#writering: Forget Coal, It’s Publishing

Photo: A group of editorial assistants strike out for lunch at Chipotle, New York City, 2018.

#writing is an occasional blog about writing, editing and publishing by Beth Wareham, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Lisa Hagan Books.

Yup, we’ve gone down the rabbit hole. No longer is a complete sentence of value to much of anyone. Shouts, blurts, name-calling and a general idiot wind are the order of the day. And everywhere, glorious coal waves as they chip away at the cilia in our lungs. (Land in Beijing and their coal dust-saturated air triggers a chest infectionin in MINUTES. Wow! That’s coal!  Let’s also celebrate what coal does to our drinking water too. Yummy!)

As coal spreads out, the “John Q Editor has left the company” email rebounds across the electrified universe at an alarming rate. Agents, writers and editors stare into space and murmur, “does ANYONE still work in publishing?”   An actual publishing company seemed to disappear overnight and everyone was left holding every kind of bag. Heck, everyone I know left except the ones that weren’t any good at it.

I feel bad for coal miners. They were made obsolete through technology. So was the steel worker. You can make a ton of steel in an hour with just one person because of automation. I feel bad for the publishing worker too; but less bad because he or she is supposed to be smart — and I’m not talking about the ability to talk about Henry James.

Technology has overrode much of publishing too. Get rid of that ridiculous office and layers of nonsensical workers and take to the machines. That’s all you need to make a book. Focus on the language, strengthening it for future generations. Focus on subjects the world NEEDS, rather than your idiotic and vague suppositions about what you think will sell. Develop GOOD and it will sell. Take the time you spent in manufacturing and join the 21st century. Make the writing as good as it can get.

That’s the hard part; great writing. “Fire and Fury” is not going to do it. Something big, meaningful, profound. Just because so many great stories have gone visual doesn’t degrade the imagination; images enhance it. Watching Netflix is not the enemy; focusing on it as the enemy is the enemy.

No, you’re not a coal miner. You’re a writer or an editor or a publisher. Work harder on your words. Delight someone. I swear, words burn hotter and longer than coal and don’t give you a lung infection.

You’ll be writing and dreaming years after the last vein has been tapped out and the last miner rips off his Davey Lamp, enters the cage and rises up. Coal will truly be over – as it should be – and publishing will still be okay because our need to learn and connect through stories will never go away.

I am hopeful that coal will pass (it’s not healthy for human or planet!) and publishing will finally ride those machines and be of interest to many.  Then, the publishing overlords (not cool ones like in Game of Thrones, believe me) might let some of these workers live. Publishing could use the extra hands.

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