In a few days I’ll celebrate the Jewish New Year, also known by its Hebrew name Rosh Hashanah. On that same day I’ll also enter the Ten Days of Awe.
The Jewish New Year marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, during which Jews reflect upon their actions over the past year and seek forgiveness for their transgressions in hopes of influencing God’s final judgment. On Rosh Hashanah God is said to inscribe the fate of every person for the upcoming year in the Book of Life or the Book of Death. However, the verdict is not decided until ten days later, on Yom Kippur.
This is a very special time of the year for every Jew, no matter how religious one is. Every Jewish person observes this holiday—some more, some less. And so do I—probably on the less side, but I definitely do.
Holidays bring their traditions to us. Trends and generations modify them over time. Yet it all ties us to our roots and keeps our expectations in line.
This year, I will be in New York during the holiday. Though I will stay in a hotel, away from my home and family, I’m excited and looking forward to it. Something in this city makes me feel more connected and closer to the Jewish holiday and tradition.
I am not there yet and I already sense the distinct savors of the Jewish food that Rosh Hashanah brings—brisket, matzo ball soup, honey cake, the challah bread and even the hateful gefilte fish.
So if you know any good Jewish delis that will be open during the holiday, a place where I can celebrate my New Year please let me know.
I wish you a Happy New Year and G’mar Hatima Tovah.
"All your favorite music is made by people on drugs" Bill Hicks
On stage during one of his iconic standup routines the late and revered comedian Bill Hicks suggested that all great artistic work was created by people who had some kind of artificial stimulant to push them further. There is the idea that in order to truly unleash a level of mental creative freedom you need something to take you away from the logical processes of the mind.
To an extent Bill Hicks had a point- while many people see this as a modern phenomenon it goes back to the Romantic poets and their usage of opium as a method of expanding their creative horizons. In all likelihood creative individuals have probably used similar stimulants before that in order to function.
However using Bill Hicks as a symbol of this freedom is misleading- during the peak of his fame he was in actual fact clean (indeed one part of his routine had him quipping that he would quit smoking "to see if Dennis Leary would do it.")
The fact is that there are plenty of people who take drugs, drink coffee and so forth that do not create iconic works of art or literature. While it is true that these things can be used to awaken the mind equally these can be crutches and diversions that prevent people from being able to get down to the process of doing the work.
The drug myth also often seems tied in with the myth of "divine" inspiration. While this can happen (allegedly the idea for the Terminator came to the director James Cameron in a dream) often this work tends to be as a result of a long and drawn out process that requires a lot of hard work and a degree of logical thinking in order to shape a creative project into something that works.
What people don't like to hear is that the creative process is very rarely an overnight sensation. Often if you are working at a day job you tend to think of the creative process of being fun or something only available to a select few people who the Gods have blessed with the gift of creative ability. The reality is that most things that people think of as overnight sensations tend to be the result of years of hard work and rejection... think of the amount of publishers who must be kicking themselves for turning down Harry Potter!
The first thing to realize before you sit down to work on a creative project is to not be intimidated. It doesn't have to be an iconic work of art. Often one thing that stops people writing or drawing is the thought that everything placed on paper or on the computer has to be brilliant. The opposite is actually true- being prepared to work through your ideas can make it easier to process them and make it easier to place them in a structure.
The next part is getting through the work to completion. It can be hard and it is often at this point that people feel the need to stop for coffee, drinks etc. This can be part of the process and if it helps you then that's fine (although if it's illegal it's not advisable and I don't advise it!)
However as boring as it is the real key to creativity is the act of being creative. In the music biopic spoof Walk Hard the song A Beautiful Ride talks of "making a little music every day until you die." This doesn't solely apply to music- if you are a creative person you will get the full benefit if you try to create something each day.
Put your thinking cap on and get creative.
Most readers open a book and flip to chapter one, surpassing all of those small items that make up the first few pages. They don’t realize the work that goes into creating them.
Whether it is mandatory information or something to be left to the author’s discretion, it still has to be inserted in the right place and the right order, following some guidelines.
If you will take a moment and look at a few books, you’ll be able to see that not all books provide the same information before the first chapter.
