Jul. 9, 2010

You Are There

by Erica Jong

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just

To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

"You Are There" by Erica Jong, from Love Comes First. © Penguin Group, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of blockbuster best-selling author Dean Koontz, (books by this author) born in Everett, Pennsylvania (1945). He grew up in an impoverished, drunken, and violent home, and after he went away to college he converted to Catholicism, he said, because it helped him make sense of the chaos of his childhood and to appreciate mysteries in life.

He sold the first short story he ever wrote and then got 75 rejections before selling his next story. Now, he's one of the most highly paid authors in the world — the sixth highest, to be exact, tied in that place with John Grisham at 25 million dollars of earnings per year. (The top five, in order: J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel). Koontz's books have sold 400 million copies. Eleven hardcovers and more than a dozen paperbacks have been No. 1 New York Times best-sellers.

He works 10 or 11 hours a day, usually five days a week. He says that on good days, he winds up with five or six pages of finished work. But on bad days, he ends up with only a third of a page. Rather than writing a quick first draft and coming back to it later, he revises each page of the novel, however long it takes — 20 or 30 times is normal — before he feels good moving on to write the next page. He said, "I began this ceaseless polishing out of self-doubt, as a way of preventing self-doubt from turning into writer's block: by doing something with the unsatisfactory page, I wasn't just sitting there brooding about it."

He said: "I have more self-doubt than any writer I've ever known. ... The positive aspect of self-doubt — if you can channel it into useful activity instead of being paralyzed by it — is that by the time you reach the end of a novel, you know precisely why you made every decision in the narrative, the multiple purposes of every metaphor and image."

His novels are often set in Newport Beach, California. They often feature intelligent Labrador retrievers, bougainvillea flowers, unethical scientists, and references to T.S. Eliot and Alice in Wonderland.

Dean Koontz said, "Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. [And] sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled."

It's the birthday of the "Queen of Romance," a woman who wrote more than 700 books: Barbara Cartland, (books by this author) born in Birmingham, England (1901). She said: "As [my] plots are always similar, I must vary the situations, and I must have exciting and real backgrounds. [...] This is the part that interests me most."

It's the birthday of the man called "the poet laureate of medicine," neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, (books by this author) born in London in 1933. He has devoted his career to studying people with unusual neurological disorders and writing about them so that they are whole people rather than simply case studies. His first book was Migraine (1970), about migraine headaches, and it got good reviews.

He went on to write several more books in the same vein, including Seeing Voices (1989), The Island of the Colorblind (1997), and the best-selling book of essays The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), about people living with a variety of neurological disorders. His recent book Musicophilia (2007) is about the sometimes bizarre connections between music and the brain.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
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  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
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  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
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