Being a Wannabe Writer ain’t the easiest way to make a living. Actually, if money wasn’t coming in from other places, My One and Only Squeeze and me would be living under an overpass, starving and freezing, and I wouldn’t have a place to plug in my laptop. But freezing and starving is not the worst thing about being a Wannabe Writer. The worst thing is absorbing all the criticism.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate criticism. Without it, I know I’ll never be anything but a Wannabe. And I think I can handle it, mostly, up to a point. Ever since they ate the apple, that’s what living is. You get it in bucketfuls every day from your conscience, from society, from the PC police. And it can do you bucketfuls of good.
When I was eighteen, I checked in to my first ship, a destroyer. I was an electronics technician, fresh out electronics school. My chief welcomed me, and for a week, he seemed pleased with how hard I worked. Then we went to sea, and I got seasick. I went from “Good Worker,” to a crude two-word term for a mammary gland on a male pig. The chief sent me mess cooking, which is navy for Beetle Bailey’s KP. There I scrubbed pots and pans, scrubbed bulkheads and overheads behind and above deep fat fryers, swabbed the deck. I came to work early and left last. Determination to NOT be a mammary gland on a male pig woke me in the morning, and put me to sleep in my cozy bunk every night. When I completed my stint in the galley, the head cook wrote “Best darned mess cook I’ve seen in my fifteen years.” See what I’m saying?
Shortly after starting to work on my second book, I fortuitously stumbled into C&C, Coffee and Critique, a marvelous and diverse group of writers. I brought in a piece one day about a navy pilot who had been the new guy in his squadron for a long time. Finally, another pilot was ordered in, and New Guy envisioned becoming Seasoned Old Guy. As it turned out, the new new guy was senior to New Guy, so New Guy retained the sobriquet. I set the story in the bar of an officer’s club in Japan. The way we do it at C&C, we read our five pages, double-spaced, twelve font, and then the critiquers have at your effort both verbally and with written comments on your pages. When it got to be Lou’s turn to speak, she said, “I gotta tell you. I’m not interested in this. It’s just another stupid men-drinking-in-a-bar story.” Which kind of set me back on heels a bit. Then she said, “Who are you writing this for?” Which is a half-ways good question for Wannabe’s to ask now and then. And if you look around, you will see there are a lot of females in the writing business these days. Hire an editor for your work, ninety percent of the time it will be a female. Submit your work to a critique house such as Clarion, Blue Ink, or Kirkus, most of their reviewers are female. At least the one’s I’ve encountered have been. I consider Lou’s input to be the best piece of writing advice I have ever received. So see, the Wannabe isn’t a thin-skinned whiner, at least not in his own mind.
After I submitted The Happy Life of Preston Katt to the three review houses mentioned above. I received two favorable and a luke warm (from Kirkus). Kirkus, in my opinion, is the toughest grader. Then I submitted Katt to a “Best Self-published Book Contest.” I got the results a couple of days ago. On the cover, the judge gave me 5 out of 5 points. “Nice cover, nice exterior package.” But on the words between the cover, I got 2 out of 5. She wrote she didn’t like that kind of book.
Well okay, with reviewers and contest judges, it’s a crap shoot. I get it. But once in a while, it just gets a bit … crappy.
But then, I got reviews on The Junior Officer Bunkroom. From the same three review houses. And! And all three were favorable.
Here’s an excerpt from the Kirkus review: “While Zerr skillfully weaves military details such as the career trajectory of a military professional and uncelebrated hours of boredom throughout the novel, the true brilliance of the book are his depictions of the complexity of war and the ideology that sends young men into battle.”
Picture if you will, please, the curmudgeonly-old-poop-septuagenarian-Wannabe writer sitting in front of his 21 inch iMac with a two terabyte fusion drive reading the Kirkus review. Picture if you will, please, his trifocals sliding to a stop atop the word “Brilliance.” Picture the Wannabe’s Adam’s apple bob. Picture a big fat tear bubble up in his left eye until it spills over the lid and cascades down the wrinkles like a great grandkid’s Slinky down the steps to the basement.
For a full and amazing seventeen seconds, being a Wannabe Writer was glorious.
Here’s a link: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/j-j-zerr/the-junior-officer-bunkroom/
Now picture the levitating Wannabe Writer settle back to earth.