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the folly and falsity of our narrow artistic vision. If we think as much of beauty as we claim to do, we should ask for more unhappy endings where in the nature of the theme they are essentials. Happiness has no more to do with art than sorrow has with morals, and a happy ending merely for the sake of pleasing is as offensive as an unhappy ending for the sake of sentiment.
But the public is supposed to demand the happy ending. Very well. But if the public be given what it wants, from the editorial point of view, and in order to meet the publisher's requirements of a monetary success, then, in the very nature of things, a lower standard of literary art is established
as a measure of the public taste ; but low standards beget lower ones, until the lowest no longer suffices, and the public taste, vitiated by false editorial estimate, requires a still lower standard to be written down to until at last that which is put forth in the guise of literature approaches real literature in name only. It all ends by our having no worthy, workable standard at all. At the present rate of deterioration pure literature, as such, will become as extinct as the American buffalo. Nothing can save it but a daring, artistic, democratic literary movement defiant of all commercial considerations.
Ford Walsh. The Chicago Evening Post.
THE MIDDLEMAN IN LETTERS.
" Literary Agenting” has increased tre- more?" I inquired, remembering the tradimendously in New York. Although only tion about the eternal quest of editors for three are under the “literary agents head- the new talent. ing in the telephone book, under “syndi- "Not if it comes through an agent,” he cates," "authors,” “ magazine representa- answered. “We have two rates for all tives” the list of these middlemen has material - two cents a word for what goes grown in a few years to 155. Like the mid- into one class of magazine, and five cents a dlemen in commerce - that much-studied word for what is acceptable for another. element in the cost of living – these literary These agents arbitrarily put up prices, to brokers declare themselves necessary make their commission larger." mechanism in the distribution of product, This seemed to support the chiefest claim discovery of markets, and enhancement of of the agencies, which is that they are better prices.
bargainers than people merely literary. One. What publishers think of them is not of seductive appeal is something like this : public record : Probably it's what the house- “ You, a worker in the literary vineyard, wife thinks about the man who stands be- doubtless have often felt that the labor of tween her and the farmer. I happened the watching the markets, filing, mailing, and other day to be in the office of the head remailing manuscripts, and deciding upon of a string of popular magazines as he was the real availability of your work, is a very opening his mail. One heavy envelope, disturbing factor in your creative life. fully paid as to postage, yielded a manu- Equally, without doubt, you have often felt script as neatly done up as a lawyer's brief, that you would like to have a literary 'man yet the magazine chief, after glancing at of business' - if you knew one who would the name in the corner, at once iolded it charge no more than a certain per cent. on into a fresh envelope for return.
sales effected, and who knew the markets, “Don't you even read the first page any and wh spared you the inevitable barter
ing. If you knew he could get twice as much as yourself, besides being able to crack up your wares, you would be sure to patronize him."
Whatever the cause, the price of manuscripts has risen contemporaneously with other necessities. Miss Edna Ferber is to speak at the vocational conference at the University of Wisconsin on fiction writing, and the Magazine Maker quotes her : “ Magazine men are paying four-figure sums for short stories of four or five thousand words." Four figures — at least $1,000 a story. Of course any first-class short story is worth $1,000 ; the trouble has been to get it. I asked one of the most respected agents whether many magazines were pay. ing that price. His reply was:
“Kipling got it. Robert W. Chambers had occasionally achieved it – but in both cases it was through the interposition of agents. If Miss Ferber got it through her own bargaining, she is an exception. I don't like to hear people generalize so loosely about prices ; it starts many persons wrong, and disappoints many a capable craftsman. My feeling is that writing should not be artificially stimulated. It is only when a person has to write, can't help doing it in preference to anything else, that that person should seriously take it up. A writer is like an inventor – if he is any good you can't suppress him and he needs no couragement.
One thing agents have done is to show the author how he can multiply his receipts. For example, it is only within a few years that he did not sell all his rights with the first publication. We have taught him that magazine rights are one thing, book rights another, dramatic and photo play rights another, and newspaper rights still another. Our agency advises parting with only the magazine rights to a magazine. Thereafter his story is perfectly good for newspaper syndicating. I've just sold ten short stories of Blank for $10,000, and of that ten only three are really new work. That is, on seven of them he already has received pay for magazine rights. After the coming
publication he will still have book and dramatic rights."
" What proportion of fiction is placed' through agents ?” he was asked.
" I should say about seventy-five per cent.”
“ Is it true that $10,000,000 a year is paid out to fiction writers in this country ?" “No one can estimate the amount, there
many contracts not open to inspection.”
* Why is it American readers can't see the best short stories that are being written abroad — just as the International Art Show exhibits the new spirit' in painting and sculpture ?"
