Dickey’s advice for authors

Dickey had sound advice for aspiring writers.

by Latoya Burnham

There is definitely an international market for good Barbadian or Caribbean writers, says renowned author Eric Jerome Dickey, but in the business there are no guarantees.

The bestselling author of 20 books so far told an audience at the Barbados Public Library in the City that it was important to first learn the craft.

He said despite the fact that he had done so well as an author, he still took writing and other classes to improve his work, but noted that there were some authors who had never done a class and did not seek to educate themselves.

“I sit in on seminars, I take classes and it is funny because I’m sitting there and I’ve written 20 books and I’m going, ‘Oooh, I didn’t know that’. If you think the cup is full, it’s not a good thing,” he said in the forum to celebrate the 165th anniversary of the Library Service in Barbados.

When asked by a fan whether he believed there was a market for Caribbean writers in the US, Dickey responded: “There’s always… A lot of stuff is like this, it may seem difficult, but everyone who’s a number one was rejected over and over and over again, until their product finally fell into the hands of someone who believed in it.

“The lady who wrote Harry Potter was on welfare, she had no money. She was writing on napkins in a coffee shop. For me starting out, I remember how hard it was for me, not engineering, substitute teaching and writing and I just needed printer paper, I just needed enough money to get printer paper. It sounds like such a trivial thing…”.

He added that to simply find someone who believed in the material and was able to print it out properly and promote it was what was needed for local and regional writers to get into the tough international market.

Although the cultures were different, he said once the promoter believed in the work and that they could sell it, it would be easier.

He used the example of The Bridges of Madison County, which spent several weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, which meant, he noted, that every week 100,000 people were buying the book, which had formerly been rejected by publishing houses.

“There is no A, B, C, D, E, in this business. Everyone — Stephen King, his first book was rejected, rejected, rejected before it was carried. He threw it in the garbage can. He was done and his wife took it back out of the garbage can. That’s a true story…

“Also at the same time you need to realise there are no guarantees. I know people who told me they want to write, they want to sing, they want to be an engineer, and they want this guarantee. There are no guarantees. All it is, you can get out and do your best but you have a lot of people coming into professions because they are coming after the money and they have no talent.”

The author, who is here on holiday, warned that the talent was either there, or it was not, and that talent and passion would come out on the pages of the book. latoyaburnham@barbadostoday.bb

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