Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Upton Sinclair”

Books That Matter: Writing to Change the World – Mary Pipher

You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way… people look at reality, then you can change it.” James Baldwin

I love this quote and so does Mary Pipher. Her book Writing to Change the World offers, in her own words, a guide to changing the world one “Baldwin Millimeter” at a time. She presents many inspirational quotes and examples.

This book is less of a how-to and more of an opening of the heart. It is the feeling that motivates so many of us, and serves as a reminder when we forget it or prioritize other things such as sales, market requirements, fame and fortune.

My only disappointment with this book is that it only covers non-fiction. I would have liked to revel in the impact that such novels as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or George Orwell’s 1984, have had. Maybe I can write it after a few best selling political advocacy novels!

Still, I did enjoy the down-to-earth way that Pipher offers advice on how to write articles, letters, speeches, personal essays etc. The fact that she never allows herself to lose sight of the need to offer practical applications for the different ways we can influence the world with the quill, well keyboard. I find this both commendable and helpful. Finally, in her own words:

“Words are the most powerful tools at our disposal. With them, writers have saved lives and taken them, brought justice and confounded it, started wars and ended them. Writers can change the way we think and transform our definitions of right and wrong.”

For more on Mary Pipher, please click here for her website.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


Rejections, Rejections: The Road to Print-On-Demand

Every author has gone through rejection, its kind of a rite of passage. Stephen King, John Grisham, Upton Sinclair… the list goes on. But for how long can you go on receiving such letters? How many depressing seminars can you attend about the state of the book publishing business?

And then there comes a time that the writer wants to…write. To return to what he or she loves best; to give oneself up to an evolving story, to feel the energy of creative forces, to tell the story that is burning within.

It’s the near misses that hurt the most: the request to see more of the manuscript. Even more so, the requests for exclusivity, 6-8 weeks when you do not approach other agents, and they seriously consider your business potential. Then there are the agents who talk up the foreign markets, the movie potential, and, of course the triumphs and lifestyles of their successful authors.

I’m not blaming the agents (except those who rejected me, of course!). They are a product of the market they function in. The entire book business is in decline and we are desperately in need of more J.K. Rowlings’ to ignite and sustain a generation excited to open a book.

But not many of us can or will write the classic, the once-in-a generation, the book whose name is casually rolled out to a group of nodding friends. Many of us write for success, for recognition of our toils, our obsessions, for the knowledge that others are engulfed in a world we created.

I write for change. I have completed four novels, and each deals with transformation: of people who seek to better themselves or right the wrongs around them. My last two novels are about social injustices (Oilspill dotcom – the powers of multinationals, and They Returned As Heroes about the way we treat our war veterans). The use of the pen (I have one somewhere) and keyboard to effect social change is an exciting ideal for me, a huge incentive for my writing.

So I am motivated; I have sent submissions for Oilspill dotcom to about fifty agents either side of the Atlantic (Oilspill dotcom is based in the UK). I have edited and edited it, read it through twice to a very supportive Berkeley Writer’s Group and now written another novel in a 100 day ‘break’ I took from editing and marketing Oilspill dotcom. And I have my next story all lined up.

So it’s time to move on. Oilspill dotcom will be published by a Print-on-Demand company and I will give 6-9 months to marketing it and trying to ‘get noticed.’

Thank you for noticing me. Most of my blog entries will deal with choosing and working with the Print-on-Demand company, with editors, with creating marketing plans and such like. Until then…

Good Writing,


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: