In search of…

The Holy Grail? No.

Aliens? No, again.

True love? If you got it, hold on to it. If not, good luck in the best possible way.

I’m currently reading the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The protagonist states in the beginning, “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make…”

And the choices in his search that he makes are unforgettable. Just as are the choices we make. It’s a search that, in one form or another, takes a lifetime. In Jacob Will, 11.0: A Coward’s Guide to Living, this protagonist learns that in a hard, funny, and hopefully poignant way with lasting effects.

What are the choices you’ve made in your search? Are you happy with them?

Wherever you go, there you are.

confucius   images

“Wherever you go, there you are” is attributed to Confucius and made popular by the character Buckaroo Banzai in the 1984 eponymously-named movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.” And it, as aptly as anything else, describes the protagonist in Eleven Little Deaths.

Try as he may, Jacob Will has yet to realize that wherever he goes, the baggage he holds internally will always be with him, wherever he goes. I believe it’s also true of most of us, no matter how much therapy. Wherever you go. He has to discard those bags (issues, prejudices, and perceptions) before he can be somewhere else, where he can discover his own truths.

What’s holding him back? The list is long, eleven little deaths long and there’s no roadmap to help him. #elevenlittle deaths

Leaving New Jersey and New York – for what?

To a lot of people, the idea of leaving the greater NYC area would be anathema. Why? That’s a good question.

But if the only way to find your way home, or in life, is to leave, then that’s not such a difficult decision. And if it’s true, that wherever you go your issues are still with you, what must you do in order to answer that questions?

For Jacob Will, it’s simple – Eleven Little Deaths, all his. All he has to do is hit the road and pray it doesn’t hit back.

New Book Coming!

Greetings!

It has been a long time since I last posted. My first book, Arn? Narn. had just come out and there was much cause for celebration. In the ensuing time, I have been quite busy working on a new book.

This one is quite a departure from Arn? Narn. in that it is a novel. I look forward to sharing more about it with you in the coming months as I seek agent representation and ultimately a publisher.

Over the next few months, I’ll be posting and keeping you up-to-date on what’s happening with it. I’ll even share some of the story with you. It’s called Eleven Little Deaths and hopefully it’s not at all what you think. It’s not a murder mystery, rather it’s more of a celebration of life. More to come.

‘Til then…

All the best,

Bruce

 

Running off at the mouth.

Yesterday I entered the digital age. Now that is not to say I don’t shoot my photography digitally or I don’t know how to surf the internet. I do on both accounts and I think fairly well.

To date, my encounters with media for the Arn? Narn. PR push, have been of the more traditional kind: print, radio, the like. But now, I was the sole subject of a webinar speaking to other photographers or some such like interested parties. I went online. There’s no turning back now.

Donning my newly purchased headset, I was ready to communicate with the outside world through my computer. I felt as if I was at mission control. And the only thing ready to launch was my mouth. We are running and we have liftoff!

Liftoff indeed!

I was being interviewed – in depth – about my photo-documentary book Arn? Narn. Once we were sure all equipment was functional, last week at the originally scheduled webinar, it wasn’t, we were good to go.

I had anticipated maybe being able to keep the other participants interest for a half hour, 45 minutes tops. Oh, no. Or as George Takei might say, “Oh, Myyyy.” It went longer, a lot longer. Try nearly two hours!

The hands on the clock go round and round…for two hours!

Who knew I had so much to say? Certainly not me. OK, maybe me but not for that long. The moderator, another photographer, kept things humming along. Between his questions and those of the participants, it did take that long. I was surprised at the questions and how thoughtful they were. I can only hope my answers did them justice.

We had posted a number of pictures from the book and discussed them: what was going on; what were my thoughts as I was photographing them, that kind of stuff. Mercifully, there were no questions such as, “What f-stop did you use for that photo?” Truthfully, my answer would have been, “How the h— should I know?” I have trouble remembering where my socks are.

To be the subject of such intense scrutiny is a little unnerving. To think that any group, no matter the size, would have any interest in what I have to say amazes me. But this group, by and large, held on for the entire interview. That was very flattering. I hope it wasn’t boring. The tales I can tell of my experiences in Newfoundland are largely humorous or at least I think so. Judging from the response of the moderator, so did he. An appreciative audience of one is a start.

So now, that two hours is forever available online for anyone with the fortitude to listen to it. Brew some fresh coffee and sit back and try not to gag.

No f-stops. No focal lengths. No “what film did you use, man?” It was all about the story as it should have been. It’s a story that will impact us all. If we only take notice.

Andy Warhol was wrong.

Andy x4.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Andy Warhol‘s galaxy to be specific, he stated that “…in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” By and large, he has been right. He could have amended that to add “in their own galaxy.” All one has to do is look at such things as the Kardashians and Honey Boo-Boo to realize he was right. Actually, they’re getting a lot more than 15 minutes. And probably at the expense of some other deserving person. All of this is as an introduction to MY 15 minutes of fame.

Now, I don’t expect anyone (thankfully) to create a reality show about my life. I can see the humor and occasional pathos, but not week after week, and certainly not on TV. That said, as I embark on the PR for my photo-documentary book Arn? Narn., I am exposing (in a good way) myself in order to build interest in the book. As the book can only sit there by itself until someone else shills for it, I’ve got the job.

