Friday, June 19, 2020

Who do you write for?

Reading an old letter from my late friend Gordon Speck last night, as we were just starting up a new Sherlockian society back in the 1980s that involved a bit of writing. Gordon was considering all of the writers involved and had an interesting thought: What if we all banded together, coordinated who was going to write for what, and keep the big four journals of that era well-stocked with manuscripts.

The impulse came, I'm sure, from a crisis The Baker Street Journal was having at the time with getting issues out. Three of the "big four" journals he cited at that time are still with us: the BSJ, Canadian Holmes, and The Sherlock Holmes Journal, each the unofficial standard-bearer for Sherlockians of an entire nation. But that look back made me stop and consider who we're writing for now. Where in the 1980s, there were "the big four" and dozens of local sion journals and newsletters of varying formats and qualities, along with a few fanzines that contained Sherlock Holmes material, the landscape is almost bafflingly large now, and more of it involving Sherlock Holmes fiction than ever before.

There's probably more of everything than ever before. Conan Doyle is certainly getting his due, with his own academic journal, The Conan Doyle Review, on the horizon, but John H. Watson is, too, with The Watsonian. (Not that the latter is academic.) While The Serpentine Muse is not strictly focused on Irene Adler, Adventuresses are behind it, and still going after forty-five years. Sherlockian publishers range from MX Publishing to Gasogene Books to . . . wait a minute . . . Doyle's Rotary Coffin just put out its third book, sneaky little devil. One would think we'd run out of things to write about with just those, and I know for a fact I'm missing many a journal and publisher in this brief look.

There came a point in the lives of Sherlockians, maybe in the 2000s, when we finally realized we couldn't collect it all and had to specialize, buying only along certain themes or subjects. Now it seems that the writers among us have to make choices as well. Do you want to reach the largest audience or the knowledgeable few that will enjoy your work the most? Do you want to make yourself known to a certain club or join a community by contributing to their body of work? Do you want to do it for fun or . . . oh, to be so ambitious . . . money/

The day when a group of writers could band together and support a small group of journals are not gone from us, but even as when Gordon Speck first suggested it to me, it's a bit like herding cats. The right person can still marshal a team of writers for a given project, usually be simply asking them -- it's always a joy to be asked. And it takes a special person to be a good editor, as we writers tend to be too driven to fire our own words into the void more strongly than gather, perfect, and publish.

Which brings me to my twice-a-year dilemma: As editor-in-chief of The Watsonian, it's time once again for me to start reminding folks that we love to print stuff about John H. Watson. You know the guy, right? You have thoughts on the man, surely. And if you have stories, poetry, articles, artwork, or anything else about John Watson that you'd like to see printed in a high quality journal for other folks who love John H. Watson, you might want to send it to -- our August 1 deadline is coming up, so the wait to see your work in The Watsonian is at its shortest time of the year. (It's for the fall issue, of course, so don't expect an Amazon Prime two-day turnaround!)

But no matter who you're writing for, even if it's just for yourself at this point, keep at it. There's no better way to order your thoughts, calm your soul, and even enter a certain kind of meditative state if you practice letting the words fall out without judgment or fear long enough.

Because somebody out there wants to read your stuff. It may take a bit to find them, but in this big ol' world -- they're there.

No comments:

Post a Comment