The Writing Life, Part Two

By the time you read this, given the changeableness already demonstrated, my facts may be out of date.  First, President Trump’s tariff on all books imported from China was to be 25 percent; then it was 10 percent and to go into effect September first, then not all books just all books except religious books (Bibles and Korans), and then children’s books would be exempt until December 15th because “We’re doing this for the Christmas season just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers.” 

“Politics is not a bad profession.  If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.”  Ronald Reagan

An essay in the June 17th Publishers Weekly argued against tariffs on books.  A large percentage of books for children of all ages are printed in China for U.S. publishers.  In 2017, the average retail price for an illustrated juvenile book was $20.01.  Underfunded public libraries and bookstores operating on slender margins will face new financial challenges.   Publishers having to pass on the extra cost of tariffs would impact sales to families and to libraries already on tight budgets.

“Beneath the rule of men entirely great/ The pen is mightier than the sword.”  Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  

Of course, anything that affects the publishing industry badly, trickles down to the authors, editors, agents, and publicists.  The July /August issue of Poets & Writers reports  that opportunities for publishing careers are shrinking.  “Over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people workings in book publishing has plummeted from just more than 91,000 in 1997 to roughly 60,000 at the end of 2018.”

“Advice to writers: sometimes you just have to stop writing.  Even before you begin.”  Stanislaw J. Lec

Still, not all the statistics are grim.  First-time author Cliff Sim’s nonfiction book Team of Vipers went from number twelve to number six on Amazon’s bestseller list after our president’s no-stars revue on Twitter.

*Written by Carol Cail. Read more from Carol at

The Writing Life, Part One

The Authors Guild, founded in 1912 as The Authors League of America, is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization of writers.  From time to time, the guild conducts a survey of its members’ incomes, “to learn how best to align our work with today’s authors’ needs.”  The 2018 survey was completed by 5,067 published authors—-traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published.  [Hybrid publishers are a new trend; they form partnerships with authors, both parties sharing costs and profits equally.]  The median writing-related income  was $6,080, down 42% from the 2009 survey.  Poverty level incomes make it impossible for writers to support themselves on writing alone.  Why the decline?  Self-publishing and inexpensive e-books mean there are more books on the market than ever before, yet in spite of the boom in quantity, the total number of books sold has been flat for the past five years.  Supply exceeding demand results in less revenue per author.

“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”  Jules Renard  (1864-1910)

And that ain’t all, folks.  Newspaper advertising and circulation revenues in the U. S. are down, way down.  Advertising in 2006 brought in $49 billion, in 2016 it was $18 billion.  Why?  That’s right.  Readers are turning to digital distributors of news—Facebook , Google, etc.—so newspapers are struggling and disappearing.  In the 1960s through the 1990s, total Sunday circulation was more than 60 million.  In 2016, it was 38 million, the lowest since 1945. 

“The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.”   Leo Rosten

Ahhh, but all is not lost.  Have you heard of the Future Library?  In a protected forest north of Oslo, Norway, 1,000 spruce trees have been planted in a project that will let them mature until 2114, when they will be harvested and made into paper for a collection of books.  Writers are invited to contribute unpublished works in any genre or language.  Amid the current pessimistic prognoses for print, the Future Library is a bright spot of optimism.

To be continued . . . .

*Written by Carol Cail. Read more from Carol at

The All-Quotations Column

Children’s author Roald Dahl issued this behest: 
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

Here following are observations from other people worth quoting.