So, in the past week alone, I’ve done two magazine interviews and one radio interview. I won’t know how the mag interviews went until I see them in print in which I’ll probably say, “Yes, they got that right, but did they have to tell everyone I was wearing Dockers!?” A free press indeed.

I think the radio interview went well. Nothing profane was said and nothing had to be edited out. I haven’t received a letter from the FCC for obscenities so that’s probably a good thing. For one who is not used to this kind of focused attention, it’s a weird thing talking with someone while many are listening. Are they rolling their eyes and groaning “What an idiot!”? Who knows?

This week I’ll be doing a live online webinar about the book. There will be no editing on this one for sure. I probably better not watch any Quentin Tarantino movies beforehand so as to not channel any of his characters. Can’t be too careful, right?

No movies of his next week!

So, on one hand Andy was right: everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame. Mine’s lasting a little longer. Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen. But I am grateful for it.

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms., Thank you…. The Creativity of Rejection Letters.

As I started to round “Arn? Narn?” into the form of a book, I needed to get an idea of what interest it might generate. Of course, I believed in it, perhaps too much as a the parent of their first-born can be. The reality that it might not have any merit doesn’t enter my mind at all. Well, not often.

The first rejection letters were no surprise. I expected to get them. Some were sent back within a reasonable period of time; others when received, I honestly forgot I had sent to those particular parties. I guess you can’t cry over what you never had in the first place, right?

(coffeeshoppr.com)

As many aspiring authors before me have learned, publishers and agents have many more things to do rather than read another query letter. Yet, this is what they have to do in order to keep their business flowing. So, if your letter doesn’t capture their interest immediately, a rejection letter might be sent out. “Might” is the operable word because not all respond. And not in a timely fashion either. Do not under any circumstances hold your breath. You might expire before you hear anything. I received one back not too long ago. Consider that my publisher and I have been working together now for nearly a year and this was sent out easily a year before that and… well, you get the picture.

Most publishers and/or agents use a form letter, sort of like a reverse draft notice. “You have been found unfit for military service. Too bad.”

(ww2.vcdh.virginia.edu)

Some will do a nice personal note; others scribble a note on their form rejection letter; some write their rejection on your query letter and send that back you; and others print their rejection multiple times on a single piece of paper, cut or tear it, and then send you a strip rejection note. (Classy, real classy.)

Here are excerpts from some of the ones I received.

1. “…It is with a heavy heart that we must pass on your manuscript.” Form letter. Just how heavy was their heart?

2. “I apologize for the long delay in answering your query, but I was quite backed up over the summer.” Personal letter, nice.

3. “Do not be discouraged. You truly can achieve any goal you desire with persistence and effort along with self-education in your desired field.” Form letter, written no doubt by one of Oprah’s staff.

4. “Not for me, thanks anyway.” Short hand-written note on my query letter. At least he took the time.

5. “…I am taking on very little fiction these days…” Form letter. But, it’s pretty obvious she did not read my query letter.

6. ‘We currently do not have the financial resources to invest in this project…however, if you are willing and capable of providing funding…” Really?

7. And my all-time favorite, “No.” Short and sweet. (notefromlapland.com)

This is not meant to paint all agents and publishers in the same broad stroke. They are all different and have specific markets. Rather, it’s as I wrote in my “The 4th R” post, there will be rejection and one shouldn’t take it personally. Don’t take it personally, especially if these people don’t. Have fun with it. And don’t scrimp on the tissues either.

Let me get this straight: the forks go on the left and the knives and spoons go on the right, right?

The printing of the photographs is finally complete. I can now look at these and see if there is any sense to be made of them. Or should I just go ahead and get a job in a shoe store?

(citizenbrand.typepad.com)

Editing a photography book is like playing with LEGOS (TM – don’t want to get into trouble here!). All the pieces do fit together, but sometimes they make more sense one way than another. And so it is with 200+ photographs.

How to use, what to use. How to put them together. What does it mean? What do I want to say? Argggh!

Slowly, after sifting through them, some begin to stand out as definite keepers. Others are discarded quickly only to somehow find their way back in. And yet others quietly reveal themselves only as the shape of the book develops. These, on their own, may not seem like much until put into the company of others. Then they take on a new significance. The sum of the parts, etc.

But, there are still more than 200 of these and not all will make the cut. As I mentioned just a few lines back, there are obvious keepers. These stand out, I believe, as the strongest images in the lot. But they still beg the question: what order? It’s like setting a dinner table: knives here, forks there, spoons to the right, wine glasses over there. (Who set up those rules anyway?)

See? This is what I mean. (dummies.com)

As I continue to look and arrange, and rearrange, and repeat this over and over again, it does start to take form and meaning. It would be one thing if there had been a shooting script and the photographs were taken in a chronological order. Yeah, it would be one thing, but it isn’t. So I have to engage in a kind of reverse engineering of this. Usually that results in the construction of something like a Yugo. Please, please don’t let that happen here!

Typical photo of a Yugo. (wired.com)

Certain types of images are beginning to look like they belong with each other. As that occurs, the book slowly begins to take form and the elements within start to “write” the book. As that occurs, I realize its final direction. This does not mean the selection is complete, no, not by a long shot, but I can edit with a particular vision. This is good.

Yet, it will still undergo many permutations and combinations before I’m ready to submit it. And even then, it will probably be revised further. It’s a long process and I still won’t know if I put the forks on the correct side of the plate.