and standing water, and leave it at that. I will not be eager to go into the pest control industry myself. But getting yourself grossed out on the subject of animal corpses is one thing… being uber-connected through tech is something else.

Many users of Amazon may not realize that the publisher has a magic dashboard that shows pages read. In fact, authors are paid by Kindle pages read, so if their books are purchased but never read, the authors don’t earn as much money as they would if people actually read their stuff. Crazy days, my friends. It’s the first time any creative work has an appreciation gauge tied to pay. Or if not appreciation, at least consumption. Plenty of authors object -- painters sell a painting for a fee regardless of whether it will be hung in a heavily trafficked area. Someone downloads a song for a fee – the singer gets paid no matter how many times, if ever, the buyer plays the song. Writers didn’t want their compensation messed with, just because Amazon COULD. I too was concerned though I don’t sell a gazillion copies of my books anyway, and those I do sell might go to a friend as opposed to a fan. Friends are notoriously bad at actually reading the stuff they buy from their author pals. (And let me state, that’s fine by me! Support of any kind is fabulous). Also, if a person skips to the end of their digital book, does the author get paid for faked pages-read? It’s all open to interpretation – something computers aren’t always good at.

But as often happens, experience has taught me a lesson.  The Amazon thing started and I was buckled in for the ride.  Because I don’t have that many books out, when I get wind of a friend reading one of them – odds are good, it might be the only active one being read. This week I enjoyed a screen shot of my novel ‘Rapeseed’ queued up as a travel book by one of my “kids.” Not my own biological kids, mind you – they still haven’t read my fiction for fear they’ll find themselves in it, I think – but one of my period five sophomores from Whittier High, circa 1990. We were studying oxymorons when I had cause to bring this kid out into the hall to privately discuss his rabble rousing and generally delightful eagerness that occasionally needed tempering in the classroom. In case my tone didn’t come across correctly in that sentence, (writing sometimes sucks for that, doesn’t it – conveying tone?) let me state clearly, I loved that kid. He was in turn hilarious, smart, energetic, a bright spark, a blast, and a pain in the ass. In the hall that afternoon, he said he suspected I felt about him the way his mother did – a love/hate relationship at times. (Slam dunk on the oxymoron reference, I was thinking). Point is he was a great student to have in class. So perhaps it’s no surprise that as adults, we would have found our way to a Facebook friendship across two continents today. Now I get to see his gorgeous family and some truly outstanding creative work done by his bespoke furniture company in Southern California. I’m really proud of him for his accomplishments and consider it a privilege to be his friend.

So when I was en route from California back to Switzerland a couple days ago, I saw the heartwarming news that he’d brought ‘Rapeseed’ along on a trip. A recent promotion for that book had just ended, and of course, anyone could be reading it. But at least one person, I actually know in real life, and I was his English teacher. I click my author dashboard and see that my book sales for all three titles have now flat lined, but yesterday, someone read 413 pages of ‘Rapeseed.’ There's just no better feeling for an author than "seeing" someone reading your work.

I am suddenly transported back to age 23 at Whittier High, where Max the head custodian thought I was a student the first week and tried to kick me out of my classroom after-hours. There I am in sensible heels and a pink pencil skirt, completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job, newly graduated from college and grad school, with a low ponytail instead of the ponytail I preferred at the time on the top of my head. I am trying to find creative ways to be an adult, and to get those kids, barely younger than myself, with all their hormones and energy – (they’re more squirrels than human people, really) -- to read ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘Farewell to Manzanar’ in their homes at night, and then prove they’d fully digested the assigned section the next day. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘A Separate Peace’ and everyone’s favorite, ‘Tequila Mockingbird.’

And in the blink of an eye, I’m 50 again, a writer in Switzerland – and someone in America is reading ‘Rapeseed’ while on a business trip. Thanks to this insane digital age, I’ve got a blue-line graph showing the page count rise. And it’s no oxymoron, I straight-up love this connection across time and space, my old me teaching those fabulous nutjobs to the new me, raising boys of my own. It’s not too much information. Traditional publishing has changed, but I’m by no means bemoaning the changes. This is gratifying and great fun. And whether I’m right or wrong, I’m loving guessing who’s doing the reading.


Categories: education & literacy, writing & publishing, coincidence, connection, chance

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