Prince and his band on April 11, 1983 in Chicago, Illinois, the last tour date of the “1999” Tour. (Paul Natkin/Image Direct)
As November opened, I intended to take the month’s theme of “form a band” literally. Well, nearly literally: Although I wasn’t auditioning drummers and bass players, I was extending myself in a concerted effort to connect with writers, editors, agents, bookstore owners, publicists — anyone with even a peripheral interest in this crazy business they call book publishing. Along the same lines as young Prince looking to get a record deal, I decided to see if I could make progress toward a goal of getting “Crazy Amazing: The Year of Living Like Prince” published as a book one day. (I was well aware that I would not fully accomplish this goal in a month’s time as Prince did with his own memoir deal: I’m not that crazy amazing!).
But by mid-month, my definition of “band” has broadened. The idea of a band grew to mean more than a team of people working together to get things done. A “band” also encompassed the idea of a group of like-minded individuals, like Robin Hood and his Merry Men on their quest to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Forming a band can be, as writer and psychologist Timothy Leary put it, an exhortation to go and “find the others.”
Whether seeking out a band to achieve a purpose or simply finding the others, Job One this month was to make a concerted effort to get connected with publishing peers. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. We writers don’t sit in an office from 9-5, surrounded by other helpful writers. So, I did what I’ve done every time I’ve been stuck this year: The Obvious. In this case, the obvious entailed attending a weekend writing conference hosted by Minneapolis’ Loft Literary Center. While there, a friendly agent mentioned a “MN Publishing” meetup to be held in a couple of weeks’ time. In the spirit of going where I’m invited, I happily showed up at Moon Palace Books on Saturday morning and wound up being introduced to a bunch of great people. The gathering was free writer’s therapy and within an hour, I was able to clear up a nagging question about what genre my book should be (a major nagging question, to be honest) that had kept me up at night and stymied me as to my next step. While I never saw myself as a memoirist, someone I’d met at the writing conference had made a compelling argument that “The Year of Living Like Prince” was a memoir. Which of course, it is — in part. I’d always envisioned my book as a work of prescriptive nonfiction. Also, “memoir” screams “undressing in public” in my mind (not that I haven’t done my share of that this year and not that I won’t continue to do it). So, I breathed a sigh of relief when a potential recipe of 30 percent memoir, 70 percent nonfiction was suggested. I marveled at how easy and angst-free it was to simply ask a question of others, rather than tormenting myself for nights on end. Why don’t I ask for help more often? Argh! (Bangs head against wall).
To explore the kinship aspect of finding a band, I picked up the book, “A Tribe Called Bliss: Break Through Superficial Friendships, Create Real Relationships, Reach Your Highest Potential,” by Lori Harder. And speaking of books, I sought out another aspect of publishing — the reader — by joining our neighborhood book club. As a writer, it’s eye-opening to hear how readers digest books. (Bonus: Wine with friends and neighborhood updates!).
In the midst of this frenzy of band-forming activity, I headed to New York for work because, like most writers, I have a day job. And there, perched high up in an office tower, a realization struck. For those pursuing a corporate career, there’s a clear path laid out for you. While of course there are twists and turns along the way, overall, there’s a sense of structure. It’s comforting to know what’s expected and I can see why many people prefer the corporate life to an entrepreneurial or artistic life. But when you’re a musician like Prince, the only ladder to climb is the one he sings of in 1986’s “Around the World in a Day” album, where he sings of the difficult steps that must be taken to achieve salvation. Unlike the climb from manager to director and vice president, Prince couldn’t replicate someone else’s journey. So while someone might give Prince advice about when to hire or fire a manager, when to tour or how quickly to produce albums, the truth is, no one can tell you, except you.
As a writer, everyone’s financial situation is different (perhaps you can afford to hire a web designer to build your author website). Everyone’s skills are varied (maybe you have web design skills of your own). But what isn’t different is our need for a band. After this month of meeting my fellow Midwestern writers, I’m struck by their collegiality and humbled by their generosity. And I’m more convinced than ever that every writer needs a band.
And now, I’d like to introduce you to three band members who have been instrumental in helping to grow Living Like Prince.
Here are my “Living Like Prince” band members
Mary O’Donohue is a dear friend from my years in Chicago. Her latest venture (after moving to Nashville) is as founder of Authors in Media. Mary has proven to be an invaluable team member and was instrumental in helping come up with the right words to describe this crazy project in its early days, and in getting me onto television (here too!) and into print.
Clara Tomaz is another Chicago friend (I sense a pattern forming here). Clara is an artist and filmmaker who owns a wonderful company that produces movies for companies and organizations and family histories. Clara lent her talents to my website, creating the header and the “about me” video, as well as using her artistic talents to create this stunning piece of artwork.
Painting by Clara Tomaz. You can follow her artwork here.
And here’s the final, and vital, member of my team. Sommer is a double doodle. (Yes, double doodles are a thing. You take a mini goldendoodle and put it together with a mini labradoodle, and voila: You’ve got yourself a double doodle).
Sommer lies with her head on my lap while I write, or naps on the bed behind my desk, ever alert for a sighting of the neighbor’s cat, which likes to hunt in the little duck pond at the edge of our back yard.
In my future plans, I’ll have a photographer and a web designer and in due time, an agent and a freelance editor, along with an editor at my publishing house. All in due time.