Monthly Archives: April 2019

Gesamtlebenswerk (Total Life Work)- On Art and Living

Richard Wagner had a term for the complete synthesis of music and drama. He called it Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total art work’. I will go one up. My term is called Gesamtlebenswerk and it means ‘total life work’. It signifies the complete integration of artistry and living life.

The idea of Gesamtlebenswerk started at JS’s place after Easter brunch. We were sitting in the study debating how they should restore the Notre Dame Cathedral (which had burned down the week prior). JS is one of the premier building restoration superintendents in the city, and his natural reaction was to build it back to the original specifications of Eugène Violett-le-Duc. That’s what they did when York Minster burned in 1984. I sat on the other side of the debate, wondering if they would use this opportunity to rebuild the spire higher–even higher than any Master Builder could climb with a commemorative wreath. I love bigger and better. The Cathedral of Chartres (in 1194 and 1836) and Metz (in 1877) have provided my view a precedent as well: when rebuilding, go with the latest and greatest, not a replica.

The conversation eventually drifted to Notre Dame’s position in the pantheon of European cathedrals and then to the relationship between the building and the architect. It was at this point that either JS or L quoted the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral: “If you want to understand me, look around you (e.g. at the cathedral).” Though their recollection of the quote was slightly off (it actually reads Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around”), it got me thinking: could it be possible to integrate life, work, and vision in a unity as Wren had done? Could it be possible for an author to lose or subsume individuality into his creation of art as perfectly as Wren had done, once upon a time? This idea is what I mean by Gesamtlebenswerk. And yes, that is so cool how German allows you to stack all these nouns and adjectives together.

The traditional view advocates for a separation between author and work. The artist creates the work and sends it out into the world. At this point, the work becomes independent, as it becomes thrall to interpreters who will judge it. The work takes on an identity of its own, one formed by the interaction between the text, image, or sound and its interpreter-judges. So far, so good. But then the question arises: if a book (or painting or musical piece) is defined by its reception, what the defines its creator? In the traditional view, the creation does not define the creator. But in this Gesamtlebenswerk model, the creator subsumes his individuality into the art world through his creation. If that sounds complicated, here are some straightforward examples.

The “Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwright Competition” (what a handful, I have to shorten this name!) has been running for over a year now. I cofounded the competition with Langham Court Theatre. Whenever playwrights participate, I try to befriend them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Many of them accept my invitation. The initial goal was to project the project into social media feeds. But what’s happened is that my newsfeed from friends has been overwhelmed from the newsfeed from my new playwright friends. And, since my connection with these new Facebook friends is based on a mutual appreciation for art and theatre, it draws my own individuality into the art world. Drawn into my book’s orbit, I am become art. Oh yes, if you’re reading for the first time, the playwright competition is based on a theory of drama I wrote called The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected. And yes, I consider the interpretation of art–or aesthetics, as the philosophers call it–to be an art form in itself.

Here’s another example of Gesamtlebenswerk. I enrolled in match.com, a dating site, a few days ago. Usually, people write quite vague descriptions on their profiles. “I like going for walks,” “I like movies,” or “I like to travel.” This isn’t very helpful, as this is the sort of stuff everyone likes. More daring folks might be more specific, as in: “I like walks along the sand,” “I like Paris in the spring,” and so on. But here too, it’s hard to see a person’s character. And character, I think, is what people want to see.

When writing my own profile on match.com, I remembered how Wren had said “If you want to see who I am, look at what I’ve been doing.” This is the writeup I came up with. Its goal is to integrate life and the pursuit of art. Like my Facebook page, I am integrating myself with my artistic endeavours.

WRITER, PHILANTHROPIST, PROJECT MANAGER, BLOGGER, PROMOTER.

Hello! Here’s a little about me. My book, “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected,” has just hit the bookstores. It’s about a subject I’m really passionate about: theatre and performing arts. It was thirteen years in the writing.

I also sponsor (this is the philanthropy part) an international playwright competition at Langham Court Theatre. The competition is based on the book, which invites dramatists to dramatize and simulate risk on the stage. During the day, I’m a project manager for a construction company. During the evenings, I’m promoting my book, blogging, and managing the Risk Theatre Playwriting Competition. Did you know that, in our first year, 182 playwrights from 11 countries participated? It’s my life’s work to see how far this idea of theatre can go. I believe that we have an obligation to understand risk in today’s world, and the best way to learn about risk is to explore it on the stage.

How would my friends describe me? They would say that I’m generous, approachable, and down to earth. They would also say that I am opinionated, but they would also add I’m a good listener. They find that I’m sort of a walking contradiction. For example, I listen to both classical music and metal. If it’s one thing they would fault me on is that I like to talk quite a bit about my book and the theatre competition.

