Zvi Rotman, an LSS contributor, is the author of two books of short stories. Here he talks about self-publishing, life experience, writing and more:
Although born in Boston, Mass. as Harry Rotman, I have lived in Israel as Zvi Rotman from the age of twenty five. Throughout my life I have traveled the world a number of times in a variety of ways, hitchhiking, with a backpack and also in style. I have spent thirty eight years teaching English as a foreign language in the U.S., Israel and Japan but my experience in Israel encom- passed all levels, elementary school, secondary schools, college and on the university level. I have worked as a teacher, department head and assistant principal. I retired a number of years ago and look back on a successful career which blessed me with unlimited satisfaction and not one moment of regret.
On the matter of self-publishing, I will say the following: It’s virtually impossible to penetrate the fortresses behind which publishers conceal themselves. Writers of worth are trampled into disillusionment by rejection letters or by the simple lack of politeness, a reply. These days, both in Israel and elsewhere, you even have to pay publishers to consider printing your work and even then, the royalties are embarrassingly small. They set the selling price, and it’s often more than the market will bear.
My first book was published in Canada, and the experience was one exemplified by consideration, support, cooperation and a number of options from which to choose. The most expensive option was laden with promises of wide distribution to book sellers, such as Amazon, registration in the Library of Congress and publicity on an Internet site. A friend for whom I proofread his book, took this option and the promises proved to be empty. Not one book was sold by their efforts so he recommended that I take the cheapest option. I ordered the number of books I thought I could sell at the special price offered to the authors. In the case of the second book, I chose a printer in Israel and am satisfied with the final product. It’s true that the sale of the book falls to the author him or herself and the end result will depend on his initiative and resourcefulness. However, this is preferable to expensive and empty promises by publishers.
I have been writing for about two years, and it all began when I joined an Internet chat group of budding authors. I read their creative work and paid attention to the critiques other members offered. I felt that I could do as well and began to submit stories of my own. I soon became aware of the fact that stories flowed from the keys of my computer and didn’t stop until I had enough for two books.
For the most part, I write stories based on personal experience for I find reality and human encounters more fascinating than the product of mere imagination. I read each story to my wife who has become a sharp and knowledgeable critic but also a loving supporter. I also send stories to friends and their comments are helpful and go a long way in encouraging me to persevere. There is virtually nothing frustrating about writing since it’s a creative endeavor, and therefore, a pleasurable experience. On the contrary, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. You know you have produced something, which will live on long beyond the end of your own life. You have an inner glow knowing that some readers will walk away with a new insight or an enriched experience. This, indeed, is gratifying. The best of all is realizing you have left your loved ones with a bit of yourself, more lasting than the faded pictures in an album.
I actually do not read books by others and haven’t done so for years. I do enjoy an occasional dip into O’Henry or Jack London, great story tellers, but I prefer the school of life. The greatest literature is in the living of life and the study of human beings. By such an approach, I’m shielded from the pain of rejection letters. The approval of others is not required nor desired. One’s maturity, self-respect and confidence are rooted in a character and personality molded by experience and human contact, and they are the ideal soil for forming a well-rounded soul, independent and self-reliant.
My advice to a writer starting out is to allow your story or poem to flow from what you know best, your own experience. Then, the words will flow as you tap your own thoughts and emotions. In time, your writing may slip into the world of imagination but relying on this alone could be the most difficult task of all. There are those who complain that their well of inspiration is empty, and they despair. This does not happen to me. I simply close my eyes and envision my soul leaving my brain and once outside myself, I follow it as it rises upward to a stream of white where it blends with this tributary emblazoned with the word ‘inspiration’. The whitened soul returns slowly to the brain which takes on a whitish color once again emblazoned with the word ‘inspiration’. When I return to writing, ideas and words flow from the depths of the unconscious and the process is both amazing and impressive. In this manner, I can write at anytime and don’t require special conditions. When I wish to relax, I watch a good movie and pay close attention to plot and character development. More often than not, my own writing pales into insignificance by comparison.
The best advice I’ve been given is that which I found in the Internet chat group I mentioned earlier. Whether novels or short stories, there are rules and you should become aware of them. They have to do with structure such as an interesting opening, an unexpected ending, an intriguing plot, realistic characters and believable dialogue.
What is most important, I believe, is that everyone should pave his own path in life. Do not become a slave to the opinions of others for few of them know more than you do. Experience life to the fullest, observe every detail and take note of your feelings for they make life memorable and rich. Then, put it down, improving day by day and you’ll be proud of your own rich creativity.