I went to hear Temple Grandin speak this week. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen her now, but she’s my hero. There are a million reasons to love her; for what she’s done for animal understanding and welfare, and for people with autism, but also for her confident opinions and one-of-a-kind self. It can’t have been easy. She has made not fitting in an art form. Over the years, she seems a bit more comfortable, or maybe we are more accepting of her, but now at 67, she’s a live wire. A force of nature. She has a lot to say and she says it fast!
Living with her particular autism has given Temple Grandin a voice to admire, not that she hasn’t paid for it. But then, don’t we all pay a price for what we say or don’t say? Pay a price for who we are?
I first met Temple Grandin while reading her book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. Her words filled a gap for me; she gave me a more positive way to see my own species. Like her, I’m extremely visual and I struggled with people, thinking that we all “saw” the same thing. When she described how her brain worked, I recognized it. I’m not autistic, but I didn’t know our method of thinking was different until she explained how most people think. She almost made too much sense.
Like the rest of us, Temple Grandin bumped up against Gatekeepers: people who maintained the status quo. But sometimes the standard practice needs improvement, so she found a way around roadblocks to do her work. Change is hard; shaking up the status quo, whether it’s mainstreaming autistic kids or saying slaughter houses need to be re-designed from the bottom up, is going to agitate people.
Gatekeepers have a purpose; there is a value to order and tradition, and at the same time, growth and evolution is inevitable. In publishing, the tradition is that a few publishers have control over what books come out. Authors are powerless, hoping to get a nod of validation, even as the ocean of manuscripts totally drowns publishers every day of the year.
There are well-worn stories of rejection and redemption, but do you ever think about the ones that got away? The Pulitzer manuscripts stuffed into drawers? When I studied art history, I was always left wondering about painters who were not men or who didn’t have a patron. How many possible Old Masters were just never discovered? How many women painted secretly? Somewhere in the soup, there is luck. Just dumb luck.
Technology is blowing the publishing industry apart right now. No one knows what’s next. Traditional publishers are resisting the change, previously published authors who have a stack of rejections are considering taking another path, and anyone can upload an eBook to Amazon and be an author in an hour, with not so much as a spell-check required. It’s chaos.
Temple Grandin says, “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” The person who doesn’t fit the norm might be the best thing that ever happened.
My week in self-publishing: I’ve heard from two small presses in the last two weeks. Each asked if my manuscript was still available. It doesn’t mean they want it; they just took longer to say maybe. Part of my brain says, “Wait, give them a few months and maybe they will want it–most likely with a few story line changes and a new title. Maybe they will make my book legitimate.” The other side says, “Just do it.”
So the learning curve continues. It’s been a week of ISBN numbers and formatting questions. What size should the book be, what kind of binding and production, and how will I promote it? My newsletter is coming together. The first cover reveal will be there and a sneak peek at a chapter or two. I’m studying up on giveaways. If you want the inside skinny on my book, sign up on the link at the top of the page.
Two days ago I met a person who looked at me with disdain for self-publishing, probably assuming I was another idiot who couldn’t use spell-check and didn’t deserve publishing. It’s a Catch-22. I don’t have a physical book so I can’t ask her to reconsider.
Maybe some of us were never good candidates for fitting in. Maybe self-publishing is a better fit for someone who believes her right to a voice shouldn’t be dependent on the judgment of others. (No surprise it’s a theme in Stable Relation as well.)
Is there something simmering inside of you, too? I dare you… take a cue from Temple Grandin. Be the real, weird, funny, smart, and utterly beautiful person you are, and then speak up. Like a force of nature.