I’m looking for someone who enjoys reading and talking about the arts. Someone who feels comfortable talking about ideas and ideals. I love ideas. Someone who likes reading as much as I do. An ideal vacation would be a weekend getaway with a good book. Someone who believes that art can change the world. An introverted extrovert, if there’s such a personality type. Is there something of that in you?

Hobbies? Besides the writing, philanthropy, project managing, blogging, and promoting, there isn’t that much spare time! I do try to get out on the bicycle once in a while. Or a run around the lake (these days it’s more like a run to the lake and back again). I also try to fit in kickboxing classes at Peterecs Gym.

Gesamtlebenswerk signifies a sort of unity of being where public and private life come together. Why not have more of it? Privacy in this digital age seems to be a thing of the past. And if what you do means a great deal to you, why not publicize it, even it comes at the expense of privacy? Someone might find what you have to say most interesting!

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I love doing Melpomene’s work.

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age – McLeod

228 pages, Douglas & McIntyre, 2018

Well, I’ve joined a book club, would you believe it? Last December, the Spirit of Christmas inspired me, and I went through my contact list to reach out to long lost acquaintances. HT was on the list–we went to high school together–and, by a good stroke of fortune, still has the same phone number. She invited me to join her book club, so here I am! Mamaskatch is the second book I’ve read with the club (the first was Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See). The club has five members, and how it works is that each time we meet, a different member proposes three books. The other members vote, and we read and discuss the most popular book.

I’ve been gaining valuable self-awareness since joining the book club. What sort of awareness, you ask? Well, it seems that I like to read weird books. Or books that other people consider weird, as in “Don’t talk to that freak–look at what he’s reading!” How do I know this? Well, since I’ve been reading the book club books, everyone approaches me to make small talk. If I’m at the bus stop, they make small talk. If I’m in a restaurant, they make small talk. If I’m at the coffee shop, they make small talk. This has shocked me, since no one ever approaches me to make small talk if I’m reading books from my personal selections. Reading book club books has been a most enlightening experience.

Mamaskatch Book Blurb

Growing up in the tiny village of Smith, Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod was surrounded by his Cree family’s history. In shifting and unpredictable stories, his mother, Bertha, shared narratives of their culture, their family and the cruelty that she and her sisters endured in residential school. McLeod was comforted by her presence and that of his many siblings and cousins, the aromas of moose stew and wild peppermint tea, and his deep love of the landscape. Bertha taught him to be fiercely proud of his heritage and to listen to the birds that would return to watch over and guide him at key junctures of his life.

However, in a spiral of events, Darrel’s mother turned wild and unstable, and their home life became chaotic. Darrel struggled to maintain his grades and pursue an interest in music while changing homes, witnessing violence, caring for his siblings and suffering abuse at the hands of his surrogate father. Meanwhile, his sibling’s gender transition provoked Darrel to deeply question his own identity and sexuality.

Beautifully written honest and thought-provoking, Mamaskatch–named for the Cree word used as a response to dreams shared–is ultimately an uplifting account of overcoming personal and societal obstacles. In spite of the traumas of Darrel’s childhood, deep and mysterious forces handed down by his mother helped him survive and thrive: her love and strength stayed with him to build the foundation of what would come to be a very fulfilling and adventurous life.

Author Blurb

Darrel J. McLeod is Cree from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Before deciding to pursue writing, he was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. He holds degrees in French literature and eduction from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Sooke, BC, and is working on a second memoir to follow Mamaskatch. In the spring of 2018, he was accepted into the Banff Writing Studio to advance his first work of fiction.

Mamaskatch

This book may be a tough read for some folks. The scope of abuse, shame, and neglect McLeod suffers from an early age is mind blowing. For folks who haven’t experienced this sort of life, it’s quite hard to imagine how seemingly everyone he encounters is some sort of predator.

The most profound part of the book for me is how McLeod looks at his own upbringing with a look of distance. There’s many opportunities for him to point fingers and distribute blame. But he resists. He describes his experiences from an almost objective, arm’s length perspective. He lets readers come to their own conclusions. For that I am grateful. For me, that is McLeod’s genius and gift as a writer. To have maintained an arm’s length separation from pain and trauma must have been difficult. To blame would have been all too easy. But that would have made for a much less satisfying read. Letting readers decide helps readers engage more deeply with his story, one for the ages.

