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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

A Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is not among us anymore.

And yet he is.

He is with us in so many ways. What can I possibly add that the media has not said in the last few days, in the many decades since his writing career first blossomed. USA Today printed a quote that shows he wrote for the most admirable of reasons. He said, “I didn’t write Fahrenheit 451 to predict the future. I wrote it to prevent the future.”

Imagine how much easier it would be to write and market (and even read!), if authors only wrote about things we feel passionately about instead of to get famous or make money.

Bradbury took on big themes. Anti fascism. The burning of books. Our subconscious fears. That he made money only attests to the importance of putting the passion horse in front of the materialism cart. But it is also a function of the idea that authors—writing—can make important contributions above and beyond the wonders of pure entertainment.

I ran across that USA Today article a few days ago when I was attending Book Expo America (BEA) in New York. That tradeshow is always a busy, busy place, the pulse of the publishing industry. Book buyers. Librarians. The press and other media. Publicists. Authors up the wazoo. Publishers. And, of course, fans. It can be (and often is) overwhelming. I’m sure Ray (yes, I think of him on first name terms) participated in as much of the necessary book marketing like BEA as he could, but, putting his immeasurable talent and success aside, he was a man we could know. I know that from experience.

As much as I love Ray’s work, what I remember most about him was my personal encounters with him. I met him at several small, local book fairs that I presented at. I’m talking small. One was on the grounds of a senior center in a small California community called Monrovia. No tents. No huge parking lots. No fancy advertising.

He was the keynote speaker and nearly as I could tell, he didn’t charge for his services, though I’m sure he commanded a very high fee in many venues around the world. He was not young, even then, and he (famously) didn't drive. So I know appearances like this had to be an effort for him. But he was more concerned about his readers and about inspiring other writers than he was about big fees or convenience. He was most charming and helpful when we had questions. He shared anecdotes about his own struggles. That’s one of the major reasons many writers write. They, like teachers, love to share something of themselves, something of what they know. At one point, he took my hand as he told me some of his marketing secrets. I don't remember the secrets. Just the intense look in his eyes.

Ray was a great sharer, indeed!

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

A Tip for Writers: :

Writers of all patterns and stripes will enjoy the quick tips and questions and answers format of my blog, The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor Guidelines for submitting questions are in the left column of the blog. It is inspired by The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success which won USA Book News Best Book 2007 Award, Reader Views Literary Award and was a finalist in the New Generations Indie Award. It is also available for Kindle,

A Tip for Readers' Tip:

A poetry chapbook that I coauthored with Magdalena Ball was a popular Christmas gift for many. Those who missed someone special on their list and would still like to remember them might find the $6.95 price tag of Blooming Red: Christmas Poems for the Rational just right. It is part of our award-winning Celebration Series of chapbooks.

2012 Past Columns


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