Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Conversations with William Claire

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: William F. Claire Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 8:28 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: with no F.


There are some sobering thoughts in your email about the future of the internet that I’ll have to think about; I’ve printed them out to think about them. Generally speaking, I’ve discovered that the more unsifted information people have, the more dangerous situations develop…like intelligence from the Pentagon(where I once worked) to people who think they know it all and act on that preposterous assumption.

The Quotations website you set up sounds remarkable…and truly pioneering on the internet. You should be more famous that google.

Four or five years ago everybody you met seemed to ask “do you have a website?” but no one seems to ask anymore. Of course, I could be dead wrong about this, and will take your very helpful suggestions and check it out. If I thought I could sell 10 copies of my recent book, I’d give it a try. Apparently Oprah doesn’t interview poets. At least she hasn’t called. Sigh.

I’d be honored to give you a para bio.Would I do that on here, or on your quotations site.

Thank you for your time and patience with me.

Bill Claire

From: Laura Moncur Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2004 12:02 PM To: William F. Claire Subject: Re: with no F.


You can just email your biography to me and Mike will put it in the database.

You’re right, the Internet was a fad a few years ago. When the bottom fell out of the Dot Com Industry, it seems like everyone got scared of it (financially speaking). The Internet is not a fad anymore, but it will change publishing as we know it. Cory Doctorow (http://www.craphound.com/fic/listing.html) is a sci-fi writer who has put all of his works online for anyone to download for free. He has found that making his books available online has only increased sales. The same is true for the music industry (although they don’t want to admit it). I suspect that copyright law is going to change drastically or even become obsolete. I don’t know what this future is going to look like, but I’m excited to be a part of it.

I must admit that I have had a hard time enjoying poetry. I can read it, but I don’t find that it touches me as much as it should. Sometimes I feel like the only one not laughing at the joke, as if I’ve missed the punch line somehow. Other times I feel that if I could just solve the riddle, then the poetry would evoke the emotions that it should. I guess I end up feeling stupid because I don’t have the same emotional response as other people say they do. I’d rather read a Calculus book. At least I know that I’ll eventually conquer what’s making me feel stupid. So many times, I still don’t feel emotionally connected even when the poem is explained to me.

Poetry coupled with music speaks more to me somehow. There have been times when I have read the lyrics to a song and not really felt anything and then actually heard the song with the lyrics and have become bonded with the song in a strange way that I can’t explain. Maybe it’s because music has such a guttural response. The beat and rhythm evoke primitive reactions in me that I cannot explain.

Then again, there is always Jazz. It is music and beat and I know that I’m supposed to love it. It’s the cultural thing to do. Jazz is supposed to be the American epitome of music and most of the time I just want to puncture my ear drums when it’s playing. I’m not talking about Frank Sinatra and Billie Holliday. I’m not talking about the Blues and Early Jazz. I’m talking about Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I’m talking about the fifteen-minute songs that go nowhere. There is no emotional response from me except the primal scream of, “Someone turn that shit off right now!” I know I’m supposed to love it. I know the educated and elite enjoy this music and I should follow suit. I have tried to cultivate a taste for it, but I’ve fallen short every time.

Maybe that’s why Oprah hasn’t called. Maybe Poetry is the Jazz of the Literary World. We all know we are supposed to love it, but we don’t really get it and end up feeling stupid. Of course, Oprah’s audience is… Ok, I’ll admit. I have no idea what her demographic is. It just seems that her shows are geared toward women who have nothing better to do with their time than watch television. I know she’s trying to raise the bar and getting them to read some books, but honestly, I think that poetry might be a little high brow for them.

You said that if a website would sell 10 books, you would give it a try. I don’t know how much you get for each book, but Mike’s royalties are only about 25 cents per book. That’s only $2.50 by my calculations. Setting up a basic Live Journal account is free (http://www.livejournal.com/). There are problems with sites like this because you don’t have complete control over the data (your writing), so if you want to get it all off and put it on your own web server, it’s a pain in the butt. Additionally, you don’t control (or profit from) the advertisement that shows up on your site. Of course, the benefits are that you don’t have to pay for bandwidth and programming is very simple. There are tons of sites out there that provide publishing for free (or nearly so). Mike and I have two servers and he does all the programming to keep things alive, secure and running well. You could go that route, but Live Journal is free and easy to use. I figure if 14 year old girls with no training can update and alter their Live Journal sites, it must be easy to use. I’ve never used them and quite frankly, Live Journal has a reputation of being a place for 14 year old girls to pour out their hearts. There is probably a better place for you that’s a lot more respected. Yeah, now that I think of it, Salon.com is much more respected and they have a blog site (http://www.salon.com/blogs/). After checking out their site, it looks like they give you 30 days free and if you like it, it’s $40 a year after that.

I don’t know what’s best for you. You don’t seem to be a technophobe, so setting up your own web server might be within your reach with some training. The fact of the matter is that we are writers and mucking up our minds with programming loses that momentum for writing. When I transferred over to WordPress, my head was so full of worries about my entries transferring correctly that I’m still a little muddled as far as writing is concerned. All I wanted was an easy way to publish my work every day. If that’s what you want, then Live Journal is probably good enough for you. Spend thirty minutes a day writing to your public where everyone can see it. It’s a lot like radio, except everyone in the world who has a computer and can read English can pick up your signal. You don’t even need permission to broadcast, just the know-how.

This month alone, I had readers from the U.S. (13,998 hits), Taiwan (65), Australia (64), Canada (50), the U.K. (48), the Netherlands (32), Argentina (20), Singapore (16), Mexico (14), France (12), Brazil (9), South Africa (8), Austria (7), Russian Federation (7), Sweden (7), Thailand (7), U.S. Military (7) (apparently, I haven’t been blocked. Maybe if I talk about politics more, they’ll block me, who knows), Belgium (6), Hungary (6), Cayman Islands (6), New Zealand (6), Poland (6), Denmark (5), Japan (5), and Germany (4). That’s just so far this month. I have no idea what those 65 people in Taiwan found of interest on my site, but there they are, reading me avidly. Heck, half the time, I’m talking about video games I like to play. If I can get this readership, a famous poet like you with all of your life experience to share should bring tons of readers from all over the world. By the way, I don’t know if Live Journal will provide you with your stats like I have. I have no idea how they work. Mike uses a program called Webalizer (http://www.mrunix.net/webalizer/) to analyze the hits to our sites.

Man, I just read over this email and it’s too bloody long. I’m sorry for talking your ear off. It doesn’t matter to me if you get a website or not. Now that I have your email address, I could just forward any fan mail that comes our way to you. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that people publish their writing for a lot of reasons. Some people just want other people to read their work. They want to be heard. If that’s the case for you, there are a million people on the Internet just waiting for you to put your fingers to the keyboard. Other people want to earn a lot of money from publishing their work. Ironically, it’s looking like making yourself known in the computer world also gets you closer to that goal. Only the future will tell on that one.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Laura Moncur.


1 Comment »

  1. I just purchased Claire’s book of Mark Van Doren’s essays for a talk I gave to my retirement community on the the Van Doren brothers. They are so wonderful I purchased the books that went with each (as far as I could.) Has he any plans to do the same for Carl? I particularly liked Carl’s final essay at the end of MANY MINDS.

    Comment by gloria oden — 9/28/2004 @ 5:37 am

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