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

Book Publicity – Reviews and Awards

This is a post for intrepid emerging writer MH, née Cross. So, you want fame, fortune, and glory? Does the applause of the world beckon? Go for it, your millennia awaits! On your way, here’s a few tips. It’s a long journey. Maybe you already know this. But did you also know the book business is a dog eat dog world? They say self-publishing has revolutionized publishing. A new Gutenberg. The AirBnB and Uber. Sure, you can trust the word on the street: things are changing. But now every Tom, Dick, and Harry has put a book into circulation (in 2015 alone, self-published authors purchased 727,000 ISBN numbers). The competition rises in lockstep with the new opportunities.

“No problem,” you say. “My book will be a gooder.” Well, I would expect nothing less! To be the best, however, is not good enough. You also need to announce to the world that your book exists and that it is better than sliced bread and bigger than the Beatles.

Writing the book only constitutes half the task. Marketing is the other half. Here’s an overview of my marketing efforts. You’re writing in another genre, but your marketing efforts will be equally as critical. Your genre is, if anything, more competitive.

Academic Journals, Literary Journals, and Magazines

Reviews help build up buzz. I’ve sent a review copy to these publications. With each review copy, I also attach a book info sheet and a cover letter. The cover letter is tailored to each publication. For example, in the cover letter to academic journals, I emphasize the conferences I’ve attended. But in the cover letter to magazines, I emphasize how lay readers will appreciate a new book on theatre.

The task of sending out review copies involves research. First, find out which magazines or journals might be interested in reviewing your book. Then write to them. Keep in mind that some publications receive thousands of books a year. It’s a competitive process. Fingers crossed on this one, because, as you can imagine, the costs quickly add up! Postage for each review copy costs $17.50 to the US, between $12-17 in Canada, and $22+ overseas. This, of course, doesn’t include the cost of the book itself. In small runs (150 copies), my price for the book is $16 (CDN). It helps to have a war chest built up for these expenses.

American Book Review (USA)

American Journal of Philology (USA)

American Literature (USA)

American Theatre Magazine (USA)

The Antigonish Review (Canada)

Arethusa (USA)

BC BookWorld (Canada)

BC Studies (Canada)

Broadway World (USA / UK)

Broken Pencil Magazine (Canada)

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (USA)

Canadian Literature (Canada)

Capilano Review (Canada)

Cinema Journal (USA)

Canadian Theatre Review (Canada)

The Classical Journal (USA)

Comparative Drama (USA)

Criticism (USA)

Didaskalia (USA)

The Drama Review (USA)

Dramatics (USA)

Essays in Criticism (USA)

The Fiddlehead (Canada)

FreeFall Magazine (Canada)

Hamilton Review of Books (Canada)

Island Writer Magazine (Canada)

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (USA)

Journal of American Drama and Theatre (USA)

Journal of Contemporary Drama in English (Germany)

Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (USA)

Journal of Hellenic Studies (UK)

Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (USA)

Journal of Popular Culture (USA)

Library Journal (USA)

Literary Review of Canada (Canada)

The Malahat Review (Canada)

Modern Drama (Canada)

Mouseion (Canada)

New England Theatre Journal (USA)

New Theatre Quarterly (UK)

New Letters Magazine (USA)

NJ: Drama Australia Journal (Australia)

Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film (USA)

PAJ Performing Arts Journal (USA)

Performance Research (UK)

Philosophy and Literature (USA)

Rain Taxi (USA)

Quill and Quire (Canada)

Southern Theatre Magazine (USA)

subTerrain Magazine (Canada)

Teaching Theatre (USA)

Theater (USA)

Theatre History Studies (USA)

Theatre Journal (USA)

Theatre Research in Canada (Canada)

Theatre Research International (USA)

Theatre Survey (USA)

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Valparaiso Poetry Review (USA)

Advertising

Paid advertising also helps get the word out. I always see people reading BC BookWorld on the ferries, so this was a no-brainer. Brown Alumni Magazine was a second choice because it’s good to support your alma mater. The Goodreads Giveaway is interesting: you pay Goodreads $119 (USD) for the privilege of giving away books to Goodreads members. Members, in turn, enter a lottery to win these number of books you’re giving away. When they enter, they put your book onto their reading shelf, which generates publicity. When the contest is over, you send out number of books (at your own expense, of course) to the winners. The winners then read your book and hopefully give you a Goodreads review, which generates more publicity.

The fortunate thing about sending complimentary books to the Goodreads winners is that no cover letter is required. This means I can use Amazon or Barnes & Noble to send out the copies. If you’re a Barnes & Noble or Amazon Prime member, the postage for sending out books is covered. I used Amazon and B&N to send the winning copies–since shipping is free, the cost is significantly less than if I were to package and post myself. Incidentally, I included 25 books in my Goodreads Giveaway. The Giveaway ran for a month, and 1100 Goodreads members signed up for a chance to win a book.

