Author David M. Bader on the Publishing Process

Today I add a new category to the blog – author interviews! 

David M. Bader was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer some questions about his experiences with the world of writing and publishing.  Lawyer turned author, Bader has written numerous books, including Haikus for Jews: For You, a Little Wisdom, Zen Judaism: For You, A Little Enlightenment, and Haiku U: From Aristotle to Zola, 100 Great Books in 17 Syllables.  Here’s the interview…

First, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with me and the “A Bunch of Wordz” readers.

1. You obviously had a lot of options available to you being a Harvard Law School graduate. What made you decide you wanted to get published, and do you make your income exclusively from writing now?

Well, yes, a Harvard Law Degree opens many doors. Mainly to law offices. Or government positions, teaching, or even corporate finance. As for why I wanted to write, law is a literate and learned profession, but as a practical matter it involves spending thousands of hours working on numbingly dull material.

I did anticipate problems with legal practice even in law school, but thought that when I was older and wiser, I would see it all differently. Never happened. I reached a point at which I just wanted to create one thing that was fun, original, and not ponderously long.

As for the financial question, some of my books have sold surprisingly well. Haikus for Jews has earned more than many novels and non-fiction books. Especially on a per syllable basis. As financial strategies go, though, it might have made more sense to explore the exciting opportunities in ostrich farming or telemarketing.

But I don’t practice law and feel fortunate to have escaped the golden handcuffs.

 

2. When you decided to publish your first book, did you get an agent first or did you approach publishing houses directly? What was that experience like?

Everyone told me to get an agent, which I did. The experience with my first couple of agents wasn’t great. Lesson 1: Never work with a literary agent whose “home office” is in her living room, near an exercise bicycle. Lesson 2: While friends may be able to introduce you to famous, successful literary agents, such agents are not always good with small, quirky books. When an agent who doesn’t know the market for your book takes it on as a favor, it’s not that big a favor.

 

3. What were the steps you took to find an agent?

To find a suitable agent, I looked at the “Acknowledgments” in lots of small, humorous books. Writers often thank their agents there, and I jotted down the names and looked them up. I gradually assembled a list of agents who had sold offbeat humor to respectable publishers. Some of them actually did get back to me when I sent them samples. I don’t know if this works as well for other genres.

 

4. Have you run into any roadblocks getting your work published since your books fill such a unique niche?

Yes, of course. One agent looked at my sample pages of Haikus for Jews and said, “Yeah, I could get about two cents for this.” She was so derisive that it took a while before I mentioned the idea again it to anyone.

 

5. Is there anything in your publishing career you would have done differently if you had known then what you know now?

Clearly I lost some really good years as a law student and lawyer, including many long all-nighters in the office that could have been devoted to more worthwhile activities, such as sleeping. And I would have had more time to improve as a writer. Then again, publishing involves a lot of rejection and disappointment. Had I gone straight into some form of writing, each time I had a setback I might have thought, “If only I had gone to law school.” Now I don’t have that problem.

 

6. What advice would you give to authors on how to go about getting their first manuscript seen and accepted?

Look for agents and editors with a track record for handling similar work. Try to extract constructive suggestions from people who reject your submissions. And if your first manuscript is rejected everywhere, take a break and start something new. You can always revive the first project later. You may sheepishly realize in a year or two that the people who rejected your first attempt spared you great public embarrassment.

 

7. What advice would you give to authors looking to transition from a corporate career to a career as a writer?

Don’t quit your day job? If you have children, put them up for adoption? First of all, set achievable goals. When I gave notice, I remember a lawyer confiding to me that he had always wanted to quit and write the Great American Novel. Not very realistic, coming from a guy who worked 14 hours a day on airplane leasing documents. Pick writing projects you can actually do. Give yourself plenty of time to unlearn all the bad habits you’ve acquired in the corporate world. And if someone advises you, “Go into haiku, that’s where the money is,” stop listening to that person.

 

8. What is the craziest, weirdest, or funniest thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing career?

Hmm… Nothing too crazy. A lot of my books have been copied or, really, plagiarized on the web or in e-mails that people forward all over the place. As a result, one person I met insisted I hadn’t written Haikus for Jews. She said, “You didn’t write that. It’s from the Internet.” She seemed unacquainted with the “book” concept and treated me like some sort of fraud.

Another person forwarded me an e-mail entitled “Jewish Zen” that consisted of passages taken from my book Zen Judaism. She wrote, “This reminds me of your work, though it’s not as funny.”

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6 Cute and/or Funny Haiku Books You Want to Buy

work is a circus
I trapeze without a net
surrounded by clowns

               –Edie Montgomery-Pool

I love haiku, especially when it has a funny or quirky angle.  If you’re feeling the love for haiku, too, here is a list of books that might interest you.  (These would also make great gifts for that person you know well enough to feel obligated to buy a present, but don’t know quite well enough to figure out what the heck they’d want.)

