on writing

vanity publishing

Vanity, oh queen of sin! Yeah, well.

My mom told me about vanity publishing. Out of your own pocket you can produce as many copies of your book as you please. Now, if you are of the mind that genius goes unrecognized, and indeed your work is genius, then I suppose vanity publishing is the way to go.

There are many services at varying costs that will produce your chapbook, novel or poetry collection. After you produce that, you can go about distributing your book, which, if you are a fantastic self-manager, should come easily. After that, what? Book signings, readings at local bookstores, Letterman, who knows?

I mean, the top selling books of today are just pulp romance and brainless action, right? They all just follow the same old tired formula, right? You, on the other hand, are making timeless masterpieces, RIGHT?

But there’s something of the old life of the writer that seems to me pure, untouchable. The old school writer is so good at writing only because s/he is utterly inept at everything else. This archetypal wordsmith is not a self-manager. This person isn’t really good at anything, and is very good at nothing. So good at nothing that s/he sits around for hours each day, simply jotting down ideas. Those ideas become an outline. That outline becomes a book. After an author representative sends the book to press and it enters the universe of thought, the second-order minds involved in criticism tear apart these works, abusing them with their own schematic knowledge they hold to be conservatively the keystone of art appreciation.

A story written by Huxley, After the Fireworks, tells the tale of a fifty year-old writer being courted by a twenty-year-old fan. Sound a bit like Coelho’s Aleph? And similar enough to Lolita, or for our South Korean readers, Ung Nyo? Yeah, not exactly a one-of-a-kind plot, but anyway… He gives a neat impression of a writer’s weird, pan-theistic, sub-moral life. At first the main character seems vain (ha!). If you’ve read the Perennial Philosophy, the character Huxley creates and Huxley’s mystical philosophies could hardly have come from the same mind. Soon this character’s antics seem permissible and even justified. Unlike Coelho’s self-portrait, however, the writer is buried in debt and relying on the kindness of friends as he wanders about Rome and writes as much as he can when he can in between fornication. Huxely and Coelho both give us an interesting look into the life of a published author along the same theme: an author dwells neither entirely in hell, nor in heaven, but lives fully in this world and records the experience. Nothing less will do.

Now, if I could just front my personal funds and have a book made for me, I would feel as though I’d failed to pass the insanity test illustrated in Huxley and Coelho: the complete willingness to publicly disgrace myself the way an author ought to and accept the strangest of experiences from the faeryland of the cosmic periphery.

Vanity publishing seems too safe, too bourgeoise, especially after all the stories I have read about authors who cannot even afford to buy their own books. I don’t self-manage. I barely even believe I exist, how can I represent myself? Hey, buddeh, wanna buy a chapbook?

Ugh, I know it’s a cliche, but I find the bourgeoise ink to be too gross, and prefer not to be handed a book dripping in it. The web is vast and wide, and filled with bad poetry (mine included) and boring dramas. I can read all the unskilled fiction I want at no cost, which out of boredom I do although I should be reading something far more thought-provoking.

The hounds guard the gate for a reason. Meanwhile, search for the Original Librarian if you would like an extensive digital library. You will not regret it.


Leif Sturmanis Nordholm

the supreme ordeal

What is your supreme ordeal? What is your major obstacle?

Please be honest, for your own sake. Some might say: “People tell me I am a perfectionist. I suppose it’s true, I do tend to do everything right all the time and I am judgmental of those who don’t.”That’s not really an obstacle. Nor is: “I am a misunderstood genius,” “I tell the truth too much” or “I am too emotionally honest.”

Are you admitting your weakness or just boasting a strength that no one can accept?

Strive for perfection, but apply it to your own life and set an example. Use your genius, but find a way to translate it in a way that people can understand. Your “truth” is but one truth, and perhaps you should try opening yourself to the possibility of other truths. Emotional honesty repels the insincere. These are not faults, they are guiding lights.

PS: (click me)

the stakes

I’ve been reading about writing and as a result the one question I have whenever I read a novel is “What are the stakes?”

“What are the stakes?” goes beyond the traditional plot structures. As useful as those well-studied graphs and taxonomies might be, I usually think of the stakes as being summed up in the title of the book. If they are not, I wonder why that title was chosen.

For instance, in “The Art of Dreaming” many conflicts occur, but what is at stake is the art of dreaming: Can Don Juan’s disciple perfect the ability to dream and explore the worlds within him that seem also to be part of an outer world full of mystery and intrigue? Furthermore, can the reader also learn the lessons of the art of dreaming vicariously through Castaneda’s document of a young man’s strange experience?

Every time someone picks up this book, the words chosen for the title will ring in that person’s mind. I am reading the Art of Dreaming. What’s at stake? The very fabric of the inner part of the soul of my mind and how it processes and interprets reality!

Every character in the book will be focusing on the stakes. So what’s at stake?




A coherent plot cannot exist where there are no stakes. Characters have no reason to do anything without any stakes.

The more one contemplates the stakes in a narrative, the more one can think of what’s at stake in life, and how many things are obscuring us from attaining our goals.

the setting

My mom decided to open a shop when I was a teenager. She didn’t have a business degree. She was a certified practitioner in Reiki and Shiatsu, a semi-precious stone specialist, and chiefly, a professional journalist, publisher and editor with her MFA in creative writing.

She opened Melvyn’s Living Room, a curio shop by day and the Okanagan Institute by night. She invited her friends to come teach classes. They held workshops for a variety of things including journalism, storytelling, comic book writing, screenwriting, creative writing, alternative healing, chakras, crystals, African drumming, and improvisational comedy; they held smudge ceremonies, crystal bowl concerts, holiday get-togethers, and several other events. We became experts in the otherworldly, the realm of both writing and the metaphysical. With no business plan, too much overhead and not enough underneath, the business folded. It was never really supposed to be a successful business; it was supposed to be an amazing one.

To this day I wish I had not been a part of making the big decisions. My mom trusted the advice of everyone, a yes-only kind of attitude that has both expanded her periphery and disappointed her greatly. Maybe if the shop had continued the way it was, a  humble space on Westside Road, before we got lost in the small city of Kelowna, it would have become profitable one day.

A new movement of teachers has taken up the franchise of the Okanagan Institute. They hold their meetings (which are well-attended) at the Bohemian Bagel Café in my former hometown of Kelowna, BC, Canada.

I am on the other side of the planet, yet I still think about those amazing nights in that little shop where we learned the secrets of the world, the world I am now surrounded with.


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