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Coming Home to Roost (on eBay)
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From time to time Mary does an internet sweep to check up on our books -- who's reviewing them, what they're being sold for, where all those arcs that were never reviewed are being sold. Today she was startled to see, up for bid on eBay, Desert Island Eric , a mimeographed collection of writings (mostly humorous essays) from my days in sf fandom.

Why anyone would buy such an item I can't imagine. (Neither can anyone else, apparently, since it has 0 bids) It was basically a kind gesture by some fan friends, designed, I suspect, to ease the sting of sf fandom's general dismissal of my efforts over the years. The completed booklet, which had a very small print run (less than 3 figures I'm sure)was sprung on me as a wonderful surprise.

It probably says something unpleasant about the artistic temperament (okay...the artistic ego) that I'd write for amateur magazines for a decade and a half, for fun, but still hope for some sort of ego gratification besides. ("Faunch for egoboo" as we put it in fandom)

Then again, to me, writing is all about connecting with an audience. Positive feedback is proof I've done a good job of communicating and entertaining. Lack of positive feedback shows I've failed. What fun is it to fail?

It always bothered me (as the friends who produced the collection well knew) that my fan writings never cut it with the hobby's cognoscenti. Typically, my stuff received a mixture of faintly damning praise and backhanded compliments. I was "competent," "a journeyman." Certainly never among the best. As for awards...don't make me laugh.

So I hope you'll excuse me admitting that I experienced raptures of unholy delight (if that's possible) when Mary and I started getting award nominations and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

It could be argued that the difference is that my fiction is co-written with Mary, but in truth, we share the work, and the whole isn't any "better" than the best either of us can do. What's different is the audience and, of course, the genre, I'm working in.

Now who would ever think that a writer who wasn't considered better than average, judged against folks writing for a hobby for mimeographed zines with circulations of 100 to 200, could garner outstanding reviews in the largest industry publications, while being judged against professionals?

Not me. I was shocked when my books got better treatment than my fanzine articles. Which leads me to the lesson there is to be learned in it (aside from the fact I'm still bitter...) It's a lesson anyone starting out writing should take to heart. If I had, it would've saved me years of frustration.

Don't allow a single audience, or even a few different audiences, to discourage you. Don't let a handful of critics in a particular venue convince you that they have the measure of everything. Maybe you're just writing the wrong things for the wrong people. Don't waste too much time and effort trying to win over readers who aren't going to be won over. Move on. Find those readers who'll appreciate your efforts. You might surprise yourself.

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