by Melodie Johnson Howe
I am in the midst of teaching at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference so my time is limited. Here are some random thoughts and random passions. Can a passion be random?
Tim Rutten recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times about why there is no western outcry about the Islamists reaction to Salman Rushdie being knighted by the queen. Iâ€™m glad Mr. Rutten has finally written this column. He is one of a few who have taken on the deadly silence of our authors and editors. Though I donâ€™t remember such a column, there my have been one, about Theo Van Gough being murdered on a Denmark street by a young Islamist. The man was angered by the directorâ€™s unfinished film about the degradation of women in the Muslim world. And I certainly donâ€™t remember the righteous film community mourning one of their brothers at the Oscars. They were too busy falling all over Michael Moore who doesnâ€™t have to worry about being murdered for his films, unless he chooses to make a documentary about the degradation of women in the Muslim culture. Iâ€™d love to see that. Go Michael!
My first book came out at the same time as Rushdieâ€™s The Satanic Verses, and the death sentence placed on him by the Islamists. I was talking to my editor at Viking and I remember her saying she had to leave her office because the bomb-sniffing dogs were being brought in. We laughed! That was before 911.
The writers conference: I listened to an agent talk about the â€œpitch letter.â€ From what I gathered he would like the letter to be written on nice paper with a pretty envelope. And he would like to be complemented in the opening sentence. I wanted to puke. I left.
The writers conference: a group of wonderful people testing the writing waters, putting themselves out there to be heard and critiqued. What have I discovered? Most of the new writers are too nice. You canâ€™t be nice and be a writer. You canâ€™t be afraid of your emotions, your unconscious. You canâ€™t be middle-class. You can live in a middle class structure, but you canâ€™t write in one. Whatâ€™s the famous Tolstoy observation? â€œHappy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.â€