Writers and Their Seals

When John Steinbeck stepped up to accept his Nobel Prize in 1962, he declared literature “as old as speech,” and said the “ancient commission” of the writer had not changed. His job: to expose “our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”

On what was surely a less formal occasion, Steinbeck said writers are “a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.”

This is the thing with writers – even the great ones must navigate a relationship built on love and hate. There is euphoria and anguish in the process, fear and exhilaration in revealing the work, and delight and agony in reading the reviews.

Validation comes in many forms, from the rare and esteemed Nobel down to a poignant email from reader to author. Technology has changed the landscape — writers these days can find solace and encouragement from any number of online support groups —  but the battleground remains constant.

Writers write because it feels natural, even in the worst moments. Some want acclaim; some just want to tell stories. Most like the precision required to arrange the words in a way that will make readers wonder, laugh or get angry enough to keep going. No author wants to write words that no one will read.

That is why I was pleased that an ambitious and dynamic website called, “The Authors Show,” named me as one of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.” I even got a seal, though it is not trained.

What’s happened to you lately that got your writing juices going? A book signing? A spike in sales?  A great review? Please share here, and include why it matters.

13 Comments so far »

  1. Kimberly LaRocca said,

    Wrote on October 22, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

    Wow, that’s awesome that you got a seal. I had a great review published on the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It made me feel great.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    A review in a mainstream paper is terrific stuff, Kimberly. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Suzanne L. Davis said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

    A reviewer said my book, Faith and Trust, was one of the most original novels he’d read in a long time. (That was what I was going for, so it was awesome to hear.)

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    “Original” is something we all want to hear, Suzanne. Thanks for sharing here.

    [Reply]

  3. Mark David Gerson said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

    In recent weeks, not only have I had several touching notes from readers (including readers who were about to begin my novel, The MoonQuest, for the second or third time) but a good number of pleading inquiries about its sequel, The StarQuest. However, what moved me the most profoundly was this video, recorded by one of my MoonQuest readers atop Maine’s highest peak, in gratitude for the book – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4U0YmFkQmA&feature=channel_video_title

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Mark, a fan video! Utterly awesome! Thanks for sharing this here.

    [Reply]

  4. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

    There are so fine writers included in that 50, Steve–congrats!

    What’s happened lately to get my writer’s juices flowing? I just began my new novel. Every day I can’t wait to get to its world. My computer calls me from the moment I walk away.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Jenny, fantastic news about starting your new novel. Hope you’ll try a technique that’s worked for me. Think of 10 questions for your main characters, then answer in their voices. You may be surprised at the places they take you!

    [Reply]

  5. Collette Scott said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Steve, I am so proud of you! I truly hope that you’re grinning from ear to ear now. So happy for you!

    I am one of those who loves to tell a story, and I think my greatest triumph has come from the readers who have written to me and said that my story truly moved and inspired them. That is the best response ever, greater than anything. To know I made an impact on someone is the highest compliment, and it gives me the courage to keep at it. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I agree with you Collette. What you describe is reaching people at a very core level. Fews things are more satisfying for a writer.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    [Reply]

  6. Martha Rodriguez said,

    Wrote on November 28, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    It appears that we’re all in agreement that a good review or a kind word from a reader is what keeps us going. Simple words like “a sweet story” or an acknowledgment that something I wrote made someone laugh makes my day!

    Thanks for sharing and congrats on the seal!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Yes, Martha, I think we are in agreement! On the other hand, I have a son who played college tennis. He was so undemonstrative during matches, you usually couldn’t tell if he was winning or losing. I admire that, as well as his ability to laugh off losses and not get too excited when he won. I think there’s a lesson there for writers, though I’d agree it’s damned hard to pull off. Thanks for your comment!

    [Reply]

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