When a book of mine is published I don’t view it as a product, nor to I wish to push it as something to buy. Instead it’s my hope I’m giving people access to an experience. A party, if you will, open to whoever wants to attend. Over the years I’ve hopefully become a better party host. Hard to say. However, earlier this week an older book of mine, The Plague Factory, finally made it into Kindle format and instantly began to do well, climbing high on the charts for both African American Poetry and United States Poetry.
That people responded quickly and with enthusiasm to this release humbles me. In August of this year I will have been a writer for 14 years. Over that time a lot has changed in my life, but I still remember what a privilege it is to do what I love as a career. Privilege as in an honor, not a guaranteed right. While the Beastie Boys may have urged us to “fight for our right to party” I know that being an artist isn’t about the public perception of “living the art life”–it’s about keeping your nose to the grind stone, orchestrating a party for others to participate in 24/7.
Yesterday a fellow named Philip posted this on my Facebook wall: “Thanks John! Your book ‘The Troublesome Amputee’ is one of my favorite poetry collections. I carry it almost everywhere I go.” Messages like this have been coming more and more frequently now that I’ve finally gotten myself firmly established in the various social media outlets. It is not lost on me that even if I wrote the book, I didn’t build this myself; that very network of like-minded people on social networks is responsible for having gotten the word out to make The Plague Factory a success. You can’t have a party with just one person!
There have been many surprises along the way. Often I find myself opening parcels containing hand crafted objects, homemade greetings cards, books, and more. It is always a pleasure to have this contact with people around the globe–readers, authors, editors, artists, and others–operating on a similar wavelength. Although I may not express it often enough: I am grateful for each of you who have allowed my work into your life, and that thanks is a daily phenomena. It does not evaporate with the rising sun. A conscientious host doesn’t kick out partiers mid-revel.
If you have supported my work over the years consider this an open love letter to you. Wow, that looks kinda creepy now that I see it in print. What I’m mean to say is that you have an open invitation to the party indefinitely. I like having you around, and hope you’ll feel welcome to come back and hang out again. This is where you’d probably expect me to hit you up to buy my book. No. Instead, if you want to contribute your resources to a good cause, maybe you’ll take a look at Speculations by Matthew Duvall; all proceeds go to help his brother fight lymphoma. Another worthy book is Hazard Yet Forward, a charity anthology benefiting Donna Munro in her battle with cancer.
In the meantime, if you really insist on reading more of my work, here is a set of links where you can do so free of charge. Consider it a party favor.
“Alive, Alive-Oh” poem in Bewildering Stories
“The Ankle-Biter’s Guide to Slithering” novelette in The Dream People
“Arnztigation Sonnet” poem on johnlawson.org
“Attila King” flash fiction in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens
“A Brief History of Mummies” flash fiction in The Dream People
“Scalp Full of Salami” flash fiction in The Strange Edge
“View From a Pedestal” short story in The Pedestal Magazine
“What?” novel excerpt in Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens