A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for March, 2012

When Is a Book a Book?

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2012

I’ve been seeing some strange things in the worlds of writing and publishing recently. I’ve been seeing more and more people talk about the books they have written — yet many of these people haven’t published a damn thing! Excuse me, but they are aspiring writers and authors, NOT authors!

I have had the good fortune of having had 15 poetry collections published over the years, actually during a 14 year time span. That’s pretty good production. And at least half of these books were solicited by the publishers. But that’s another story. But the way I looked at it — and I guess the way I still look at it — is a book is not a book until it’s been published. A book that someone’s written that has not been published is a manuscript people, not a damn book! Quit trying to take credit when you haven’t done a damn thing. I worked my damn ASS off to get those 15 books published and I really don’t appreciate hearing all of these people out there these days talking about their novel or their book when it’s merely a manuscript, and quite frankly, one that may never be published. Of course, that brings up the notion of self publishing, which has really taken off, but that’s another topic.

Do you folks see my point? Is it fair for those non-published writers to claim to be authors with books when in fact, they do not have books at all — just pieces of paper floating around a desk? I’m starting to get sick and tired of it, and it especially galls me when I see so many of these aspiring, or even failed, writers give writing and publishing advice on their blogs. What the hell is that about? How dare they pass themselves off as experts when they’re anything but experts???

I have taught creative writing classes and I’ve taught classes on how to get published — the right way. I realize things are changing and there are more opportunities for the masses to get their work out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s good work when anyone can publish an e-book and declare themself an author.

Well, I guess I sound old and grouchy. If so, I apologize. I’ve had a long day and face daily aches and pains that I shouldn’t have at this age. So, if anyone reads this blog post, I’d be curious to see what you have to say about this topic. When IS a book a book? When it’s been written, or when it’s been published? I’d really like to know. Thanks.

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MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Baseball Rankings – MaxPreps News

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 30, 2012

My high school alma mater, Knoxville’s Farragut, is off to another great start to their baseball season. They’re currently ranked sixth in the country by MaxPreps. They’re going after their fifth straight state championships, and eighth of the last 10 years. Go Admirals! (BTW, I think we’re something like 12-0 now….)

6.  Farragut Knoxville, Tenn., 5-0

The Admirals opened the season last week with five straight wins, including a pair of shutouts. Farragut clobbered Lenoir City 19-0 in the opener and then edged Heritage 5-2. It followed with an 8-0 win over Soddy Daisy, a 7-4 win over Father Ryan and a 7-4 win over Station Camp at the Scenic City Classic. Cameron Strickland, Nick Senzel and David Logan all hit home runs against Lenoir City. A.J. Simcox added a homer against Heritage. Simcox also went 4-for-4 against Father Ryan.

via MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Baseball Rankings – MaxPreps News.

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Poetry Readings and Book Sales

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 29, 2012

Most writers have to give readings of their work. Usually this is done to introduce oneself to a new and larger audience, and perhaps more importantly, to generate book sales. As the author of 15 poetry collections, I’ve given TONS of readings all over America. And much of the time it’s been fun. But it can be dreary and sometimes even depressing as well. What do you do, for instance, when no one shows up at your reading? Does the standing room only crowd at another reading make up for that? And just how many book sales ARE generated from readings?

The first poetry reading I ever gave was back in the 1980s at the long gone Black and Read bookstore in Knoxville, TN, where I was getting my undergraduate degree. That reading was shared by several people. My first reading I gave as the featured poet was at the also long gone Davis Kidd bookstore, also in Knoxville. There weren’t very many people at the first one. There were over 70 people filling the small indie bookstore for the second one.  (I was somewhat popular in college.)

Over the years, I’ve given poetry readings at universities, bookstores, sidewalks, bars, coffee shops, auditoriums, and even nightclubs. They’ve all been different too. My most depressing reading was at a coffee shop in Huntington Beach, CA. Not very many people showed up. My biggest readings have been at universities. Quite a few people came to hear me at UCLA and later, back at the University of Tennessee. I’ve read at other universities too. The strangest reading I ever did was at a Phoenix nightclub, where my reading provided the backdrop to an artsy fashion show. Talk about weird! I also really enjoyed the magazine publication readings out in California, especially for Pearl, Caffeine, and Saturday Afternoon Journal. I always looked forward to those.

I did a lot of readings on the West coast and parts of the Southwest back in 1996 in an effort to promote my new book, Places. It had gotten really good reviews around the world, and I’d gotten some good publicity in various newspapers around the country, especially in Tennessee and California. I took copies of the book with me to sell. And the results were always disappointing. Either people had already bought the book at bookstores carrying it, or they just didn’t care to have it, even if I autographed it.

