The Volunteer as a Title

I check the Amazon page for The “Volunteer” regularly to see if any new reader reviews have been added.  It is up to 46 reviews on the American Amazon site now, quite a lot for an independently published novel that has never had a major advertising campaign.  Even better, the average rating per review is a lofty 4.5 stars.  Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed The “Volunteer”.

I saw something interesting when I checked the paperback edition’s Amazon page this morning.  In the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” section was another book, a novel, called The Volunteer.

Also Viewed

Of course, I clicked on this other novel to check it out. It is by an author named Salvatore Scibona whose previous novel The End was nominated for a National Book Award.  His The Volunteer is scheduled to be released on March 5, 2019.  I also saw in the “About the Author” section that Salvatore Scibona is the director for the Scullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.  Coincidentally, I worked as a librarian at the New York Public Library in the early 1990s.

I have mixed feelings about seeing another novel with the title The Volunteer.  Titles, of course, cannot be copyrighted, and I’m sure there were other books called The Volunteer published before I submitted mine to the world (although I doubt that anyone put the word Volunteer in quotation marks as part of the title).  No, the thing that bothers me just a bit is someone searching for Mr. Scibona’s The Volunteer and finding mine instead.  Sure, it might make for more sales for me, but most of the people who have bought my The “Volunteer” have done so because they were attracted to the concept.  They knew what they were going to get.  I’m not so sure those wanting to read Mr. Scibona’s “epic story of a restless young man who is captured during the Vietnam War and pressed into service for a clandestine branch of the United States government” are going to want to read a first person account from a young woman who reluctantly chooses to go naked in public for a sociology experiment.

Part of my misgiving comes from the fact that I am, like many writers, a bit insecure about my writing.  I mentioned this in my last post, that I felt an affinity with William Goldman when he said that he was truly proud of only two of his works.  For those who search for Mr. Scibona’s book and find mine, I can only say that I hope you enjoy it.  It was written just for the pure fun of writing.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire 17th Anniversary

On March 7, 2001, I sat in a television studio in New York across from Regis Philbin and answered multiple choice questions until I missed.  I wound up winning $32,000 at this little exercise, and along the way, Regis and I talked about my nude modeling job in front of the studio audience and the many cameras.

That episode aired four days later, on Sunday night, March 11th.  I went to the store that day, and as I was checking out I looked around at everyone and wondered how many of them would be watching me that night.  All they had to do was tune their televisions to ABC.  In fact, that applied to anyone in the country, all 250 million of them.  It was such a surreal experience.  And for a few days after the show aired, people did double takes when they saw me, many of them actually approaching and talking to me as if they knew me, asking about the show and the money I had won.

It’s hard to believe that it has been seventeen years since that amazing experience, but I have grown older.  My kids have grown up.  My toddler son is now a father himself.

Here’s the video of my appearance on the show (D.H. Jonathan is a pen name I used when publishing The “Volunteer”).

Share a Slice Podcast

I was recently a guest on Sean McGuire’s Share a Slice podcast, where we talked about my book The “Volunteer” and several of the aspects of that story: public nudity, nude modeling, activism by Andrew Martinez and Gypsy Taub, and sexualized nudity in media versus commonplace nudity in practice.  We even talked about an old episode of MASH and my 2001 appearance on the TV gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  Give it a listen here:  http://shareaslicepodcast.com/2017/11/07/volunteer/

Podcast

Working Life

It has been a strange few weeks.  I was laid off from my full-time job on March 29th.  The lay off was completely unexpected as the company was expecting new business soon and my department already had more work than our six-person team could handle.  I am, as of yet, unable to make a living solely from my writing income (although not working these past three weeks has allowed me more time to promote The “Volunteer” and sell more copies).  I would need a few more titles to be able to make a go of being a full time writer, but at least I now have more time for writing, at least for the time being.

Bukowski_McCarthy

I had recently posted links to a couple of articles on my Facebook timeline about writing and avoiding full-time employment.  One of those was written from an interview that Oprah Winfrey did with Cormac McCarthy in 2007.  McCarthy talked about avoiding getting stuck in a 9 to 5 job when he was young, even though he was bleakly poor at times.  He was quoted as saying, “I thought, ‘you’re just here once, life is brief and to have to spend every day of it doing what somebody else wants you to do is not the way to live it.’”  That article is here: http://www.openculture.com/2017/02/cormac-mccarthy-explains-why-he-worked-hard-at-not-working-how-9-to-5-jobs-limit-your-creative-potential.html

The second article was about a letter Charles Bukowski wrote to his publisher in 1986 about how he chose to quit his full time job and write full time.  That article includes the entire text of that letter, but these two paragraphs stand out:

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

That article is here: http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/charles-bukowski-rails-against-9-to-5-jobs.html

My current situation, with the mortgage, the kids, the bills, etc., demands that I bring in a certain amount of income, and I just can’t reach that income level from writing alone.  So I do have to look for another job.  But I find inspiration in the words of McCarthy and Bukowski, that there is another way, that I can change my situation and totally commit to my writing.