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. [Tomie dePaola]

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.[Mason Cooley]

A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. [Neil Gaiman]

No furniture is so charming as books. [Sydney Smith]

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. [Austin Phelps]

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. [St. Augustine]

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. [Oscar Wilde]

Books are like lobster shells; we surround ourselves with ‘em, then we grow out of ‘em and leave ‘em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development. [Dorothy L. Sayers]

Properly, we should read for power.  Man reading should be man intensely alive.  The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand. [Ezra Pound] 

We lose ourselves in books. We find ourselves there, too. [Anonymous]

There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It’s like falling in love. [Christopher Morley] 

A good book is enjoyable.  A great book sets off a bomb inside you. [Ned Hepburn]

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. [Angela Carter]

No two people ever read the same book. [Edmund Wilson]

The book you don’t read won’t help. [Jim Rohn]

I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage. [Charles De Secondat]

I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy. [Frank Zappa]

I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound—if I can remember any of the damn things. [Dorothy Parker]

*Written by Carol Cail. Read more from Carol at

Paradoxes Are Serious Fun

If you search on the library’s website for author Mardy Grothe, you’ll find several books on various wordplay topics, including metaphors, aphorisms, and -ifisms.  Oxymoronica (428GRO) is one of the most rewarding.  A dictionary definition: “Ox-y-mor-on-i-ca (OK-se-mor-ON-uh-ca) noun, plural: Any variety of tantalizing, self-contradictory statements or observations that on the surface appear false or illogical, but at a deeper level are true, often profoundly true.”  Examples?  “Common sense is not so common.” – [Voltaire].  “The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.” – Ursula K. Le Guin. “I’m as pure as the driven slush.” – [Tallulah Bankhead}. P.G. Wodehouse wrote the following oxymoronic dedication to his 1926 book, Heart of a Goof:  “To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.”

One of the very best places to lose yourself on-line is  The owner/operator of this information trove is Gregg Ross, who describes it as a database of more than 10,000 items. . .“entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible.”  Here following are two example anecdotes—-paraphrased so I don’t get into trouble over copyright!

  1. During his Oxford University days, Oscar Wilde was assigned a bit of the New Testament to orally translate from Greek to English. Midway, the examiner, satisfied, called a halt.  Wilde is purported to have said, “Oh, do let me go on.  I want to see how it ends.”  
  2. Poet Robert Lowell spent a few days in jail for refusing to register for the draft during World War II.  He shared a cell, or one within talking distance, with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, a member of the Mob.  Lepke introduced himself as being in for killing somebody. He wanted to know what Lowell’s crime was.  “I’m in for refusing to kill.”  (The more you think about it, the more it makes you think.)

And from our old friend Anonymous comes this exhortation:  “TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six.  Open your child’s imagination.  Open a book.”

*Written by Carol Cail. Read more from Carol at

Word Play or Work?

First, a rather scary reminder from Henry David Thoreau.  “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

The Paris Metro inspires poetry

Here’s a game you probably haven’t played, since a city rail transit service is the main requirement. It’s “Metro Poems,” invented by Jacques Jouet, who frequented the Paris Metro in the mid-1990s. The rules are easy but sound difficult to follow. You board the train, and as soon as it leaves the station, you mentally compose the first line of a poem.  When the train stops at the second station, you write the line down.  You think of a second line to the poem while the train travels to the third station. When the train stops, you write the second line down. And so on from stop to stop. You aren’t allowed to write anything while the train is moving.  You aren’t allowed to think of another line while the train is stopped.  When you reach your destination station and disembark, you write the last line on the platform. If you take the Paris Metro, you’ll have to think fast, because the average run between two stations is a minute and a half.

If you aren’t a versifier, here’s another way to entertain yourself when there’s nothing better to do. Some readers viewing Jack Dann’s 1984 science fiction novel, The Man Who Melted, noticed the wording of the cover seemed to run together thus: The Man Who Melted Jack Dunn.  This led folks to look for other amusing amalgamations of titles and authors.  For example: The Joy of Cooking Irma S. Rombauer,  Contact Carl Sagan, and Flush Virginia Wolf. I found one on my bookshelf which rather perturbs me—Death Kindly Stopped Carol Cail.
Mark Twain could always be relied on to render a wise and succinct quote.  Here’s one:  “The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail.  The trouble with most fictions is that you want them all to land in hell together, as quickly as possible.”

May all the books you borrow or buy turn out to be heavenly.

*Written by Carol Cail. Read more from Carol at