HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Why it’s a problem that w...

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 01:01 AM

 

Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from

Last edited Tue Jan 27, 2015, 03:46 AM - Edit history (2)

I attended a packed reading (I’m talking 300+ people) about a year and a half ago. The author was very well-known, a magnificent nonfictionist who has, deservedly, won several big awards. He also happens to be the heir to a mammoth fortune. Mega-millions. In other words he’s a man who has never had to work one job, much less two... Yet, when an audience member — young, wide-eyed, clearly not clued in — rose to ask him how he’d managed to spend 10 years writing his current masterpiece — What had he done to sustain himself and his family during that time? — he told her in a serious tone that it had been tough but he’d written a number of magazine articles to get by. I heard a titter pass through the half of the audience that knew the truth...

Example two. A reading in a different city, featuring a 30-ish woman whose debut novel had just appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. I didn’t love the book (a coming-of-age story set among wealthy teenagers) but many people I respect thought it was great, so I defer. The author had herself attended one of the big, East Coast prep schools, while her parents were busy growing their careers on the New York literary scene. These were people — her parents — who traded Christmas cards with William Maxwell and had the Styrons over for dinner. She, the author, was their only beloved child.... Her first book was being heralded by editors and reviewers all over the country, many of whom had watched her grow up...

When (again) an audience member, clearly an undergrad, rose to ask this glamorous writer to what she attributed her success, the woman paused, then said that she had worked very, very hard and she’d had some good training, but she thought in looking back it was her decision never to have children that had allowed her to become a true artist. If you have kids, she explained to the group of desperate nubile writers, you have to choose between them and your writing. Keep it pure. Don’t let yourself be distracted by a baby’s cry.

I was dumbfounded. I wanted to leap to my feet and shout. “Hello? Alice Munro! Doris Lessing! Joan Didion!” Of course, there are thousands of other extraordinary writers who managed to produce art despite motherhood. But the essential point was that, the quality of her book notwithstanding, this author’s chief advantage had nothing to do with her reproductive decisions. It was about connections. Straight up. She’d had them since birth...

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/25/sponsored_by_my_husband_why_its_a_problem_that_writers_never_talk_about_where_their_money_comes_from/

18 replies, 1899 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 18 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from (Original post)
ND-Dem Jan 2015 OP
MannyGoldstein Jan 2015 #1
meaculpa2011 Jan 2015 #17
GummyBearz Jan 2015 #2
truedelphi Jan 2015 #18
SheilaT Jan 2015 #3
JustAnotherGen Jan 2015 #6
cyberswede Jan 2015 #4
ND-Dem Jan 2015 #5
Adrahil Jan 2015 #7
KingCharlemagne Jan 2015 #13
Adrahil Jan 2015 #14
closeupready Jan 2015 #8
Bluenorthwest Jan 2015 #9
raouldukelives Jan 2015 #16
surrealAmerican Jan 2015 #10
LawDeeDah Jan 2015 #12
Adrahil Jan 2015 #15
AngryAmish Jan 2015 #11

Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 01:12 AM

1. Agree 1000%

 

I earn some of my income through writing, and not being a member of the idle rich definitely slows things down. Writing anything more than a few paragraphs, let alone a book, requires uninterrupted hours on a regular basis; this is impossible unless one is young, old, or wealthy.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 11:25 AM

17. Agreed, and I earn all of my income through writing.

I get up every morning at 4AM, close the door and work uninterrupted for as long as I can. When the kids were small they knew that when my door was closed they were not to disturb me except in an emergency or when lunch was ready. Even now (they're 21 and 24) I have to get my creative work done before the phone starts ringing and administrative chores take precedence.

I was lucky. I earned enough to allow my wife to stay home for ten years. When she decided to resume her career it put a bit more pressure on me, but I actually enjoyed it. I had to cut back on my travel which gave me time to participate in their activities and coach in a wide variety of sports even though in some cases (soccer and lacrosse) I knew less than nothing. I still get a kick when I see my former players in the supermarket and they greet me with a, "Hi Coach." As much as I love my work, I would not have given up the experience for anything.

As for having an inherited advantage... my father worked in a sweat shop on Eighth Avenue. I worked there summers and weekends from the time I was eleven. That was my greatest advantage. I knew I DID NOT want any part of it.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 01:17 AM

2. I'll add to your story

 

My wife has a master's in literature (not from an Ivy league school, but a top 20 university as ranked by US news and world report). She has been teaching junior college English for 3 years (1 class each at 4 different schools, since no schools will hire full time positions in order to save money on benefits etc). So that is how she helps pay the bills, while at the same time trying desperately to put together a writing career. Which now is basically reduced to the thought of "maybe I can blog about this situation as a stepping stone to writing for a magazine"...

