On the Case

October 29, 2009 - 1:22 pm


Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery,
Make me a poster of an old rodeo.
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to.
To believe in this living is a hard way to go.

A few days ago, those lyrics flew in from who knows where, settled in my mind and stayed there. Would not budge. It had been years seen I’d seen John Prine in concert or even played his music. So what was one of his signature songs doing in my head? And why wouldn’t it leave?

After viewing a video of John performing at the 2004 Philadelphia Folk Festival (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVZmSEpuJtg), I had my answer.


There he was, the troubled troubadour himself—much the worse for years of whiskey and worry and general wear. But what a talent. And the reason his music was stuck in my head, I realized, was because of its sheer brilliance.

So here’s the mystery:

Why did John Prine’s star rise so low and set so early, when so many mediocre talents have enjoyed glowing careers? And why has he never received the credit due to his genius? I mean, even the emcee at the folk festival insisted that Angel from Montgomery had been written by Bonnie Raitt. Oh, of course there were the dissipated years of drugs and debauchery. But for most artists, a phase like that simply adds luster to their myth.

Ah well, forget the questions. Just enjoy the man’s genius. And if you’re up for an emotional challenge, listen to him sing every verse of Hello In There and try not to shed a single tear:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCDFpDPqSf8 .

You know, old trees just go stronger.
And old rivers grow wilder every day.
But old people they grow lonely
Waiting for someone to say,
Hello in there.
Hello.

Thanks, John. And hello again.

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October 27, 2009 - 9:42 pm

For the benefit of any locals who might check in from time to time, I wanted to pass along this message from a friend and fellow writer:

Myster/crime writer Elizabeth Buzzelli (formerly of Ann Arbor, now living and working in Traverse City) will be appearing at the Dexter Public Library on Friday, November 6, at 6 p.m. as part of a three-author, all-Michigan book tour.

Elizabeth has penned two delightfully quirky novels, Dead Dancing Women and Dead Floating Lovers. For more information about her work and her up-north life, visit http://www.elizabethbuzzelli.com/index2.php.

If you've never had the pleasure of spending time in Dexter's gem of a library, it's located on Alpine Street, just off Main (right turn if you're coming from Ann Arbor and points east), directly across from the BP gas station.

And if you can't make the Buzzelli event, it's still worth trekking out to Dexter on another day to experience our riverside, glass-walled, treehouse-like library.

Hope to see you there.

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October 19, 2009 - 12:21 pm

These days, film makers, photographers, videographers, writers, visual artists, songwriters and other creatives all have one thing in common: they're forced to navigate a veritable mine field of copyright law.

It seems that every writers' conference I attend features at least one session devoted to "the copyright culture." As a testament to my naiveté, I always sign up in hopes that this time I'll actually learn something useful. And I'm always disappointed when the speakers manage to avoid presenting any helpful information. What they do present is a persuasive case for scheduling a consultation.

But before you check in with a copyright attorney, you might want to check out Duke University's graphic novel/textbook, Bound by Law: Tales from the Public Domain. In 70+ pages, the book touches on everything from trademark infringement to fair use--in a thoroughly entertaining and utterly painless way. Although the main character is a film maker, anyone engaged in a creative enterprise can benefit from the content.

 For a free downloadable version, visit http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/.

 

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October 14, 2009 - 8:32 pm

The title of this posting is borrowed from author and literary consultant Mark Shaw. It was Mark who convinced me to stop expecting a puny one-page query letter to sell my novel and, instead, do the hard work of writing a book proposal (a.k.a. marketing platform).

I confess to harboring doubts at first. But they disappeared quickly as it became apparent that agents really do read book proposals--even unsolicited book proposals. The rejections I received began to take on a very different tone. They were repectful, thoughtful and on occasion regretful that the "match" wasn't quite right.

And on the day this blog was launched, in a sweet example of serendipity, an agent requested the first 50 pages of my manuscript.

I've studied a lot of books, articles and websites, all purporting to offer guidelines for the ultimate, fail-proof book proposal. But Mark Shaw tops them all in clarity, flow and overall impact.

So if you happen to be marketing a book, fiction or non-fiction, may I suggest you spend some time at http://authorwantabes.markshawbooks.net/how-to-become-published-step-seven/.

 

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