BC BookWorld

Brown Alumni Magazine Fact, Fiction & Verse Column

Goodreads Giveaway

New York Review of Books

Smith Publicity (public relations agency)

Paid Reviews

Reviews help potential readers decide. On Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites, there’s two types of reviews: customer reviews and professional reviews. Both types are helpful for readers. Kirkus and IndieReader reviews fall under the professional category. They cost a pretty penny. And just because you pay doesn’t guarantee a good review!

The cool thing about the IndieReader and Kirkus review is that they distribute your review to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites as a professional review. There’s a lot of dialogue on whether paid reviews are worth it. I believe they are 100% necessary. After all, your book will be competing with books published by traditional presses. And books by traditional presses will definitely be professionally reviewed. If the competition does it, then you should do it too.

IndieReader

Kirkus

BlueInk

Foreword Clarion

NetGalley

NetGalley is the professional equivalent to Goodreads. By listing your book, a network of professional reviewers can request free review PDF or ePub review copies. You can either list directly on NetGalley or through a coop.

Xpresso Book Tours (NetGalley Coop)

Book Review Blogs

These are avid readers who blog about books they’ve read. You can find a directory of these book lovers broken down by genre and specialization online with Google searches and in print in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages by David Wogahn.

bibliofreak.net

Bound 4 Escape

crandomblog.com

Donovan’s Literary Services

Empty Mirror Magazine

Impressions in Ink

January Gray Reviews

Library of Clean Reads

Livres et Biscuits

Musings from an Addicted Reader

My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews

The Serial Reader Blog

TicToc Book Reviews

Words and Peace

Competitions

Competitions are another source for publicity. Ideally, you would be able to enter your book into the competition before it gets printed. That way you can get your accolades incorporated onto the front or back cover. But this isn’t always the case.

It costs between $45-$150 (USD) to enter each competition. Some competitions charge more. Those were too rich for my blood. You get a personalized email from the folks at the IndieReader, Wishing Shelf, and Eric Hoffer Awards acknowledging your entry. That’s a nice touch.

I don’t know how many direct sales winning competitions will garner you. To me, the competition seems like another tool you can use to market your book. For example, if you win prize, you could note that in your blog, get it printed on the front or back cover of your book, or include this in the book’s description on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Here are the competitions I entered. Like everything else, the entry fees add up quickly! It helps if you’ve budgeted the proper funds to enter the competitions before your book goes to print. Keep in mind that, on top of the entry fee, you’ll need to post one or two (and in some cases four!) books to the competition.

Colarado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards

Eric Hoffer Book Award

Foreword Indies Book Awards

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards

Indie Book Awards

IndieReader Discovery Awards

International Rubery Book Award

MLA Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize

MLA Prize for Independent Scholars

National Indie Excellence Awards

Nautilus Book Awards

New Apple Book Awards for Excellence

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews and Award Contest

Whistler Independent Book Awards

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Writer’s Digest Book Awards

Media

It’s never too early to build up your social media. I created this blog devoted to the writing and publishing process over three years before the book came out. It’s hard to plan that far out, but you will succeed if you plan for success. If you tell the world that you’re a writer and your book is coming out soon, well, chances are you will succeed. I know it’s hard because we all harbour doubts. Practise psychological warfare with yourself to eradicate these doubts. You will succeed.

Reach out to local media. Give yourself an internet presence. Shop yourself to the local bookstores. If you’re able to get yourself into Bolen Books or Munro’s Books, great! Your book on the shelves is like a free advertisement. Even better, when readers take it off the shelf, it’s an advertisement that pays you!

Here’s a list of social media, media, and bookstores that proudly stock my book.

melpomeneswork.com (my blog where I talk about writing and publishing)

risktheatre.com (another blog where I promote my book, click here)

ABC BookWorld (a list of BC authors, click here)

BC BookLook (article, click here)

Amazon Authors Page (click here)

Goodreads Author Page (click here)

Bolen Books

Munro’s Books

Radio

Interviewed on The Tom Sumner Program June 17, 2019 10-11 AM

Memberships

Join local and national writing clubs. The more you help others, the more you help yourself. The Victoria Writers’ Society publishes Island Writer Magazine. They review members’ books. This is a terrific source for local buzz. If you’re part of the Writers’ Union of Canada, you can put this on your resume or on your cover letter when you send out review copies to magazines and journals.

Finally, join a local book club. I did. The next book our book club will be reading is my book. I love it.

Victoria Writers’ Society

Writers’ Union of Canada

Local Book Clubs

Here you are, I hope you find one or two takeaways that will help you along the way. See you on the New York Times Bestseller list! Think big.

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I do Melpomene’s work by going big, or going home.