Starving Artists

Sri Lanka Railway by the Sea (© Andrew X. Pham)

Sri Lanka Railway by the Sea (© Andrew X. Pham)

The surest way to stay poor is to publish a book.

As the years go by, more authors I know verbalize this sentiment. It certainly has been true for most of us.

And yet, knowing all that we know, we can not stop writing. We can not help ourselves. Writers write. We stop writing when we stop breathing.

But, writing by itself does not necessarily put the practitioner in the poorhouse. It’s getting a manuscript to a publishable level and dealing with the long arduous process of research, writing, rewriting, drafting, re-drafting, multiple rounds of editing, publishing, marketing, and a whole slew of other things. This could be crushingly difficult and decade consuming.

At the end of the rainbow, the monetary rewards for the vast majority of writers have been small–and growing smaller ever so quickly.

In some fields of writing such as food criticism, restaurant review, and culinary essay, the pay is approaching zero. Food writers find themselves working for free to enrich publishers or working for cash to “market” paying clients.

Jeff M., a writing professor, has commented to me that the situation has gotten so bad that he is reduced to advising his students to “write for free because that is all that’s available to them now.” This brings a whole new meaning to “a brave new world” for publishing.

We have pondered long and hard to find another way that will allow the art of writing not only survive but thrive. We believe that, at least for food media, we have found a new way with Spoonwiz.


The three personas of the memoirist:

The author is the person giving the lecture, doing the interviews, and presenting his work to the public.

The narrator is the person in the book, telling the story. He lives forever between the covers. He is the person most loved and known—by the readers.

The writer is the private person, rarely known even to his friends and family. He agonizes over sentences, makes ridiculous sacrifices for his craft, and is often his own worse critic.