To Thick Skin!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Thick skin!"

I hear it time and again, from Gary, my dad, my best friends, my agent, my publicists. "You need a thick skin to survive in publishing."

Well, I guess I moisturize way too much because I'm not a rhino.

I do not want this to be a whiny, "Poor Wade," diatribe, but I do need to get something off my chest.

I've been the recipient of many harsh reviews in my literary career, and to say that they didn't sting would be a lie. However, like most writers, I've also been the recipient of searing critiques, ones that go beyond the work at hand to near personal attack, ones that seem intent on not simply reviewing a book but on destroying a career.

Two of the harshest of my life have come this summer. And both, by what I can ascertain, have been by young gay men.

These two reviewers went beyond their duty at hand to mock me, belittle me, hate me. Why? I don't know. When I say, over and over again, that every reader, every reviewer has the right to his or her opinion, I'm not simply saying it as a sort of protective force field. I'm saying it because I mean it, and because I do it, with nearly every book, movie, song, TV show.

Art, of any kind, is highly subjective. And humor is even more so. Still, there must be a level-headedness at play in criticism, and hate seems to have become the new review.

I was thrilled to find I was going to be reviewed in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times. I was not thrilled to learn that my literary ass was going to be handed to me on a platter. The same goes for a certain critic in Lansing, Michigan, who attended one of my signings without identifying himself. He went on, in the Q&A portion after the reading, to ask me very serious questions re: writing, publishing, query letters, agents, and I spent 15 minutes -- with the audience patiently waiting -- to answer his questions, before he stalked out after I was finished, disregarding other people's questions, and then proceeded to trash me in his gay weekly. While I generally do share all reviews with my fans -- I think it's important to show the good, the bad, and the ugly -- I generally do not respond to such critiques. However, after not sleeping last night, I had to address the following:

-I am not David Sedaris. I will never be David Sedaris. I do not aspire to be David Sedaris. Neither does Augusten Burroughs. Or Dan Savage. I love and admire Sedaris' work, but I am a wholly different writer. I am highly emotional, I feel everything, I do not distance myself from my subject matter, I am prone to quips and one-liners, more like Kathy Griffin. For every gay critic to say that every gay humorist is not David Sedaris is like saying Obama is not Bush. Presidents are not the same. Writers are not the same. You are comparing apples and oranges. Just stop, for Christ's sake. It's like saying every actress today is not Clara Bow. Move on already. Read other writers.

-I am not a misogynist. I am not prejudiced. I am not a classicist. What I am is honest. I do not write to make myself more likable, more heroic, more endearing, more lovable, more empathetic, more loyal, kinder, gentler, sweeter. This has become a fatal flaw in memoir writing, I believe: Too many writers woo their audiences by creating a different persona ... i.e., I am the badass motha-fucka. I am the innocent girl next door. I write how I am at the moment, good or bad. But I always write that I am, like we all are, works in progress. The beauty in life, in people, is not the perfection, but the flaws, the foibles, the weaknesses. And when we realize that we are able to grow, change, love, become better. I put myself on the front lines, am brutal to myself as much as others, for a reason: I want to show my flaws as a mirror, so others can see that growth, taking risks, finding love, following one's passion is possible in this life. What I do not appreciate, esp. in the Sun-Times review, is being set up over and over again, excerpts being used without showing the full development of the story that is being relayed. To say I demonstrate classicism against three men I say work at Old Navy is a blatant lie and intended to engender ill will against me/my work when it is not disclosed that this trio is having a three-way in front of me and Gary on a gay beach, and that this is what I say I have to imagine in order not to take part. Puh-lease! And to say that I "didn't exactly save the world" in my former career in private school PR is true ... which is why I wrote a memoir ("Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler") that details exactly this. But you didn't do enough research or reading to know that, or warrant a mention. And to call my a racist, because I say the words "trailer trash" and state the kind of music my neighbor was listening to WITHOUT TELLING READERS how I ended up reaching out to the man, without saying how blessed I realized I was, without sharing how I changed is a disservice.

-I write in short chapters INTENTIONALLY. I am not a third-grader. I am not a moron. I have a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University (sorry it wasn't the U of Chicago, Sun-Times critic). I have always been off-put by 100-page chapters, where I am continually flipping to the end to find out how much further I have to go. This is not an IQ test on my part. I feel it takes as much talent to choose your words carefully, to pare down 20 pages to five, to share a world of wonder and laughter in two sentences rather than 20 pages.