Roald Dahl’s Version of Little Red Riding Hood

I like funny poetry, and I like weird poetry, so of course I absolutely love Roald Dahl’s poetry.  I recently came across a poem of his I hadn’t seen before called Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.  Here’s an excerpt:

He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Visit the link to read the entire poem or go to amazon.com to view a list of Roald Dahl’s poetry books, including Revolting Rhymes and Vile Verses.

The Poetry of Spam: Haikus About Lunch Meat

Spam, our favorite mystery meat.  I keep a can of it in the pantry at all times for when I get the occasional spam craving.  But as soon as I’ve swallowed the last bite, I get this gross feeling, like “why did I do that?

Keola Beamer also has a fascination with spam, but his is of the literary kind.  Keola collects spam haiku.  Here are a couple of samples:

Grotesque pinkish mass
In a blue can on a shelf
Quivering alone

Pink tender morsel
Glistening with salty gel
What the hell is it?

You can find tons more spam haiku at keola’s site.  (Unfortunately, no authors are credited.)

Kealo Beamer is a Hawaiian musician who specializes in the slack key guitar.  Visit Keola Beamer’s homepage for more info or to buy a CD.

Funny Thanksgiving Poem — Toupee Souflee

This cute and well-written funny Thanksgiving poem, called The Thanksgiving Toupee Souflee, was created by Terry Lerdall-Fitterer and re-published here with her special permission:

The day had arrived; ’twas exactly one year
since my relatives, (moochers), had Thanksgiving here,
poor Grandpa was already stewed to the gills,
and Grandma–disgusted, was popping pink pills.

The turkey was turning a rich, golden hue
while children were screeching, “There’s nothing to do!”
And memories from last year still had me spell-bound
when inside my stuffing Gran’s dentures were found!

Soon mean Uncle Henry called–fit to be tied,
offended that no one would give him a ride
to this festive occasion–he’s such an old crab,
so he cursed one and all, then he phoned for a cab.

His arrival came soon, not that anyone cared,
the adults began groaning, the children were scared,
then I noticed a change as I hugged him with dread–
he was sporting a rug on the top of his head!

A pie made of pumpkin shot into my view
being used to play catch; out the window it flew,
and I thought for a minute just who was to blame
as my prized candied yams disappeared down the drain.

My husband, the whiner, quick pulled me aside
and bribed me with cash for a place he could hide,
with my baster now loaded and aimed at his butt,
he crawled back to the couch, made a face, then shut-up.

A frog and a hamster decided to play
on the counter by Auntie, preparing souflee
with the aide of old Henry; they both stopped to stare,
then she screamed and he raced from the kitchen–sans hair!

When asked he replied, “Gee, I had it before–
but perhaps in my haste it fell off on the floor.”
So we all made a search, but the hunt was in vain,
now poor Henry had nothing to blanket his brain.

Recalling what Auntie had started to make,
I put the large crock in the oven to bake,
then called for the vultures in voice sugar-sweet,
“Let’s move it, you morons–we’re ready to eat!!”

The turkey was carved when the timer rang out,
Auntie’s dish didn’t raise so I started to doubt
that ingredients used in her famous souflee
would’ve called for an ugly, synthetic toupee.

And lo and behold, as I dug through the dish
all smothered in egg whites–a hairy, Oh Ish!!
These Thanksgiving dinners, My God! I declare…
if it ain’t someone’s dentures, it’s somebody’s hair!

This author’s homepage is still under construction as of now (November ’08), but be sure to bookmark it and check back as she promises to put more of her work up in the weeks to come.

If you liked this post, you might also like this other funny Thanksgiving poem: After Thanksgiving Poem.

Hilarious Political Limericks

National award-winning humorist and newspaper/magazine columnist, Madeleine Begun Kane, believes that “a limerick a day keeps Republicans at bay.”  Here’s a humorous political poem she wrote called Some Friendly Advice for McCain’s Veep Vetting Team:

McCain doesn’t use a PC
Or a Mac, so he needs a VP
Who can act as his tutor
In using a ‘puter
And help with the phone and TV.

You can view all of Kane’s humorous poems (including subjects other than politics) at her website called Mad Kane.

Zombie Haiku

If you think zombies can’t write poetry, think again.  In his book, Zombie Haiku, Ryan Mecum gives us insight into the inner workings and deepest feelings of the zombie mind.  Here are a couple of examples of what you can expect to find in Zombie Haiku:

blood is really warm
it’s like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming

Looking at my hand
Somehow I lost a finger
And gained some maggots

From here you can visit the Zombie Haiku homepage, read the Zombie Haiku blog (including author touring information — if you’re brave enough to go see him), or buy the book, Zombie Haiku, at amazon.com.