Joe is a television sportscaster turned novelist and speaker. Before shifting his focus to fiction he had dozens of articles published in a variety of small and mid-sized magazines and wrote a screenplay that placed 7th in the Writers Digest Competition. His debut novel, The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride, is set for release on May 10. Learn more about him by visiting www.joesiple.com.
Longing For The Golden Age
by Joe Siple
I recently returned from a trip to Barcelona, where a hundred-twenty years ago, artists of all stripes—painters, sculptors, writers—met at Els Quatre Gats, a little cafe in El Gotic, to sip espresso, discuss their art, and to create.
Walking through the streets and cafes, the cobblestone roads and narrow alleys, I was struck by a sense of beauty and purity. More than anything, it was a sense of ease. This was a place where an artist could work and struggle, develop and grow. This was a place where the most idealistic, most romantic idea of what it means to be a writer still floated on the breeze, along with chocolate pastries and midday wine. The challenge artists faced was the only challenge that mattered: developing their chosen form to the very heights of their God-given potential.
In no way did my walk through El Gotic make me consider publishing. I never pondered the best way to self-promote. Which contest I could enter for free and which required more of the money I was supposed to be making, not spending.
I certainly don’t live in early-twentieth-century Barcelona.
On this side of the pond, things were also simpler, not so long ago. Either you broke through that steel curtain of agents and acquisitions editors to be published by a large, New York-based house, or you pulled books off the shelves of Barnes and Noble, or your library, or Boarders (remember them!?!) and wished enough authors would die off so you could get your shot.
Today, we’re faced with yet another version of the world of writing. And a lot of it seems to be about publishing as much as creating. Gone are the artists struggling in the cafes, with the highest goal being nothing more than the quality of their art. And gone are the days when the big New York publishers held complete sway over the American publishing industry. And like all sea-changes, this one has come with both good and bad.
The good? Anyone with a computer and a dream can be published.
The bad? Anyone with a computer and a dream can be published.
If my preference is to be back in the “Golden Age” of Barcelona, 1904, my second choice would be the old way we did things here. A smoky back room filled with bearded men (and maybe a couple women) deciding the fate of each of us, based, we hoped, on the quality of our work. You might reasonably be asking, “Why in the name of Shakespeare’s Quill would you prefer that?”
Simply put: Simplicity.
I used to say, “I want to be a writer, not an entrepreneur.” What I meant was I longed for the days where artists were focused solely on their art, not how to get it distributed and how to convince people to buy it. Because that’s not art, and that’s not writing. That’s something completely different, and an aspect of our society I don’t particularly enjoy taking part in.
I also worry about the quality of writing in the world getting “dumbed down,” which is inevitable when you go from 1% of the aspiring writer population getting published to nearly 100%, in a single generation. The truth is, writing is hard, and writing well is nearly impossible for most of us. And now we’re able to take a story that would have been nowhere near good enough to be published fifty years ago, and not only publish it, but make it look, aesthetically, almost identical to those that are worthy of publication. The dilemma this presents to readers is no small issue.
And yet, here I am, about to have my debut novel published by a small publisher that wouldn’t have been able to exist fifty years ago. Meaning my book wouldn’t have been able to be published fifty years ago.
Is this good, or is this bad? I’ve struggled with that question a lot recently.
Because I don’t want to contribute to the “dumbing down.” I don’t want to shift my focus from writing to promoting. I honestly couldn’t care less if a single person visits my website. You want me to take a selfie at a book signing and post it on Facebook? Please tell me you’re kidding.
But then there’s the other side. My story, on which I spent so many hours and emotions, will be shared with people who are looking for stories like mine. I’ll be able to use the experience as motivation to create more, hopefully even better stories. Most importantly, I can do it however I want to do it. If I don’t want to do social media, fine. No social media. If I don’t want to tell everyone to buy my book, who cares? I won’t do that either. My sales might be lackluster, but so are the sales of many people who do the things they’d rather not simply because they feel they have no choice.
So I figure I’ll go with it. I’ll embrace this new world of writing and publishing—I’ll even enter into it. But I’ll do it my way. In a way that’s true to myself and allows me to sleep at night.
And part of me, always, will long to be in 1904, elbow-to-elbow with other writers in a cafe in Barcelona.
The Five Wishes of Dr. Murray McBride
With all his family and friends gone, one-hundred-year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a ten-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Together, they race against the limited time each has left, ticking off wishes one by one. Along the way, Murray remembers what it's like to be young, and Jason fights for the opportunity to grow old. But when tragedy strikes, their worlds are turned upside-down, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason's final wish come true.
Where to Pre-Order The Five Wishes of Dr. Murray McBride
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.