-Review the book in your hands. Do not review the book you wished had been written. Do not unleash your anger and bitterness on my book because the one you've written is not good enough to be published (I mean, come on: Anyone who uses a Calpernia Adams Middle School reference in a YA novel about a boy who wears a dress and then complains that I'm too obvious and corny is a joke.)

So, here's to writing. To reviewing. To thick skin.

Mine, it seems, is slowly, getting thicker. And I honestly believe that is a very sad thing indeed.

More Media!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Big wheels keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin'
Rollin'

OK, I don't even know what that means, but it made me laugh, which is all that really matters, isn't it?

Past week has brought some great, new media, ranging from radio to magazines across the country.

Hollah!

(See, I did it again?)

First, Michigan Radio, the nation's eighth-largest public radio station, interviewed me this week. For those who missed the chat, click on the following link to listen now:

http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/michigan/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1527413/Top.Stories/Saga.of.a.Modern.Day.Thoreau

Second, Chicago Magazine, the nation's largest city magazine, featured AT LEAST IN THE CITY in its July issue (the only book profiled ... Heeeeaaaayyyy!) To read the article, click on the following link:

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/July-2009/Defined-Modern-Day-Thoreau/

And, finally, OutSmart Magazine, Houston's gay mag, reviewed AT LEAST IN THE CITY in its July 10 issue ... and it was fabulosity incarnate ("Cinderella, dressed in yella, went outside to kiss her fella" ... Once again, I'm laughing ... alone, I'm sure). Any-hoo, OutSmart review not only used an adorable pic of Gary, me and our dogs, but it also said:

"How could you not love a book that starts out with “There's a raccoon on my head”? Author Wade Rouse is introspective and sarcastic, often in the same sentence—a writing style that's intimate yet hilarious. He paints a perfect picture of his surroundings and the people he lives near, exaggerating the ridiculous and noting the kindness. He's willing to poke fun at himself and Gary, their peccadilloes and their relationship, and their fears while becoming accustomed to new surroundings. And Rouse's memories of his parents, his childhood, and his beloved grandmother will melt your heart."

Here is link:

http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/cms-this_issue/200907--Country+Screaming.html

Have a great weekend, and before I go:

Two bits
Four bits
Six bits a dolla
All for Wade
Stand up and holla

Time for a margarita ...

Wade is Teaching Writing Seminar August 11-13!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yes, believe it or not, I will stand before a class of pupils this August in a short skirt, cardigan and bun held up with a #2 pencil to teach writing, the only thing -- besides how to make a latte, apply bronzer, and detect quality leather goods blind-folded -- I'm qualified to teach.

The truly terrific Saugatuck Center for the Arts -- which hosts great classes in the arts all year round -- will be Ground Zero for my fun yet intensive three-evening workshop on writing, "Following Your Heart, Finding Your Dream."

The class will be held at the SCA Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 11-13, from 6-9 p.m. Cost is $150.00 for the three days, which -- when you look at what similar classes cost on the coasts -- is truly a bargain. To register, call the SCA at 269 857-2399 or e-mail: info@sc4a.org

For more on my class, go to:

http://www.sc4a.org/classes_adults.php#rouse

Or read the class syllabus below (see, I know big words, like "syllabus" and "read"!). Seriously, I think this will be a wonderfully informative and inspirational class for writers at every stage in their lives and careers. So, Michigan residents and summer resorters, join me in August ... perhaps drinks with the teacher will follow after class! (And I allow pupils to purchase me beverages ... I'm big into the whole teacher's pet thing)!


WRITING CLASS WITH WADE ROUSE

“Finding Your Voice”
Whether writing your first novel, mystery, or memoir, “voice” is the key to your success. Before you write a word, find out not only what you want to say but how you want to say it. Voice – not topic – is what sets every writer apart and serves as his greatest chance of success. Creative exercises to help each writer find his or her own unique voice.

“Finding Your Way”
Now that you’ve found your voice, you need to find your way to the end. In addition to loads of courage, talent and time, you need structure. What makes a compelling plot? How do you create compelling characters? How do you write a memoir? How do successful writers channel that narrative flow? Tips and creative exercises to finish that first book.

“Finding Your Agent”
Now, you have a book. But it doesn’t have a home. Publishing sources report that 99.9 percent of all queries to literary agents are rejected. And you thought writing was the hard part? So what makes the perfect pitch? The perfect query letter? How do you beat the odds, and become part of that elite group? Learn how to craft the perfect query, approach agents, and secure a reputable literary agent who can sell your book to a major publisher. Also learn what it’s like after your book is published: What to expect when working with a major editor and publisher, how to market yourself, blog and deliver your own publicity.