Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WiP Wednesday: Publish or Perish!

If you've been reading, you'll know that my WiP has been on hold for a while. Sure, I can blame it on our moving across town, or stress, but just between you and me, I haven't made much progress since the third week of JULY! But I have a feeling that once we're in the new place-- and I have my writing desk in a separate room, a space of my own-- that the story will come back to me.

Meantime, I've been trying to work my master's thesis into an article of publishable length. I figured that since I do tend to use historical settings, my professional publishing experience would be relevant to a query letter. Sure, it's not a published short story, but it's still proof that I can write well enough that a journal would accept my submission.

Writing this article has been a little like writing a synopsis. To bring a 75 page paper down to a 3K article means stripping away the "subplots" until I'm left with the meat of the argument. My thesis statement, if you will. Synopses for novels have this, too, except we call it theme. Is your novel's theme obvious from your synopsis?

Most importantly, I'm continuing to flex my writing muscles. Sure, it's technical, MLA writing, but sometimes it feels easier than spewing out prose. And I love immersing myself in history, wondering what life must have been like. The woman above, Sadie Irvine, was one of the most prolific decorators of Newcomb Pottery, an American Art Pottery made in New Orleans. The phot was taken circa 1912. Irvine worked as a decorator until 1929, when she became an instructor. She made her own wages and was an extremely independent woman for the time in which she lived. From the turn of the century to World War I, Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement dictated style, and the Newcomb College's pottery industry became a bit mired in these styles after they were out of date.

The topic of my paper (if you care) is that a particular style of vessel design that became popular with the buying public, actually limited the artistic development of the decorators and the led to the downfall of the pottery industry at Newcomb College. Luckily, this industry laid a foundation for craftsmanship, and the buildings currently house Tulane's Art Department, but Irvine herself even stated her eventual distaste for the design that she and her fellow decorators conceived.

"I have surely lived to regret it," she said many years later. "Our beautiful moss draped oak trees appealed to the buying public but nothing is less suited to the tall graceful vases -- no way to convey the true character of the tree. And oh, how boring it was to use the same motif over and over though each one was a fresh drawing..."

Kind of remids me of all the query letters I keep writing, changing them just enough to say each one is unique, yet feeling caught in a rut, never getting anywhere.

At least Sadie and her colleagues made something that will stand the test of time. They had strict quality control regulations, as well. No piece was given the Newcomb "mark" unless it was absolutely perfect.

After rediscovering this subject, one I haven't really thought about since I graduated and started writing fiction, I remember why I love art pottery and art history so much. Students ask why they should care about history. Well, people were alive then, too. Why shouldn't we care? And look at how much I've been able to take from my study of history that pertains to my own life, to the writing nd querying I've been doing. I'll take my lessons where I can find them. Especially since I don't have kids. People's writing blog posts are always full of gems their kids say that they can use to reflect on life, writing and other blog-worthy topics. With me, you'll just have to settle for some dead people and dusty vases.

Maybe next WiP Wednesday I'll have some fiction progress to report.

Don't hold your breath. ;)


Rebecca L Sutton said...

Wow, what a task! I always have so much admiration for people who have to write a thesis. Good for you, and yes it does sound like a really intersting topic. Best of luck on getting back in the WIP. I'm on the side of the arguement that think it's okay to step away sometimes, so you'll get there when you're ready! Best of luck on everything. ; )

Abby said...

Cool subject for your thesis. I love pottery and art history. And I absolutely adore Art Nouveau.

We're like WIP twins. ;) Fizzled out around the end of July. Nothing new since then. I don't even have a good excuse, like moving. But I'm feeling like I'll be ready to get back to it as soon as I get my revisions done. Yea! :)

Good luck!

TereLiz said...

Rebecca, thanks, it was a lot of work, but not as hard as novel-writing most of the time.

Abby, LOL, your perfectly good excuse is sweating over revisions! Speaking of sweating, I'm sure our muses will return when it cools down a little. I can't pretend to be in Paris in the winter when it's 95 degrees out.

ElanaJ said...

Publish or Perish is the name of a lit agency and I thought you were going to announce that you'd signed with them! You'll have tons of progress next week. Repeat this. Over and over. :)

TereLiz said...

Elana, don't I wish! Professors hoping for tenure are the ones I usually hear using the phrase, but I had heard of the lit agency. Not sure if they take my genre, but it's worth looking into. Thanks!