Friday, July 22, 2005

In Case You Missed It

After returning home a few days from Denver, I’m starting to dig out from attending the International Christian Retail Show.  One great (and new) event for me was the Christy Awards. Because the Denver airport was closed for several hours (weather related), I arrived late to the awards but managed to catch most of the program.  I arrived during dinner and missed the opening prayer from Mark Kuyper, who is president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publisher Association. I listed the award winners while traveling (see this link if you missed it).

For the keynote message at the Christy Awards, Jana Reiss, Religion Book Editor at Publisher’s Weekly, introduced Andy Crouch, a columnist for Christianity Today and on the Editorial Board of Books & Culture. In a fascinating message, Andy spoke about fiction in a virtual world (follow this link for the entire talk). One of the great places to read is in an airplane—and many people in the past have been reading novels. Andy has been taking an informal survey about what people are doing on their laptops and finds they are playing solitaire. He says, “So this is what a surprising number of your fellow citizens are doing in that blessed quiet at 35,000 feet—in these waning days before cell phone conversations are allowed on airplanes and it is never quiet again—they are not reading a novel, they are not writing a letter, they are not even watching a movie. They are playing solitaire. Now I’m in a group of writers, and you all understand symbolism and metaphor, and frankly if you can’t see the metaphorical potential in a plane full of weary travelers using their laptops to play solitaire, you should be in a different line of work. So I won’t belabor the point, but the proliferation of airplane solitaire confirms to me that we are in the virtual reality generation.”

While maybe it didn’t fit into Andy’s talk, I want to tell you a little story for writers today about the solitaire program. In 1989, Wes Cherry created this free program which is automatically installed on every Windows-related computer. As a summer intern, he was honing his computer programming skills at Microsoft as a summer intern. He received nothing upfront as payment for his work and receives no royalty for the creation of this program. As Cherry writes, “If only a penny per copy…”

And the lesson for writers? Volunteer work is great and internships are valuable. You can learn a great deal. Agents are valuable and editors are significant in your work. But….only you can look out for yourself as a writer. You are the one whose name is at the bottom of the contract or the by-line on the publication (some times operating without a contract).

And next time you are taking a second to play Solitaire on your computer, use that program as a constant reminder to be fairly compensated for your work—even if it is a small royalty.

1 Comment:

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous Left a note...

Terry, the history of Solitaire is an interesting tidbit, and a great illustration. Thanks for a meaningful post. (Loved the snippet from that one speech re. his survey on airplanes.)


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