While most authors dedicate their book to someone special in their lives, not all include a page of acknowledgements. If you weren’t aware there were pages before chapter one, no need to panic—quite frankly, I didn’t pay attention to those pages until I published my book, Pinnacle Lust.
A book’s acknowledgements page gives credit to those who helped the author write the book. It typically refers to the author’s family members, sources, and the team that helped put the book together, including subject matter experts, editors, illustrators, book cover designers, agents, and publishers.
A dedication on the other hand, deals with people the author holds in high esteem. Imagine it. After hours, weeks, months, maybe even years of work, dedicating your entire book, to a select few. That’s pretty serious!
When the time came, I followed the rules. On the acknowledgments page, I thanked those who supported me on my path from rough draft to published novel—first and foremost my husband—but also my editors, subject matter experts, cover designers, etc. On the dedication page, I offered the book to my parents.
As I gear up to finish and launch book two of the Pinnacle series, I’ve decided to dedicate this book to my husband. And if you ask me why this book and not the previous one? I’ll tell you that I’m not really sure. Maybe because with the first book, I had the need to thank him for his continued support. But now I truly want to give him my work as a gift, almost as if I wrote it for him.
So when a handful of people ask me directly to dedicate my next book to them, I appreciate the compliment. However, as this is an esteemed privilege, I think what they ask of me is a pretty big deal. And so my response is somewhat ambiguous, like “We’ll see.”
But the truth of it is that if you have to ask for the privilege, you probably aren’t on the author’s list of dedications. Plus, you may risk offending the author by asking.
What do you think of dedications and acknowledgments in books? Do you read them?
I find it ironic. And sad. Struggling bookstores tend to reject new authors for book-signing events.
The relationship between bookstores and authors is symbiotic: bookstores need authors just as badly as authors need bookstores. But with the invention of Amazon and other online book retailers, perhaps it’s now fair to say that authors don’t need bookstores as much as in the past.
Many authors—myself included—have decided to publish and sell their books mainly online. However, having your book sold in a bookstore is a significant addition to any sales platform.
So I ask, if Amazon welcomes all authors and books, why don’t brick-and-mortar bookstores?
Readers select books for various reasons: genre, author, book cover, price, and sometimes just because it is part of an event. I have bought books written by authors I’d never heard of just because I’ve attended a book signing or reading at a local bookstore. Any book-signing event can bring business into these struggling bookstores. People will hear buzz about upcoming author events and may attend to see what it’s about, and while they’re at the author’s event, they may peruse bookstore aisles and pick up a book or two.
While bestselling authors are sure to bring more business to the bookstore with large crowds, there is still something to be gained from an event for the debut novel of a new author as well. I remember the early book signing events for J.K. Rowling before her book sales skyrocketed. The small bookstore readings—I bet those bookstores are glad they didn’t turn her away back then.
Every book holds something in it for someone. Yet, brick-and-mortar bookstores conduct their business as if only books that are written by best selling authors have something to offer to readers. As such, they do NOT welcome newer authors—they don’t like to consider them for book signing events or even to stock their books on the shelves.
The list of excuses is longer than the list of explanations:
Yes, I agree. Best selling authors might bring in bigger crowds. However, if J. K. Rowling was not given that opportunity in that small bookstore who knows if her book would have taken off.
I look at my local Atlanta Barnes & Noble store and see that although there are some events booked, not many author events are on the roster for the coming weeks. In the ten events scheduled within the next month, only one is showcasing an author—the rest are children’s story time events, Lego build events, and a summer reading program meet up. Why are so few authors invited to have book-signing events at bookstores? Even in the narrow window of author events bookstore chains host, the opportunity for first time authors to host their signing and meet-and-greet event is even slimmer.
Bookstores, I implore you: consider us, the not-yet-best-selling authors, as your next event! Let us show you how our events can be beneficial for everyone involved. Considering the fact that all expenses fall on us, the authors, you have nothing to lose. Actually you might come out on the winning side. We may be the ones who bring new life to your bookstore.
Let’s, together, revive brick and mortar bookstores.