Dreams are illustrations . . . from the book your soul is writing about you. ~ Marsha Norman
They’re Gatekeepers, and they prevent the unskilled culture-defacers from assailing the public with crap.They guard the entrance to creativity, allowing the select few—those who pass muster—to enter. Not the riff raff. Not the wanabees—those sad, misguided dilettantes who think their work shows merit—who try to worm their way through the slats.
If it weren’t for that Cadre of Connoisseurs assessing, ranking, and restocking the Aesthetic Empire, the eating, viewing, and reading public wouldn’t know what to eat, view, or read.
Take food. Without Big Food Houses, like Poach Board and Pot Watch, anyone and his second cousin could open a restaurant. BFHs put aspiring restaurateurs through a series of trial kitchens where chefs prepare innovative fare for taste testing, after which the Palate Committee flavor-edits the dishes, taking, say, six to ten months, eventually returning the recipes with recommended modifications that the would-be culinarian must integrate into menu options before contracts are finalized.
The Big Food House then spends the next year and a half designing and building the restaurant, and, once open for business, collects all restaurant proceeds, forwarding to the owner maybe eight percent of the profits in quarterly installments.
Gastronomic Gatekeepers save the world from being saturated with substandard eateries, i.e., self-established restaurants whose owners believe their food actually tastes good.
Then there’s art. Painters, sculptors, photographers. Those quirky right-brainers who think that producing art is a way of life. Without Art Gatekeepers there’d be oils and watercolors and photographs and sculptures on display all over the place—museums, galleries, stores, street corners, gardens, offices.
Big Art Houses, such as Design Depository and Statue Statutorium, keep the art world under control. They stash submissions for review in massive warehouses, where they remain until the Talent Assessment Guild determines their attributes. The evaluation process is simple. TAG, made up of the administrative assistant and night janitor, stands in front of each work of art and throws Rock, Paper, Scissors. A coin toss determines who represents the artist.
Rock-over-Scissors means the piece is rejected, or if small enough, displayed over the urinal in the men’s room.
Paper-over-Rock means the art is returned to the artist for revision—with a note:
“Jackson – Uh, we think you sent us your floor tarp by mistake.”
“Ansel, a bit of color would be nice.”
“Say Vincent - Don’t give up. With some practice, you’ll master perspective.”
“Yo! Leonardo! My Man! – Everyone on the same side of a table? Hello.”
Now those artists, if they want a second chance with TAG, must edit their pieces according to where the dart lands on the revision wheel—Color Within the Lines, Smooth Out the Dots, Quit with the Umbrellas, Straighten the Watch, Add Velvet—anything to show they’ve at least parked at an art school.
Scissors-over-Paper means the piece is a keeper, and contracts are signed. Once a piece of art is chosen for public view, it’s put aside until there are upwards of twenty additional Scissors-over-Paper wins by the same artist—enough for a full gallery open. Could take two to five years, during which time the artist waits tables for a Pot Watch Restaurant.
Art Gatekeepers save the world from being saturated with substandard museums, galleries, and studios, i.e., self-installed exhibitions whose artists believe their art actually looks good.
Then there are writers. Good writers. Bad writers. Mediocre writers. Doesn’t matter. They all want to be published. Somewhere. But especially by the Big Book Houses, like Reticent Review and Predictable Press. Ask any writer, and he or she will say that publication is a primary goal, so it's imperative to have Reading Gatekeepers. Otherwise, just anybody could write and publish a book. And if just anybody could write and publish a book, there’d be books everywhere. We all know that the reading public lacks wordsmith sophistication. They read books indiscriminately, ignoring taste, creativity, style, and quotation marks on the wrong side of the period.
It’s essential that Reading Gatekeepers guard the reading public from piles of word hash plopped beside gourmet prose at any reader’s table. How dare a writer expect to publish a book without it first being prepared, plated, and presented to judges who can attest to the quality and doneness of a piece of writing?
Big Book Houses judge a book by its cover. Therefore, it helps if an aspiring writer has a close working relationship with a Scissor-over-Paper art winner. Once the cover passes muster, the interior text is evaluated. Currently, the book must be about dogs, celebrities on drugs, or a vampire who looks like a teen-aged Christopher Robin, and there must be a plethora of words with only three syllables, at least one fancy font, and an appropriate dedication to one’s mother.
The publishing world has evolved to the extent that anyone—Grandma Jones, Aunt Agnes, Cousin Earl—can publish a book. But self-publishers have no gatekeepers. Self-published books aren’t legitimate. They’re written by amateurs. Ask the Reading Gatekeepers. According to them, self-published authors use bad grammar, change tenses, and incorporate too many adjectives and adverbs. Self-published books are puerile, shallow, and undeveloped. They’re not properly edited, they’re boring, they’re tedious— a scourge on the market.
It doesn’t matter that someone’s father, a gentleman in his early 90s, wants to publish a series of stories and see them in print before he dies. Or that a Mid-west bride wants to write her story of how she met a retired NYC police officer while playing on-line Scrabble, fell in love, and got married. Or that a mystery writer—an esteemed mystery writer—an award-winning mystery writer—chooses to go indie instead of kowtowing to the King of Kopy.
It doesn’t matter that some, perhaps many, writers have dreams of seeing their words, their stories, their manuscripts, stand on a shelf between Shakespeare and Steinbeck. It doesn’t matter that, like restaurateurs and artists, they want to see their hard work come to fruition and become products they can sell to the public, or share with their friends, or give to their children, or put in Grandma's hands.
What’s that you say? Not all self-published books are full of crap? There are well-written, self-published books by excellent authors already in the marketplace? That these books are good? And selling? And popular? And that even some authors have left the Big House and gone indie? That it's not the self-publishing in and of itself that qualifies a book for the back porch, not good enough for the grown-up table, not worthy of the good china? And that just as establishing one’s own restaurant doesn't mean bad food or installing one’s own gallery doesn't mean bad art, self-publishing one's own book doesn't mean a bad read?
If that's the case, then here's to all writers who dream of seeing their labor on the bookshelf or shining through the small screen of an e-reader or sitting on the coffee table in Grandma's house or in the hands of Grandma herself.
Go for it.
Don’t be intimidated by the elitism of The Gatekeepers—those people reading, and judging, books on their side of the gate. So what if they don't read yours? That doesn't mean no one else will.
EVS – 07/13