I wasn’t born yesterday – but I might as well have been. The technologies of contemporary life are all new to me. In the past month, I’ve upgraded to an iPhone, purchased a Kindle, and brought out an electronic edition of Into The Wilderness, a novel that appeared in print last year. In the process, I’ve had to create a dizzying number of new user names and passwords, and I’ve had to learn to navigate in lesser-known waters – at least lesser known to me. But I’m determined not to become an old dog unable to learn new tricks. Indeed, I became a first-time author in middle-age; I’m just starting my career.
Not only was I not born yesterday, I’ve spent most of my intellectual life in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. For me, living at the pace of a walk, in a world where penned notes passed by hand were the height of communication, seems normal. I was born in mid-century America and grew up in an era when phones were attached to the kitchen wall with a long cord, and long-distance calls such a rarity they almost always carried bad news. By the time I went to college, electric typewriters had become portable – if you were strong – and in 1984, I purchased my first computer: a MacIntosh with less memory than today’s microwave oven.
For those who were born yesterday, texting will be the norm – until something else comes along, and the best thing that those of who weren’t born yesterday can do is pretend that we were – not superficially, with cosmetics, injections and surgery, but profoundly, with a commitment to staying au courant with the technologies of publishing, which are evolving even as you’ve been reading.
To lament the end of the printed book or bemoan the advent of the electronic one seems pointless. It’s not an either/or proposition. What is new and scary and exciting is the possibility of an author controlling her own publication. When I sold the English World Rights to my publisher, I sold only the print rights and held the electronic ones for myself. Dumb luck, is all.
I found someone to convert my files through shewrites.com, an on-line writing community, and I was able to blunder my way through uploading it onto amazon myself – which is an indication of how user-friendly the process really is. Versions for iBookstore and googlebooks are in the works.
As much as I try to embrace these new technologies, I also try to honor my own limits – and to contain the business side of writing and publishing to the afternoons; I try not to let these necessary tasks interfere with the important one of creation. Because despite all the changes that technology has wrought, one thing has not changed: We are a narrative species. Lucky for us writers, humans have an insatiable appetite for stories.
Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into The Wilderness, “a fiercely intelligent love story” between two 64-year-olds, set in Vermont in 1964. Luskin is a regular Commentator on Vermont Public Radio, an editorial columnist, and a free-lance writer. In addition, Luskin teachers literature and writing in prisons, hospitals and libraries; she holds a PhD in English Literature from Columbia University. Learn more at her website: www.deborahleeluskin.com