Friday, 10 June 2016

7 Quick Takes 33: A Tale of the Pen and the Spirit

Or, a would-be novelist's tale of vanity and woe.

Or, why I'm changing my blog name.

1. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, in a neighbourhood where a single man in possession of a fortune - call him Ishmael - must be in want of a wife...

Rewind the purple prose.

That is to say, a long time ago, I had aspirations to write novels, inspired mainly by being homesick, bored, and unemployed in Mississippi. Because of the homesickness, I started writing very British themes, including a reimagining of an Arthurian legend. In the rounds and rounds of submissions (back in the days when you actually had to send letters), one got misdirected due to a printing error in a directory, and I got a call from England from a gentleman who had set up his own press to help small-time and local authors. He wanted to publish the novel, and was willing to put the money up front and have me pay back my own share from profits. It seemed like a good gamble.

In anticipation of literary fame, I bought web hosting and a domain name and decided to use it for a blog. I called it The Pen and the Spirit because I was going to write about writing and spiritual matters. Original, I know - but I'm terrible at titles. I found a stained-glass style picture of a man with a quill, which fitted nicely. I must have had lots of that stuff called time, because I ran it as two blogs that no one read.

2. Meanwhile, the novelist's career wasn't panning out. The publisher sent the book to the press before I'd finished the final edits - and it came back with a glaring typo on the back blurb. I wasn't sure enough of myself to demand he make the printer redo the run, so there it was. Friends and family bought it, and said some nice things, but the publicity promised turned out to be minimal. Gradually, I got rid of my author's copies, and just have one tucked at the back of my shelf. No, I'm not revealing the title. Surprisingly, it wasn't that catchy.

3. So, the blog lapsed. But I didn't give up writing. I joined an online critique group, and started submitting again. Eventually, a combination of rising enthusiasm and free blogs from Google enticed me to begin blogging anew. I called the new blog... The Pen and the Spirit because I couldn't think of a better name, even though it was only going to be about writing. To be precise, about neglected classics and releases from small presses and independent/self-publishers. I enjoyed researching and sharing about quirky reads and authors. I even got a handful of followers.

4. Then, I landed an agent who "loved" my medieval mystery. I signed a contract and got to tell everyone that I had a literary agent. Except she was the only one who turned out to love the book, because she didn't manage to sell it. We went back and forth on what to do next, and I started a twentieth century cozy mystery inspired by Edith Nesbit's characters, but I got stuck revising it.

5. My life was being consumed by an ambition - publishing - that never came to fruition. Eventually, sanity intervened. I decided to take a break, perhaps for good. Not writing for several months was cathartic. I was free of the stress I'd invented for myself. But then, a trip to Dorset and the home of Lawrence of Arabia set a story going in my head. I banged it out for a year. This time, I had a plan. I was going to edit it, try to get a local publisher, and if that didn't work, then self-publish. At least it would be out there...

6. ... but I got unexpectedly pregnant. For me, this means 24-hour nausea and vomiting for several months. I couldn't edit a word, and when I did start to feel better, I knew it was no use preparing a manuscript for publication when I'd have a baby and no time to promote it.

So, once my days no longer began with an intimate look at the toilet bowl, I set myself the small goal of blogging again, and linking to Seven Quick Takes twice a month. And I renamed the blog... The Pen and the Spirit, because I still couldn't come up with anything else. Did I mention I suck at titles?

7. Now, a little over a year later, and with a little wisdom gathered from reading other Seven Quick Takes linkups, our family came to the conclusion that everything had to go out of the window to save our sanity - even the job that actually paid money. I finally admitted to myself that what I'm actually best at doing is helping others to write better, one-on-one. I decided, once the aforementioned sanity is somewhat restored, to slowly build up a writing services business. But now I really needed a new name to convey me and my business and be a 'brand' across all 'platforms' (see, I've got the lingo). And... another thing that Seven Quick Takes has done for me is honed my titling (is that a verb?). After some vague meditation, inspiration struck: The Runcible Pen. It fits. It's quirky, a little old fashioned, but with a sense of dedication to the craft of writing. At least, that's what it said to me. I tried it out on my daughters, and they didn't quite say "meh", but almost. But I'm stubborn, so I paid for the domain name so that no one else could get rich off it. And here we are.

L--d! said my mother, what is this story all about?--
A COCK and a BULL, said Yorick--And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.

For Quick Takes from people who probably have fewer novels under the bed, skip on over to Kelly's at This Ain't the Lyceum.


  1. The Runcible Pen is a fantastic name! Good luck with all the new writery-things :-)

    1. Thanks - I've enjoyed checking in on The Accidental Organist, too!

  2. I like the name. It's different.

    1. Thank you. I've always thought that Literature and Angels has an ethereal ring to it!