Because editors are timid. Some lack breadth. They have seen certain kinds of story succeed, and not wanting to take chances, they follow on. One editor is addicted to a special formula, and another to another. Each publication has its fiction policy, though they may seem all alike. There are only three magazines which will take a French story as the French write it. At the moment, one idea is that a story
be American, and written in the language of a stevedore."
“What is meant by 'fashions in stories changing in a twinkling'?”
“Well, for instance, Harper's Weekly this week sends us word that it will use fiction hereafter. Adventure has quit what is understood by adventure, and wants
adventures in business.' One magazine count it : one - now wants 'love' poems. It's a suffragette publication, too! Others are short on the heart interest' story. One announces 'no story containing a foreign phrase accepted.' Character studies, dialect, ghost, and dream stories anathema in many offices just now. drawer are three interesting tales, which editors and assistants have read with avid interest. But they won't take them, because they call them psychological studies,' and these are not in fashion."
One of the most successful editors in town, who has trained many writers, gives the editor's side : “I should say about fifteen per cent. of what we use comes through two
or three agents. We read what all of them send, but find the majority without the faculty for discerning what we, in this office, want. They have now and then turned up a new writer. At present their drift is toward getting a score or more writers to allow them to control their output, agents to do the business part, while the writers simply write. For writers living at a distance from New York doubtless the agent is a venience, but for those living within one
hundred miles of New York the placing' service is unnecessary. I wish you would bring out this point — writers who deal with agents miss the help which comes from personal contact with the editors. We send no letters to agents when returning manuscripts. But to writers who show promise, we do, when dealing with them, give criticism which may be helpful in the next writing they undertake.”
Truman Cross. The Boston Transcript.
SHOULD WRITERS READ?
“The writer is first of all a citizen of the world, with eyes alert to explore its delights, its sorrows, and its mysteries. No other ever has a yarn to spin. Next he turns his gaze inward. Lastly he studies books. If you must omit one of these three processes let it be the last."
This is a quotation from a book of advice about short-story writing. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read it. I belong to the old school, and would say with Tupper in his “ Proverbial Philosophy" : “A good book is the best of friends, the same to
day and forever. To draw thee out of self, thy petty plans and cau.
tions, To teach thee what thou lackest, to tell thee how
largely thou art blest, To lure thy thought from sorrow, to feed thy fam
ished mind, To grait another's wisdom on thee, pruning thine
own folly, Choose discreetly, and well digest the volume most
suited to thy case." While this may not rank very high as poetry, it has a strong appeal as sense.
I have often been amazed at the thinness ” of some, I may say most, of our American writers, and I believe it is due to the lack of the very thing the author of this book on story-writing now boldly says is a non-essential — an acquaintance with books.
I feel that his argument is wrong from the start. Are our best writers citizens of the world ? * Turns his
gaze inward" have too much of that introspective construction that leads nowhere. “Books lastly” and then omitted at discretion that is too, too much ! Before beginning a novel George Eliot read Homer." Her style and diction were no doubt due to her lavish wealth of information. Here is an extract from a letter she wrote to Miss Lewis, a friend and instructor, September 4, 1839 :
My mind presents just such an assemblage of disjointed specimens of history, ancient and modern, scraps of poetry picked up from Shakspere, Cowper, Wordsworth, and Milton ; newspaper topics ; morsels of Addison and Bacon, Latin verbs, geometry, entomology, and chemistry ; reviews and metaphysics — all arrested and petrified and smothered by the fast thickening anxiety of actual events, relative anxieties, and household cares and vexations."
Should writers read ? I ask the question in all seriousness, for in a literary club where the matter was first spoken of other members took the view that books necessary, while to my mind the teaching is actually pernicious and will work positive harm to young writers. SEATTLE, Wash.
Anne Bigony Stewart.
Published monthly by The Writer Publishing Com.
pany, 88 Broad street, Room 416, Boston, Mass.
Helston, the young English "workshop bard,” says of the machine : “ It is a great help in composition, for it clears your ideas. It reminds you by the repetition of one key when you are falling upon an unconscious assonance, and warns you against too many sibilants, and the rest of it."
The WRITER is published the first day of every month. It will be sent, postpaid, ONE Year for ONE DOLLAR.
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However showy, or perhaps impressive, it may be, writing is never good unless it is lucid and direct. There's a hint for writers in a story that Ex-Senator Mason of Illinois has often told. He went to a barbershop to be shaved and the barber, as he lathered him spoke enthusiastically of a political speech he had heard that morning. The barber declared it to be the most eloquent discourse he had ever heard. The orator talked two hours, but the audience would willingly have listened another hour. It was wonderful, a masterly effort.
