Category Archives: book reviews

Veils, Halos and Shackles : International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women,

veils halos shackles cover

It has been pointed out to me that although I mentioned this anthology when I had work accepted by the editors, Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, that I haven’t posted anything about it since it has been published.

Below is a link to an article about it from “The Hindu,” an English-language Indian daily newspaper. Headquartered at Chennai,  It is the second most circulated English-language newspaper in India, with average qualifying sales of 1.45 million copies as of Jan−Jun 2016. A friend sent me this link to The Hindu article, pointing out that the review mentions my poem, “Zauditu,” which appears in the anthology.

You can see the Goodreads page about it HERE, which contains some reader reviews and links to online booksellers.

My Promoter

The Prompt: You, Robot—You’ve been handed a robot whose sole job is to relieve you of one chore, job, or responsibility you particularly hate. What is it?

                                                                        My Promoter

Since Ray Bradbury wrote of one in “There Will Come Soft Rains,”
the list of things robots can do seems to have made great gains.
Some are made to wash our hair. Others shave our heads.
They build our houses, clean our floors and even make our beds.
I grant that it is handy that there’s one that scoops dog poop,
and one to stop our snoring, another to cook soup.
Lonely? One shoots billiards and perhaps it lets you win;
but do not gamble with it, for I hear it cheats at gin.
It’s great that there’s a robot that lifts patients out of bed,
but since I am still mobile, I have other needs instead.
I want a robot that can read and surf the internet
to send out my submissions and to guarantee I’ll get
an agent and a publisher to dispense all my writing
and send it to reviewers so my words they would be citing!
Send it out to libraries, to Amazon and Kindles.
Keep track of my royalties so there would be no swindles.
In short, I want a robot that will publicize and fight
so all this writer has to do is write and write and write.

As far-fetched as these robots sound, they are all based on reality.  For more information, go to: http://mentalfloss.com/article/30898/10-robots-very-specific-tasks

 

Vanity Depressed

Today, I received the below email from a well-known organization that reviews children’s books:

Dear Judy Dykstra-Brown,

Thank you for your interest in XXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately, we can’t review books from vanity presses like CreateSpace*. For more of our submission guidelines, please see our website here: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

XXXXXXXXXX
Editorial Assistant
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

*note from Judy: CreateSpace is a company within Amazon that aids self-publishing authors in formatting,, printing and distributing their books.

My feelings about being labeled a “vanity press” author will be best expressed by displaying here the letter I wrote back to the assistant who had written the letter:

Dear XXXXXXXX,

I thank you for your prompt reply to my inquiry.

Although I certainly understand your reasons for not wanting to consider privately published material, I would like to bring one matter to your attention.

I have been writing for over 50 years. I have written and published three books, published nearly 40 articles in print and online magazines, won a national first prize for my poetry, edited a poetry journal and now coordinate a popular poetry series. I am in the process of having five more children’s books illustrated and working on a novel and two poetry anthologies. In my early career, I taught literature and writing for ten years and edited a teenage poetry anthology.

I mention these facts to explain why I feel it is an insult to have my decision to publish my own work called a “vanity”. Certainly, I am aware of the term, just as I am aware of other racial and physically derogatory terms that were once considered the norm but which in an enlightened age have come to be recognized as insulting and prejudicial.

May I ask your group to consider not using the term “vanity press” as a blanket term for self-published material?

I thank you for your efforts to reward excellent work in the field of children’s literature.

Best Regards,
Judy Dykstra-Brown

I would be most interested in other bloggers’ thoughts about this matter. Is blogging, also, considered just another “vanity” means of expression? I know that a great deal of status is attached to being published by a recognized publishing company, but do all writers who choose another path deserve to have their efforts considered as mere vanity? Is that our main goal?  Is that what we deserve to be labelled as?  Is it too much to ask to be labelled as what in truth we are—self-published?

Frida Kahlo had two gallery exhibitions in her entire lifetime. One of her paintings just sold for 5 million dollars!!! Were her artistic endeavors, in her lifetime, mere vanities? What of Van Gogh? Or Emily Dickinson? Only a few of Franz Kafka’s works were published during his lifetime. Johann Sebastian Bach was widely known as an organist, but his fame as a composer occurred after his death. Henry David Thoreau could not find a publisher for many of his works.

Certainly, I am no Emily Dickinson or Henry David Thoreau, and those who go through the rigors and humiliations of trying to find an agent and publisher certainly deserve plaudits for possessing determination as well as talent. I admit that I have neither the inclination nor the energy to jump through the hoops necessary to find a “legitimate” publisher. I just want to write, and I will not accept the label of “vanity” being attached to my writing.

Yes, I am proud of my efforts in doing all of the work myself that a publisher and editor normally do. Yes, I am proud of the fact that I have continued to write for 50 years with very little monetary recompense. But I don’t think my need to be heard is prompted by vanity any more than the determination of professionally published authors is.  We write because we need to write. It is a drive and what, in my case, gives meaning to my life. If that is vanity, then long live vanity! But please say it behind my back—not as an official representative of your guild or company or association or library or agency or board of merit.

Now I will climb down off my soapbox and get back to work on what I do for love, not vanity. If I’ve struck a chord, please add your voice to my protest by publishing your comments on my blog.