UPDATE 4/25/2010: I just ran across this interview from last year with Paul Harding on Powells.com. Thought some of you might be interested.
MaryJBlog sent me this link the other day and it was too good not to share.
Paul Harding’s manuscript for Tinkers had lain dormant and neglected in a drawer for three years after numerous rejections before it not only found a publisher (somehow it was resurrected, although the article doesn’t go into how or when or why) but went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, after which more literary goodness flowed in:
Within an hour of the Pulitzer announcement, Random House sent out a news release boasting of the two-book deal it had signed with Mr. Harding late in 2009. A few days later the Guggenheim Foundation announced he had received one of its prestigious fellowships.
Thanks largely to the efforts of independent booksellers, the book was touted and lauded, despite being entirely overlooked by the New York Times who did not even review it.
I find it disturbing that the early agents who read and rejected the manuscript were still looking for some kind of formulaic story with car chases and fast-paced action and dialogue, completely dismissing the writing itself. No one, they said, wanted to read a nice, quiet, well-written book.
And how many times have writers been advised not to write to the current market? You can’t target your writing to what’s hot RIGHT NOW, because tomorrow’s RIGHT NOW could be something else again.
I guess the moral of the story is, write what you love, what moves you. Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead, Harding’s former teacher at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop (and now his friend) sums it up thusly:
One of the problems I have is making my students believe that they can write something that satisfies their definition of good, and they don’t have to calculate the market,” Ms. Robinson said. “Now that I have the Paul anecdote, they will believe me more.
Makes me feel better, how ’bout you? Support your local independent bookseller! They may be our last, best hope.