What did he talk about?” asked the senator. “What was the subject of his address.?” The subject ?” replied the
negro, “Well, now - er — he did n't just say.”
Particulars regarding the offer of Winthrop Ames, director of the Little Theatre, New York, of a prize of $10,000 for the best play by an American author submitted before August 15 are given as follows :
Authors must be residents of the United States.
2. Plays must be original, and of the right length for a full evening's entertainment. No translations, adaptations, oneact pieces, or musical comedies will be considered. Dramatizations of novels, short stories, etc., may be entered. provided full rights to make such dramatizations have been obtained.
3. Each play submitted must be signed with pseudonym only, and be accompanied by a sealed envelope, bearing outside the title of the play and the author's pseudonym, and inclosing the author's real name and address. These envelopes will not be opened until the judges have made their decision.
4. Manuscripts must be clear, typewritten copies, and sent by mail or prepaid express, addressed : “Winthrop Ames's Play Contest, care the Little Theatre, 240 West
Poets as a rule do not compose poetry on the typewriter, but one who does, John
Forty-fourth Street, New York City.". Magazine Section, Sunset, the Pacific Manuscripts must be received before August Monthly, Lippincott's, the Black Cat, and 15, 1913. The award will be made and the
other publications. At Carmel-by-the-Sea, manuscripts returned as as possible aiter that date ; but as Mr. Ames cannot
where Mr. Hardy works, there are gathered hold himseli responsible for possible loss, or together more well-known writers than in damage to any manuscript, authors should
any other place in America. Among those keep copies of the plays they submit.
who live and write in this forest town on the 5. No play can be considered which has previously been submitted to Mr. Ames,
sea coast are Harry Leon Wilson, author of either at the Little Theatre or while direc- “The Man From Home," "The Spenders,” tor oi the New Theatre.
and “ His Majesty Bunker Bean"; James 6. The payment of the award of $10,000 will entitle Mr. Ames
Hopper and Fred Bechdoldt, who wrote to all rights whatsoever in the accepted play, and shall be con
“9,009 "; Mary Austin, author of “The sidered as advance payment on account of
Woman of Genius"; Grace MacGowan royalties until these royalties, reckoned at Cooke, author of “The Joy Bringer”; Del ten per cent. of the gross receipts from the
H. Munger, who wrote The Wind Before play, shall have amounted to $10,000. Thereaiter Mr. Ames will pay royalties of eight
the Dawn”; and Alice MacGowan, author per cent. on all additional gross receipts de
of “ The Last Word." Perry Newberry, the rived from the play.
writer of boys' stories, who is another of 7. While Mr. Ames engages, in any case, the company, is hard at work now, getting to pay $10,000 for the best play submitted, he does not promise a production if, in the
ready to produce the annual play that is opinion of the judges, no play of requisite
given in July of each year by the members merit is received.
of the literary and artistic colony in the The award will be made by a committee
beautiful Forest theatre that belongs to the of three judges, Augustus Thomas, presi
town. The play this year is to be Runnydent of the Society of American Drama- mede," written by William Greer Harrison, tists ; Adolph Klauber, dramatic editor of
and the cast will include all of the notables. the New York Times, and Winthrop Ames.
Hattie Lee MacAlister, whose story, “ The Mr. Howells estimates that there are Story of Annie," appeared in the American 25,000 short stories published every year in Magazine for May, was born in Raleigh, the United States. If the number were N. C., and went to school in Sanford and limited to 2,500 there might be more mas- Jacksonville, Florida. When she was twelve terpieces among them.
years old she went to Centenary-College
Conservatory, at Cleveland, Tennessee, and WRITERS OF THE DAY.
three years later took her A. B. While there she won a medal for an essay on Ham
let, but she turned her attention chiefly to Lowell Hardy, who wrote the story,“ The sciences and mathematics. After graduaUnwilling Philanthropist," in Lippincott's tion Miss Mac. Alister taught natural scifor May, is one of the group of writers, ences in the high school at Durham, N. C., artists, and dramatists who make up the
and she afterward taught in the public unique literary and artistic colony at Carmel- schools of Columbia, S. C. Miss MacAlister by-the-Sea, California. Mr. Hardy's first
began to write in the spring of 1911, when story, “ Frosty Ferguson ; Strategist,” was she had a series of articles running about a published three years ago in Everybody's year in Zenith of Duluth. The Columbia Magazine, and was an immediate success. State printed some special articles and ediHis work is humorous in character and
torials written by her, and she has had a western so far as material is concerned. Its number of contributions in Latin, a short popularity is shown by the regularity with story, and several sketches in Life, a story, which his stories appear in the Monthly “Puppy Love,” in Human Life (now de
W. H. H.