Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writers Helping Writers?

In 2004, Nicola Nikolov, an émigré to the U.S. in 1976 from communist Bulgaria, walked into William Dailey Rare Books in Los Angeles with a small archive of letters.

Briefly recounting a dark biography past and reduced, if freer, circumstances present, he told of his life as a published Bulgarian author and his difficulty establishing a writing career for himself in the United States. It was extremely important to him that his writing be accepted.

In August of 1978, he wrote, heart in hand, two-page long, well-written, typed letters to a small number of American novelists, with full, dire biographical details, limning his struggles to get read by the New York publishing establishment, and sincerely requesting that the novelists read and evaluate a few stories that he had enclosed. He saved their responses.
Stephen J. Gerz on the Bookpatrol blog has a fascinating story to tell about the compassion (or not) of  some successful American authors towards a struggling writer who needed their help.  Kurt Vonnegut (left) emerges as the most compassionate.

Thing is, though, I can really sympathise with the authors who said that they did not have time to read his manuscript too.  Kindness eats terribly into writing time.

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