Here are some stats. These are from my memory, circa mid-’90s. The average press run for a book of poetry in America at the time was 700 copies. At the time, 51% of Americans bought one or more books each year. Of that 50%, 1% bought a poetry book. See where I’m going with this? It gets worse. The standard royalty rate for an author is 8%, and since poetry books don’t sell and since only 700 copies are published, poets can’t pay their rent or mortgage on what they make. Indeed, they rarely even break even when you consider the paper, printing ink, postage, phone call costs, travel, etc., of everything involved in getting a book published. Basically, you lose money. So, you try and help yourself and your publisher out by taking copies to readings to sell. But they don’t sell. And that’s tragic.

Of my 15 poetry collections, one was published with only 100 copies. Fortunately, it did go through four press runs, but still. 2,000 copies of Places were published. It sold OK, I guess, but I still have a box and a half of copies of the book in my garage — books my publisher couldn’t unload. My guess is, hundreds….

I was fortunate in that most of my books sold well enough to sell out. Some were re-printed; others were not. And so it goes. Did giving poetry readings help my book sales? To a small degree, yes, I’m sure. Did I become a best selling poet through poetry readings? I’ll stop laughing now. You get the picture. Here’s a final request: go to book readings. Hear what authors are publishing. Buy their books and get them autographed. Authors appreciate the support and the sales. Book lovers — do the right thing. Support poetry readings and all book readings. Seek them out. I think both writer and audience will find it rewarding.

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Stan Van Gundy calls notion of Kentucky Wildcats defeating Washington Wizards ‘absurd’ – ESPN

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 29, 2012

NEW YORK — Stan Van Gundy said Wednesday the notion that Kentucky could beat an NBA team is “absurd.

“The Orlando Magic coach was asked about comments by former Maryland coach Gary Williams, who told a Washington radio station he thought the Wildcats could beat the NBA’s Washington Wizards in one game at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats, the favorites to win the NCAA championship, have multiple players who are expected to be NBA lottery picks. Forward Anthony Davis could be the No. 1 overall pick if he enters the draft.

That’s not enough for Van Gundy.

“Look, it’s absurd,” he said before the Magic faced the New York Knicks. “I mean, people will say, ‘Oh, Kentucky, you know’s, got four NBA players.’ Yeah, well the other team’s got 13.

“Van Gundy said the talent level, experience and age of the players would favor the NBA team, even one as bad as the Wizards 11-38.

“Could anything happen on a one-night thing? I mean, I suppose, you have major upsets all the time. So, maybe, but it’d be rare and in a series it’d be a joke,” Van Gundy said. “It wouldn’t be close. That’s just the way it is. John Calipari’s got a lot of talent; he does not have 13 NBA players. He just doesn’t. And even if those guys all are, they’re all NBA rookies. I mean, when has that ever been a success in the NBA? So, no, they’re not going to win.

“Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

via Stan Van Gundy calls notion of Kentucky Wildcats defeating Washington Wizards ‘absurd’ – ESPN.

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Eyes Right

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2012

I’m a big fan of Tracy Crow, a former Marine who was a grad school pal of mine. She’s come out with a new book on her times in the Marines, and it’s doing well. I lifted this post from her blog a few minutes ago. I encourage all to pick this book up for a read. Good stuff…



My interview about EYES RIGHT with editor Mary Akers

By now, you’ve probably heard the book is out there. Yes, even in Barnes & Noble, no less. Some are finding EYES RIGHT placed with new releases, and some of us are finding it in the military section.

But this morning, I answered a few questions for editor, Mary Akers. Here’s the entire interview.

LinkPosted by Tracy Crow at 2:01 PM

via Eyes Right.

Eyes Right

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Swimming In The Trees

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh, my heart is broken

Adrienne Rich has died. I am weeping. This is the poem that has been in my heart since I was a teenager, and led me to read so much more of her. I feel like I have lost a light.

“Prospective Immigrants Please Note” by Adrienne Rich


Either you will

go through this door

or you will not go through.


If you go through

there is always the risk

of remembering your name.


Things look at you doubly

and you must look back

and let them happen.


If you do not go through

it is possible

to live worthily


to maintain your attitudes

to hold your position

to die bravely


but much will blind you,

much will evade you,

at what cost who knows?


The door itself makes no promises.

It is only a door.


Posted by jessica handler at 6:09 PM

via Swimming In The Trees.



This was posted on my friend Jessica’s blog today. I was never a monster fan of Rich, but admired her skill, her craft, and I do feel sorrow at her passing. Thanks to Jessica for noting this today…

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