As some of you may know, there will be an appearance by Neal Pollack and his special guests at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts, very soon. Then, just two days later, there will be another at Galapagos in Brooklyn, New York.
I, your humble servant and former high-powered media insider, have been coaxed from his happy retirement to attend both events, to speak into the microphone at appropriate times, and to make sure that everyone wears shoes.
Naturally, these events will raise many questions. Some will never be answered, insofar as they deal with philosophical abstractions and/or are confusingly worded.
It is my charge and pleasure to respond to the rest. And I shall do so promptly and cogently at both events—so long as the questions fall into my areas of expertise, which are: the future of publishing, writing and writers, the history of the short story, the history of the novel, knee pain, raw milk cheese, the secrets of exceptional super brain power, and the novel The Lord of the Rings.
Questions dealing with any other subject will also be answered.
The questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If curiosity is not incentive enough, there is this:
Those who live in Boston and will attend the event at the Coolidge and who e-mail questions now will have those questions answered live at the Coolidge. The authors of each selected question will be acknowledged by name and their appearance will be praised sincerely. Please indicate “For Boston” in the subject line of your e-mail. Coincidentally, “For Boston” is also the title of the Boston College fight song.
Those who live in New York and will attend the event at Galapagos get the same deal: acknowledgment and flattery. This is all any writer really wants. Please indicate “For New York” in the subject line of your e-mail.
Those who live nowhere near either of these cities shall have their questions answered here, on the world wide web, where we all wear masks and pretend to be the men and women we wish we were but aren’t. This kind of self-flattery requires no augmentation, and any praise would be either false or superfluous. But you will get an answer to your question. Please indicate “For nowhere” in the subject line of your e-mail.
Here are some sample questions submitted to me by Joshua Isaac “Josh” Sadow, who has for so long been a good sport, and my answers:
Josh: My desire to write is inspired by a burning need for outside validation. Will this interfere with the quality of my work?
John K. Hodgman, Former Professional Literary Agent: Everyone wants outside validation, but only a few of us are privileged enough to be able to give it. As a professional literary agent, I was a member of that happy few, and it was very gratifying to be able to encourage young writers who showed promise and to give them that fatherly acknowledgment they so desperately sought. And it was also very amusing to encourage writers who had no hope of publication ever. Oh, how I enjoyed building up their hopes and then shattering them! As far as the quality of your work goes, that is not really a concern of mine.
Josh: My life experiences, thoughts and opinions are remarkably similar to many others who publish. Should this unoriginality discourage me from writing?
JKH, FPLA: It is axiomatic that every good novel is written twice, and every bad novel is written over and over again. Having the same voice, style, and background as another writer will never hurt you, but it is more important to have the same voice, style, and background as your editor. That is why novels which feature as characters well-heeled college graduates with no marketable skills who perhaps wanted to be writers once but now are publishing professionals living in New York will always be published. Always. Also: be sure to include a rousing gardening scene
Josh: When do I get to go to the cocktail party with clever, uninhibited women and chummy, eccentric men who admire and respect me?
JKH, FPLA: If by “chummy” you mean smelling of shark bait, then this can be arranged immediately. Otherwise, I’m sure I don’t know what you’re referring to, and please don’t ask me about this again.
Coming soon: the final solution to these vexing puzzles: “Is it called the Coolidge Corner Moviehouse or Coolidge Corner Theater?” “What is the Brookline/Brooklyn connection?” And: “The Lord of the Rings: Trilogy? Or one single novel published in three parts?”
But most important are your questions, which may be posed thusly.
That is all.
Former Professional Literary Agent