"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."
~George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, 1893
"It takes twenty years to become an overnight success." ~Eddie Cantor
New York flop becomes a hit everywhere else
From The New York Times, December 18, 2010
It closed a month after it opened Off Broadway. Most New Yorkers don't even remember it. Yet John Cariani's Almost, Maine, an earnest 19-character play about the romantic happenings one cold night in northern Maine, has since been produced around the world, including in Australia, Dubai and South Korea. More than 600 companies have put it on in the United States and Canada. And move over, Our Town, and other staples of the school auditorium stage. Almost, Maine was the most-produced play in North American high schools this year. It unseated Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream from the No. 1 high school slot. Craig Pospisil of Dramatists Play Service described its slow build as a "real Cinderella story." Perhaps it helped that Dramatists representatives handed out colorful Almost, Maine buttons (left over from Off Broadway) at conferences. Or that Mr. Cariani and Jack Thomas, the show's original producer, sent out mailings to artistic directors, putting it on the regional circuit's radar. Maybe it was because the play offered material students could perform at drama competitions and professional actors could present at auditions. Or could the key to success be that the text can be performed by as few as 4 people or as many as 19? "If you are a professional playwright looking to make it in New York, you write something with the smallest possible cast," said Doug Rand of Playscripts. "Amateur theater groups want to have as big a cast as possible. New York really hasn't generated that kind of work in decades. So, when you come across that work, it's like water in the desert."
Try, try again: Rejection letters received by bestselling authors
Posted on MentalFloss.com, December 17, 2010
For writers, getting rejected can seem like a pastime. Editors, publishers and agents have made big errors in judgment, as evidenced by the list of unkind (and sometimes needlessly rude) rejections received by these famous writers, including:
George Orwell: Animal Farm was turned down because it was "impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A." A British publishing firm rejected the work as well, arguing that "...the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offense to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are."
Stephen King: King's big break came with Carrie, though one publishing house told him they were "not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." Doubleday picked up the paperback rights to the novel and sold more than a million copies in its first year.
William Golding: One agent called Lord of the Flies "an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull." To date, 14.5 million copies have been sold.
Ayn Rand: When Rand sent her manuscript out for The Fountainhead, Bobbs-Merrill came back with a curt "Unsaleable and unpublishable." To date, it has sold over 7 million copies.
Did you hear the one about the retired real-estate agent?
From The Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2010
It's easy, these days, to think about later life and retirement as limiting. The economy remains fragile; nest eggs are smaller than they should be; and Social Security and Medicare are looking pale. Millions of people are delaying retirement and scaling back plans for the future. Almost five years ago, on something of a lark, Gid Pool enrolled in a class near his home in North Port, Fla., that taught stand-up comedy. He was 61 years old. Today, he performs in clubs, theaters, colleges and corporate settings throughout much of the South, playing at times to hundreds of people and clearing as much as $1,000 an evening. For good measure, he spends, on average, a week each month on cruise ships, where he teaches comedy classes. None of this has been easy. There's been no big break and certainly no overnight success. Indeed, for all the evenings where Mr. Pool's act brings down the house, there are still shows where he ends the night deflated and nagged by doubts. But Mr. Pool's story is both an inspiration and a reminder of just how good, and how expansive, later life still can be: "Today I'm part of a generation that has literally been given a second chance to live a first life. People say you don't get a do-over in life. I beg to differ." In a business that's normally thought of as a young person's game, a 65-year-old comic might actually have some advantages. Steve Roye, owner of Killerstandup.com, says clean humor delivered in a nonconfrontational style -- Mr. Pool's calling card -- is exactly what corporate clients and audiences age 50-plus, two lucrative markets, are seeking.
Commentary: In praise of older women artists who have emerged from obscurity
Jackie Wullschlager, writing in The Financial Times, December 17, 2010
If the pram in the hall is the enemy of good art, what happens when the babies grow up and the pram is replaced by a Zimmer frame? Until recently, most women did not live long enough for us to find out. But now old age among female artists and writers is the new chic, as increased longevity trumps the time-worn complaint that after 50 a woman is socially and professionally invisible. In the 21st century, creative women in their eighties and nineties such as Louise Bourgeois (born 1911), Leonora Carrington (born 1917) and Diana Athill (born 1917) emerged from the tunnel of obscure middle-age to become glamorous if not household, at least drawing-room names. In 2010 the prominence of such figures in the visual arts became inescapable. The National Gallery in London is currently showing 79-year-old Bridget Riley's engagement with the Old Masters. At Frankfurt's Städel Museum the furious neo-expressionist work of 91-year-old Austrian Maria Lassnig concludes a survey of paintings from the 14th to the 21st centuries. In Paris, the most flamboyant installation in the Tuileries for this autumn's FIAC was the mirrored sculpture "Narcissus Garden" by Yayoi Kusama, who is 81 and lives in a Tokyo mental hospital. "Surreal Friends," a British touring exhibition, introduced 93-year-old English-Mexican artist Carrington's menacing surreal paintings to a wide new audience. The belated triumphs of [these women artists] show that the tortoise is as likely to win as the hare. It is certain that as women enjoy ever-longer careers, their role in art history will, thrillingly, be rewritten again and again.