J. D. Salinger, best known for his teen-angst novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), died last week at the age of 91 after living as a recluse for 50 years on his 90-acre compound in Cornish, New Hampshire. His death leaves the literati frothing at the mouth as they wait to see whether he left behind a treasure trove of manuscripts. Although Salinger never published another novel, he earned recognition for the collection Nine Stories and two compilations, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. Shortly after publishing these, Salinger retired into a half-century of seclusion.
Though there were elements of Salinger's personal life that were reportedly unsavory, I believe we can learn from his efforts to spurn fame and self-promotion because they can lead to phoniness, something Salinger abhorred.
This time last year, through a series of events, I was encouraged to submit a manuscript for publication. The senior editor at the first publishing house said my writing was "like the best of the best" in my genre. That was a true confirmation of my calling. Here's the rub: I didn't make it past the marketing department. Although they esteemed my writing, I was a no name. They couldn't take a risk on me, especially in hard economic times. I was dejected for a while, but, per the request of an editor at another publishing house, I sent it off. This time the senior editor told me that I was a good writer but that I "had to have an audience built up" before I wrote a book. In the publishing world, it's called "having a platform." Apparently my platform was not big enough.
I truly appreciate these gracious editors and their advice, and I don't fault them for their decisions. The bottom line ...1
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