Mentors, interns.. HELP WANTED!

#literary fiction

I remember reading Raymond Carver's homage to John Gardner, in the introduction to On Becoming a Novelist. It does not take much searching to find stories of more great mentor-novice pairs, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, Boudin and Monet, plus uncounted others, relationships between experienced writers and artists less well known, and younger writers and artists they not only inspired but often helped in practical ways, by, for example, recommending their work to publishers or galleries.

I think it is time for the energy flow to reverse, for young writers and artists, who are generally savvy about complex internet pathways, to offer to guide their elders through the vast web of possibilities for making useful connections.

My dear friend Geoffrey Smedley, for example, is trying to spread the word about his brilliant book Dissections. In his late 80's, still energetic if not AS energetic as he used to be, and having just recently surfaced from a work that absorbed much of the last 20 years, an ingenious four-part electrical mechanical sculpture, or metaphorical machine, as he calls it, that spoofs Descartes' view of man as a collection of mechanical parts, Geoffrey's direct approaches, and those made by supporters have too often found silence at the other end of the line; this seems to be the new, in my opinion, discourteous, way many traditional media outlets (perhaps also gallery owners, certainly publishers) deal with the great unsolicited. Just ignore them. It is not that people who see his work fail to respond; a critic who reviewed his exhibit at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal described Geoffrey's piece as one of the best and most mind expanding exhibitions he had seen this year.

The challenge  is GETTING anyone to look at it or read about it. In the new world of epublishing, the problem is called discoverability, and it is exactly the same thing I face as a novelist. Responses from people who actually find and read my book Shinny's Girls, the Trilogy are generally enthusiastic, but...Promotion has never been a snap. As a publicist I once worked with told me, it's easiest to promote things people already know about. But at least there were ways of doing it that were familiar, journals, newspapers, well established radio shows.

I suggested to Geoffrey that he call on old colleagues in the academic world to put the word out to potential interns. Students who would like the experience of making known  to the world the work of a fine artist in late career. Because everyone connects through the internet, I told him.  This "conversation" all took place via email, something even we mature writers/artists appreciate, adore. So I didn't hear but only imagined the sigh. With the future fast dwindling, with what has to be a limited amount of time to finish one's life work, does it really make sense to let oneself be swallowed by the bright brassy world of internet promotion? Half in and half out of its gorge, I holler (on behalf of all veteran artists and writers in this position), Help!