Monday, September 20, 2010

On Monuments

I took the family to Council Grove, Kansas, this weekend, a place I jokingly referred to as "the dark heart of Kansas". Council Grove has its fair share of history--for several years it was the last stop heading southwest on the Santa Fe Trail. Last stop before Santa Fe, that is...

The Kanza people used to live around Council Grove, and our fair state takes its name from their tribe. In an act of cruel, bitter, irony, the last Kanza were forced out of Kansas to "Indian Territory" (now Oklahoma). In 1925, a section of riverbank gave way south of town, spilling forth the remains of an anonymous Kanza warrior and his horse (they were often buried with a favorite mount for the "next world"). Local citizens erected the thirty-five-foot high monument seen in the picture, entombing the warrior and his burial paraphernalia in the base of the structure. The Kaw Nation, a self-governing native tribe, now owns the land around the monument. They've constructed the Kanza Heritage Trail through Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, a beautiful, 158 acre plot of the Flint Hills.

Being in the presence of such history stirs thoughts of one's own mortality. What monument, if any, do I want to leave behind?

My wife has suggested writing is an "attempt to gain immortality". I hate to tell her how much of my work simply exists as electrons in the virtual ether. One big EMP* and WHAM! But maybe she's right. Maybe.

KV Taylor asked a great question on Saturday, and I'm paraphrasing here...

Would you keep writing if you knew you'd never be published again?

I commented I would keep writing, being a stubborn bastard, but only because I don't think I could believe nothing would be published again. Really, what's the point in trying to communicate (reader/writer relationship) without someone on the other end of the line? I'm not scribbling notes in a personal journal all those hours locked away in The Lavender Man Cave.

And then there's this: On Friday, I began posting The Borrowed Saints, a YA book which I wrote last year. I like the book. I love parts of it. But I won't query it; I'm not looking for a publisher. I'm giving it away, even if only one person reads it. (I hope at least one person reads it.)

Why give it away? Is it a gambit to find an agent/publisher/audience? (And Thanks, Mr. Fowler, for the question.)

Hell no. I'm not so brazen (or foolish) to think any of those things would happen.

I learned early on in this "writing game" I can only control so much. The universe will unfold as it will. See the revelation of the anonymous Kanza Warrior only after his people are shamefully forced from their homeland for proof. "We were here...we are here...we will always be here..." he seems to say. We can pretend to shore away for the future, our monument making, but all we really have is the now. The future belongs to the future.

And for now, I love to write and want to share my work.


Jeremy Kelly said...

Well said.

Brendan said...

Though I find the "would you or won't you question" unanswerable (and a little mean-spirited), I recall reading once that Stephen King himself has said he was about to swear writing off forever just before "Carrie" hit. So who knows.

So much of writing "success" seems to be sheer luck (as opposed to talent) that it's not all that crazy to continue, against all odds.

Barry Napier said...

Huh...and now I'll be pondering this question all day/week.

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks, Jeremy.

Brendan - On luck...the only way to be in the right place at the right time is to be there.

Barry - It's a big one.

Natalie L. Sin said...

I'd probably keep writing and practice denial.

Cate Gardner said...

Well I know I'll read it, and I'm sure other regulars will read it, so you have your start there.

I think we all hope for a piece of immortality, but the rare few attain it. We have now, right?

Aaron Polson said...

Natalie - Practicing. I like the sound of that.

Cate - We do. (and thanks for reading, eh?)

Angie said...

I've been researching the Paiutes in Utah, so that's interesting to me. I will check out your Borrowed Saints. I think I would keep writing no matter what. Even if nothing were ever published again, I'd at least have family and friends to share it with. And If I were the last person on earth, well, I'd need some crazy characters to keep me company, right?

Alan W. Davidson said...

"...I can only control so much. The universe will unfold as it will."

So true, my friend. I'm thinking that a few rabid fans (and a couple with smallpox) will drop by to read "The Borrowed Saints".

K.C. Shaw said...

I would probably keep writing too, for the same reasons you list. People will always need to hear or read stories, and people will always need to tell stories. I'm one of the tellers.

That monument looks a little bit like something from Star Wars.

Danielle Ferries said...

I agree - your words will be immortal.

And yes, even if I knew I'd never be published again, I'd keep writing.

Aaron Polson said...

Angie - I know I write for the company. ;)

Alan - Hopefully they keep the plague to themselves...

K.C. - It does, a little. Something on Naboo, maybe?

Danielle - A little haunting (or daunting)...the thought of "immortal" words.

Milo James Fowler said...

I'll be writing until the day I die or until my hands cramp up, at which point I'll switch to some new-fangled voice-print technology they'll have at that point, and I'll keep telling my stories whether or not anybody wants to hear them. And maybe I'll earn another dollar or two in the process. I've been writing for over twenty years and seeking publication for a little over a year; it's the process itself I find addicting. It's not something I'll ever be able to leave behind.

katey said...

only because I don't think I could believe nothing would be published again
See, that ignores the hypothetical nature of the question!

But the thing is, being "published" (as in, paid to put your work out there) is not the only way of communicating and sharing. That's why I included a reference to fanfiction in the post, you know? What you're doing with Borrowed Saints is a different thing--and I great one. (Not that you need me to tell you that.) I'm tempted to use the word noble--but maybe I'm just feeling melodramatic this afternoon!

(Wait, when am I not?)

Also, in re your sidebar--Gunsmoke REALLY was never that cool. <3

Aaron Polson said...

Milo - as addictions go, this one isn't too bad.

Katey - Noble? I just do random sh*t to cover up how much of a coward I really am. (but thanks)