Steve

The Anti-Christ-mas Redeemed

by Steve Laube

Ebenezer Scrooge shouted, “What is Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer….Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

Not the most merry of sentiments but is illustrative of the unhappy and empty among us. In our American culture we have a backwoods duck hunter being vilified in the media while those same critics give a wink and a pass to a 21 year old pop star whose wiggle and shake made her a finalist for Time magazine’s Person-of-the-Year award. In Africa tribal members are killing each other. In the Middle East civil war and anti-Semitism is woven in the fabric of every day. A dictator in North Korea executes his Uncle. Global hunger. Global economic unrest. Many are clamoring for a legislative solution. The moral fiber of society is unraveling. Everything seems upside down.

It was a similar milieu over two thousand years ago described as “when the fullness of time had come” which set the stage for the advent of Jesus into our world. The Western world was ruled by a self-described benevolent dictator in Rome whose methods for keeping peace were brutal and vicious. The country of Israel was run by a despot who was quickly going insane while his paranoia had him slaughtering family members and dozens of innocents (Matthew 2:16).

Into that morass of godless society a child was born. A story was begun. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And that story is still worth telling.

[Spoiler Alert] The ending is truly magnificent. This child became a Savior. His selfless sacrifice on a Roman cross on our behalf gave us life. And hope. And joy to the world.

Even Scrooge had a second chance. It is never too late for redemption to pierce even the hardest heart. On the last page of our opening story the author described Scrooge this way: “His own heart laughed…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

Write your own version of that story. Let every word make a difference. Change the world word by word.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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Diligence Rewarded

by Steve Laube

The ease of today’s social media communication brings a casual layer to the task of writing. Careful composition is trumped by the need for speed. For most “throw away” emails and posts that is the new normal. But it should never leak into the business of writing, either in craft or in delicate communication.

The other day I received an email query/proposal. There was a very large file attached and the body of the email read, “Here is my book. Please take a look.” No signature line, that was it. At least it rhymed. This was not a friend, a client, or someone I had ever met. But the casual, even flippant, nature of the note all but says, “I’m not serious about the craft or business of writing.”

The best writers are those who take their ideas and their words and run them through a gauntlet of critique and reformation. They pour their words into a garlic press and slice and dice them into bits that can flavor their entire book.

This takes time. This takes hard work. And it is a process that seems endless.

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Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

by Steve Laube

You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.

1.  Your Book Will Soon Be Published

Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.

In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.

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A New Book by C.S. Lewis!

by Steve Laube

If you want the perfect gift for the bibliophile in your life consider this new book from C. S. Lewis called Image and Imagination (under $20 in paperback). To quote the description from the Cambridge University Press site:

This selection from the writings of C. S. Lewis gathers together forty book reviews, never before reprinted, as well as four major essays which have been unavailable for many decades. A fifth essay, ‘Image and Imagination’, is published for the first time.

Included are his reviews of Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

But the crowning jewel is the 20 page essay “Image and Imagination.” This unpublished piece was found handwritten in a ruled notebook used by Lewis for his early drafts. Walter Hooper, who compiled this book, suggests that the essay was originally intended for but never sent to T.S. Eliot’s journal The Criterion in 1931. It is a rather dense exploration of ideas which, like much of Lewis’ academic work, demands much concentration of the reader.

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Thank a Bookseller

by Steve Laube

With this being Thanksgiving week I thought it appropriate to urge you to take a moment, visit your local bookseller, and say, “Thank you for supporting books!”

As I wrote elsewhere, it is tough to be in the retail side of the business. Online sales, rising rent and utilities, rising salaries, etc. are competition enough. I know many booksellers who are in the business for the love of the business not that they think they will become millionaires. They still enjoy the thrill of matching a customer’s need with just the right product. I still remember being honored when a customer came back and thanked me for recommending a particular book to them. One man even decided to go to seminary and enter the pastorate after reading a recommended title.

So before you join the chorus of pundits who seem to be gleefully announcing the demise of the bookseller, let us not forget they are real people with real jobs doing a real service to your community.

And despite the rise of e-books, the physical book is still at least 70% of all book sales. And a lot of those sales happen in a brick and mortar location.

We all have a part in a grand business. The business of changing the world word by word. Authors, agents, editors, marketers, public relations, sales, production, executives, designers, warehousing, accountants, shippers, printers, booksellers, AND readers. Quite a team we make. I, for one, am thankful for them all.

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