Anyway, I agree with your premise, that is my personal anecdote related to it

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to GummyBearz (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 28, 2015, 12:15 AM

18. When you realize that Jack London got paid between $ 10 and

$ 40 for any short stories he sold to a magazine back in the 1890's, and that sci fi magazines and others only paid the same amount exactly one hundred years later, you begin to realize the problem.

And of course, Jack London was not someone who was dealing with our age of super connections. Go to Yale, and one of your classmates may be in charge of this or that newspaper or magazine. So then you know them, and can avoid putting your writing "over the transom."

And there is not so much money for writing in terms of traditonal media. People who get grad degrees at prestigious journalism schools end up as spokespeople for this or that large corporation, as how else can they re-pay their student loans?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 02:31 AM

3. Those two are not exactly typical of all writers.

 

Not very many have family wealth to support them, and most people do have children. On the other hand, I also know a fair number of people who chose not have kids, mainly because they just didn't want kids.

I also know quite a few writers, some of whom support themselves completely with writing and writing-related projects, others who have not yet quit their day jobs.

I'm not sure what the point of that article is.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to SheilaT (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 07:35 AM

6. I think the entire title of the article

“Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from

The truth is, my husband's hefty salary makes my life as a writer easy. Pretending otherwise doesn't help anyone
Ann Bauer



Better explains where she is coming from. I think - not certain.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 02:55 AM

4. You might consider trimming your post to 4 paragraphs

On Democratic Underground, we ask that excerpts from other sources posted on Democratic Underground be limited to a maximum of four paragraphs, and we ask that the source of the content be clearly identified. Those who make a good-faith effort to respect the rights of copyright holders are unlikely to have any problems. But individuals who willfully and habitually infringe on others' copyrights risk being in violation of our Terms of Service.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=copyright


I'd hate for the guys to get in trouble.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to cyberswede (Reply #4)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 03:42 AM

5. thanks for the information.

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 07:49 AM

7. Add Toni Morrison to great authors who raised kids. n/t

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Adrahil (Reply #7)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:52 AM

13. Which probably adds to the power of the denouement of

 

Beoved. imo.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to KingCharlemagne (Reply #13)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:53 AM

14. Definitely. Great book!

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 07:59 AM

8. Agree, but it can be complicated, IMO - for example, J.K. Rowling

 

had children, but she was on public aid in the UK while writing the first Harry Potter. And I believe being on public aid in the UK is a more generous source of support than in the US.

From her wiki:

In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter.[59] Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book's first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.[28] A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London.[28][60] The decision to publish Rowling's book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury's chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.[61] Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children's books.[62] Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing.[63]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:20 AM

9. I don't think this applies only to creative people, nor are most writers and creative people

 

covered by the fortunes of others. To be honest I know some of the most successful writers in the current times, in literature and in films and they were working class kids who earned the whole thing by their wits, that's what Vonnegut used to say about writers, they live by their wits.
I also know several people in more 'regular' careers who seem wildly successful because their wife or husband makes large sums in another field. That shop, that small business is not really paying for that house, those cars.

I think it sucks when people lie about their advantages. No matter what their jobs nor what the advantages are. I think politicians who have millions and affect some 'regular person' image should be forced to explain every 6 figure 'consultant' gig and when their boosters lie about their pasts, I reject them and they stay rejected.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #9)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 11:06 AM

16. Agreed. All part of the myths people like to build about themselves.

So much they start to believe it. This reads more like the political class than the literary class to me.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:26 AM

10. The examples here are not unlike trust-fund babies in other fields.

They actually believe it was their "hard work" and "wise choices" that caused them to succeed. They simply do not see that a poorer person who works just as hard, and makes choices just as carefully, could never succeed the same way.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to surrealAmerican (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:49 AM

12. True. We can see examples of that here sometimes.

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to surrealAmerican (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:55 AM

15. Lots of studies on that.

 

Those who succeed almost always she their personal virtue in it, even in the face of evidence.

It is, I'm sad to say, a foundation of why a segment of the poor and middle class still believe that the rich deserve to control so much wealth.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:44 AM

11. Lena Dunham

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread