Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

What it’s like to seek a literary agent

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Writing on May 28, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Well it feels like eternity for me– this process of trying to secure an agent; and its not even close to being complete. I have been blessed with far more interest then I ever though possible– considering that agents accept roughly 3% of what they receive. I now have a total of 6 agents and 3 publishers interested in my material… and truthfully I have at least 25 more agents I could send material to.

Its a very small world; the world of literary agents and publishers. I was able to identify maybe 50 quality agents and about 40 quality publishers. Some of the biggest publishers, however, only work through agents to buy projects like Starving Artist Not!; elminating them as possible sources until I have an agent.

The process started with the query letter I sent to them; which explained what Starving Artist Not! was about, why I am the perfect person to write it and why people will read it. Agents/Publishers skim through what they get; looking for new fresh ideas that no one has written about before. Its a very subjective process because what they choose to pursue usually is something of personal interest to them and, most importantly, they feel they have the contacts that will allow them to represent the project and get it sold.

After the query letter, I received quite quickly a request to send out my book proposal; which in greater detail explains the project, who you are, how you will market the project and at least 3 sample chapters with outlines of rest of the chapters in the book.

Agents/Publishers are so overwhelmed with submissions that they don’t want their time wasted because they reject so much of what they see; so this is often the first step.

Now, some 4-6 weeks after completing that, I have successfully made it to the stage where I am now being asked to provide the entire manuscript to read. My deadline to send out my manuscript for all to read is quickly approaching; Monday the 4th of June.

I have come to realize that the literary process is very similar to music auditions– it too is very much a “behind the screen” thing. You send out some of your work, and if they are interested, THEY WILL CONTACT YOU. When or if you receive acceptance to go to the audition, or in my case send them more to read, again you wait for their response.

But this has been an especially strange experience for me, because at least in an audition they say” Thank you- # 178, next please” With books, it can take them months to offer a reply or any feedback at all– and some tell you that right up front!

I use to think the music auditioning process was brutal, but my opinion about that, now that I have written a book, is changing.

This process is harder! NO FEEDBACK AT ALL. At least in an audition if its going well they ask you to play the excerpt again or give you instructions on how they would like to hear it again. It sure is a lot easier to refine or improve your product if you are given some feedback to work from.

While naively I was thinking that this process might be more communicative- after all we are talking about the written word- I am making my way through the process, I think quite well, despite how archaic a process it is.

But I sure will be happy when this stage is over. I have been working hard on this last round of editing my book and can’t wait to send it off into what hopefully is not a black hole but instead into the hands of the right agent to represent Starving Artist Not! who will quickly reply….

Cyber Space Music Making

In The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on May 21, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Imagine if John had never met Paul, or another Paul had never met Art. Well, these days online-jamming Web sites are making it easier for thousands or even millions of would-be Lennons and McCartneys or Simons and Garfunkels to collaborate — without ever meeting each other in person.

On one such site, Jamglue.com, “Peace & Hate,” a song by a group called The Submarines, is being modified by other users. Anyone who fancies themselves a musician can go in, press a “remix” button, and add their own tracks or make their own version out of the same parts.

Jamglue is one of half a dozen new sites where musicians can meet and compose and play together.

We certainly have seen how people are now buying music over the internet but we really have not seen a lot of music being created on the internet up until now.

On a site called EJamming.com you can literally plug a guitar into your computer and start playing in real time with somebody in another city in real time.

Just think of how many musicians can collaborate through meeting musically on line? Think of how many great new bands can be formed or virtually any kind of musical ensemble with all the musicians living in different parts of the world? There is also so much potential for these kinds of sites to become virtual recording studio’s; creating all kinds of new potential business opportunities and ways to use your creativity.

The possibilities are endless. Check it out.

Top Chef’ Dreams Crushed by Student Loan Debt

In Interesting Articles on May 10, 2007 at 10:43 pm

This Article appeared in the New York Times was written by KIM SEVERSON Published: May 8, 2007

Would anyone reading this like to tell me how this is any different then what the majority of the music, film, theater, art and now cooking schools are teaching, or more importantly, not teaching their students about how they can earn a decent living in the arts? When will the world of education realize that the ONLY answer for creative types and artists, to have a future as bright as their dreams, is to teach ALL OF THEM how to Entrepreneur Their Art-form.
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Rick Park started working at a Jack in the Box in Austin, Tex., when he was 18. He moved on to sub shops, pizza parlors and chain restaurants, turning out hundreds of meals during a shift.

But Mr. Park wanted to be a chef. So like tens of thousands of other young people who grew up in the age of kitchen celebrities like Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, he enrolled in culinary school.

Two years after graduation, all the “Bam!” has been drained from the dream. Mr. Park makes $10.50 an hour at a bistro in Austin best known for its French fries, trying to pay down his student loans. While he dodges phone calls from the bank, his mother helps him make his $705 monthly payments, almost twice his weekly take-home pay.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Mr. Park, 29, said before starting another night shift at the Hyde Park Bar and Grill. “I put my degree on applications, and they make fun of me for it.”

In the way that the work of directors like Martin Scorsese flooded film schools with students in the 1970s, and the television show “L.A. Law” packed law schools in the 1980s, the rise of celebrity chefs has been good for culinary schools.

But would-be top chefs face a challenge that most lawyers, engineers or nurses do not: few jobs in their chosen field pay enough for them to retire their student loans. As a result, as many as 11 percent of graduates at some culinary schools are defaulting on federal student loans. The national average for all students last year was roughly half that, at 5.1 percent.

Although the restaurant industry is expected to create two million new jobs in the next decade, the Department of Labor reports that in 2005, the latest year for which data were available, the average hourly wage for a restaurant cook was $9.86.

“The problem isn’t getting a job, the problem is getting a high-paying job,” said Susan Sykes Hendee, a dean at Baltimore International College and a member of the American Culinary Federation Foundation Accrediting Commission, which accredits many culinary schools.

Many of the schools offer two-year programs where the total tuition and supply costs can reach $48,000. Only a slice of that is covered by low-interest federal loans. For example, the most that students in two-year programs can currently borrow in federal loans is $14,125.

So many of them seek money from banks that are usually recommended by the school. The terms on some of these private loans can quickly get a young person with little borrowing experience into financial trouble.

Mr. Park said that when he and his mother met with a financial-aid counselor at the school, they were told that his payments on his private loan, from Sallie Mae, would be about $250 a month. But his first bill after graduation was for more than twice that, said his mother, Elise McClain, an English professor in Florida. They twice requested payment deferments while he looked for a job but when they began repaying the loan, both his principal and his monthly payment had risen again. The balance is now $46,198.88 at just over 16 percent interest.

“They had us sign a pack of papers,” Ms. McClain said. “Of course, it was as big as a phone book and maybe I should have paid more attention. I just feel so stupid.”

Advocates trying to change the student loan system say culinary students have a particularly difficult time with student loans.

“Truly the worst horror stories are from private culinary schools,” said Alan Collinge, who founded the grass-roots lobbying group Student Loan Justice and collects information from people with student loan problems. “The story is always the same. The school convinces the student they are going to be the next Julia Child or Wolfgang Puck, and the student will sign anything.”

Many culinary students come from blue-collar families and do not have the financial experience to navigate the world of college costs, Ms. Sykes Hendee said. “The majority of students are the first people going to college in their families,” she said. “It’s not the rich and famous going to culinary school.”

Culinary schools can only do so much when it comes to helping students avoid trouble with private loans, said Lynne Baker, a vice president of the Career Education Corporation, a publicly traded company that runs more than 80 colleges. Fourteen of those are culinary schools, including the Texas Culinary Academy, which Mr. Park attended.

“We always steer our students to try to exhaust all their federal and state loans before they look for alternative funding,” Ms. Baker said. “This is a national issue. The reality is the federal dollars just don’t cut it for students anymore.”

Culinary training can cost more than other kinds of schooling, Ms. Baker and other educators say, because classrooms are often small, fully equipped kitchens, and supplies include expensive food and wine. And, she added, her schools produce thousands of happy graduates, many of whom end up as executive chefs at hotels or own their own restaurants.

Certainly, professional training can help cooks move up quickly through the kitchen ranks. And culinary schools have produced many of the nation’s finest chefs.

But some of those chefs equivocate about whether the high cost of some culinary degrees is worth it for someone who just wants to cook for a living. Sufficient training could come from community colleges or other basic programs that offer certificates for less than the cost of a year’s worth of books, equipment and uniforms at a brand-name culinary school.

“Cooking is a trade you do with your hands, so basically culinary school is a $30,000 trade school,” said Ann Cooper, a chef who serves as director of nutrition for the Berkeley Unified School District in California. “What a lot of schools tell these kids is they are going to be sous chefs making $30,000 or $40,000 a year.” A beginning restaurant cook, by contrast, may earn about $20,000 a year.

Ms. Cooper is a 1977 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. When she attended, that school and Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island were at the top of a short list an ambitious student would consider.

Today, the choices have ballooned. When Dorlene Kaplan began publishing the ShawGuides to cooking schools in 1989, the book listed 125 professional schools offering everything from simple certificates to four-year degrees. Now, the guide, which is now published only online, lists 447 schools.

Tim Ryan, the president of the Culinary Institute of America, estimates that 62,000 students are in culinary schools, 35 percent more than five years ago.

About 72 percent of the schools that offer two- or four-year culinary degrees are community colleges or public institutions, Mr. Ryan said. The rest are run by for-profit companies like the Art Institutes and the Career Education Corporation.

As a result of competition and of changes in the food industry, culinary schools are maturing. More schools are becoming accredited, and top-tier schools are raising academic standards and focusing on education beyond mastering French sauces. Liberal arts or business courses train students to work in a broader array of jobs like manufacturing, publishing, television and food science.

Good SAT scores and some experience in the food industry are required to get into the Culinary Institute of America, which has developed four-year tracks that emphasize writing, business skills, marketing and technology as well as cooking. A master’s program is not far off, Mr. Ryan said.

But for thousands of young people with Michelin stars in their eyes, the dream is not about working for a food corporation or mastering nutrition science.

They want to cook. They just did not realize how deep in debt they would end up.

Erica Reichlin said the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, which she graduated from in 2005, helped her build a good foundation of culinary skills. But it also landed her almost $84,000 in debt, with a mix of federal and private loans she used for tuition, housing and other costs.

After working at a restaurant and for a caterer in San Francisco, Ms. Reichlin decided her culinary career and finances would be better served in New York. Besides, it was home.

Now Ms. Reichlin, 29, is executive chef at a Long Island yacht club and a line cook at a restaurant called CatFish Max in Seaford, N.Y. Her grandfather co-signed a new loan, and her payments are now about $600 a month at 8 percent interest.

Of the 32 people in her class at the culinary academy, she said, only 3 are still cooking.

One of her classmates, she recalls, bragged at the beginning of their program that he would make it to the Food Network.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” she said. “Now he’s working at a country club in Florida.”

Tick-Tock

In Emotional Intelligence on May 9, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Well I am coming around the last phase of writing my book and I can hardly wait to have it in the hands of a few agents to read. I have 2 weeks to finish it and one week to get it to my editor to meet my self imposed deadline. I have been working on Starving Artist Not! around the clock.

As day bleeds into night, I find I have hardly moved from my spot in front of the computer outside of getting a fresh cup of coffee or something to eat. Yesterday I sat outside and wrote. It was almost surreal watching the sun fade into darkness as I sat in stillness except for the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard.

It is days like these that I wonder what force is driving me because I am so determined and focused and tired. In June I will have worked on this project for a year in solitude. I am so ready to share what has consumed me inside of my book.

I know that once I have a chosen agent that there will be more editing and work to do and again the same when a publisher is chosen. But just getting the book to a state where I am ready to let go of it feels like a big step forward and will feel like a major accomplishment.

But the clock is ticking and time is moving on. For now, it is back to the dungeon to be a slave to my own creative efforts.

Bite-Size Progress: May 07

In The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble on May 5, 2007 at 8:15 pm

bitesized2.jpgFor those of you new to reading my blog, from time to time I want to remind you that one of the main purposes to this blog is to walk the walk and talk the talk; in front of you.

I am not preaching how to build a business in the arts sitting in a lofty tower but on the front line of battle building all brand new business’ right before your very eyes.

One of my goals, for this blog, is to have it serve as a historical reference for anyone who wants to take the time to go back and read archived posts, to see my progress, struggles, and strategy for moving forward. Like someone on stage with a box full of parts to build a bicycle that I have never built, before your eyes I will find a way to assemble it and so can you.

So this post is devoted to updates on my next steps most specifically for my newest start-up, my arts ensemble; Bite-Size Arts Ensemble. The quickest way to explain The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is: Culture in a Bite. My goal is to entertain, enlighten and educate my audiences to the possibilities in art and to expose possible ways for them to be more involved in the arts. The ensemble’s core focus is classical, jazz, poetry and film fused together in new forms as well as independently displayed.

The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble is making great strides forward. We have identified 2 venues that fit our target market demographically- one in Chicago and the other in Arlington Heights, IL. Performance dates are going to be set in the next couple of weeks. The venue’s alone will cost $10,000 for a total of 8 dates to rent; so we are shooting at 2008 to book concerts to allow for some audience development work, at least 2 fund raising performances and to allow time to pull our marketing, brochures and most importantly, the programs together.

A short film documentary will be part of each performance and those also have to be shot before the year is over to be ready to go. The idea of the 10 minute documentary’s will be to show the audience a “how to” on something of interest- a commercial photographer at work, a day in the life of a potter throwing clay, what it takes to repair a musical instrument and more.

Because Bite-Size will be a mix of jazz, classical, poetry and film at its core, I am also working on material that will both be on my first solo cd titled “creative (r)evolution” and also can be included on the series next year. I just recorded a piece written for me, by Don Draganski, resident composer from the group I played in for 10 years, The Pilgrim Chamber Players, titled Shiva; which is for solo clarinet. Its a cross between klezmer and Arabic music but each section is being expanded to turn it into a “tune” by including tabla and Chinese cymbals and perhaps more ethnic drumming.

As a classical musician getting to work with drums and in a studio is a new experience and really exhilarating. I feel free to try new things and am really enjoying the fact that I can break as many “rules” as I like because this is about my expression of my musical creativity and not about following the strict rules of classical music; where I was raised.

The web sites for Lisa’s Clarinet Shop and Entrepreneur The Arts are about to go through a major overhaul and incorporate the Bite-Size Arts Ensemble into one large site. Its time to do that now. It has been in the plan since the beginning and now its time to take that next step. My book, Starving Artist Not! will be released first in an ebook format so watch for that when the new site roles out.

I am also starting to work with a publicist to write some articles about my book and The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble so that by fall I can start getting some press and start radio interviews.

If you think any of this is easy- don’t be deceived. But it really is true- no pain no gain. In the next 6 months I have to find a way to have my 3 person board raise 10 K to cover the cost of the hall rentals for starters, I have a web site to re-design and pay for, there is work to be done with a publicist to write articles and get them strategically placed in print, magazines and other media sources and of course pay for; musicians to pay, studio time to pay for, music/poetry to write and transform, practicing to do to prepare for all of this and still I have all the things I need to do to continue to move my book forward to be published. Oh, and there is of course the work I do to actually make my living through Lisa’s Clarinet Shop to cover the costs of these projects within the budget I have established. It’s quite a balancing act; to say the least.

But at the end of my day, I know that my life is my own. My work is what I create. My money is money I have earned doing things I love. And the money I spend is an investment in my future. Risk offers reward if you work hard, follow your heart, test your ideas, plan and follow through with good execution.

If you don’t know how to do everything you need to know then start with a Bite-Size amount you can handle. Start wherever you are but take a bite and start. This is how I have done everything I do and will do: one bite at a time but the whole meal is planned in bite-size amounts I can handle. Evenutally you can handle more and more.

What’s Up Pussycat?

In Current Events on May 2, 2007 at 3:33 pm

So why do coffee shops that decide to have wonderful live music have such few people hanging out to listen on a Tuesday night? Is it because no one is interested in LIVE anything anymore? Is it because the coffee house isn’t promoting their events? Or has the internet and our need, as a society, to seemingly sit in solitude gaming and downloading MP3’s on our iPods, replaced our need, as a society, for personal interaction?

Last night I went to hear a friend of mine play, saxophonist John Goldman, with some of his friends and it was fantastic; except that they could have been playing in my living room for easily more money because there were so few people there. Last night, with John, I also heard Scott Hesse, on guitar and Gordan Lewis on bass.

Quadrangle has been playing at The Red Eyes Coffee House at 4164 N Lincoln Avenue here in Chicago for about 6 months and how come nobody seems to know they are there??

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are 101 things you could do on any given night of every week, and this is just one more of those things in Chicago to occur; but why does this happen as often as it does with really great displays of art? Do you think artists themselves have something to do with it?

Now John has placed in The Reader, our town’s paper of happenings, in the jazz section, his post for this venue and he does the usual stuff sending info about upcoming gigs out in an email. Not all that different then other’s I have seen and yet its not getting traction; not unlike so many other musicians with really worthy talent in interesting eclectic intimate venues.

Ya know, those venues that people later talk about when the artist becomes really well known: “Yah, remember when they use to play at the Red Eyes Coffee House? I heard them there YEARS before anyone realized how great they were.” You remember those days because you were up close and personal; and it was cool.

Do you think we as artists do this to ourselves? Do you think we are so inwardly focused to learn our “art” , and then become so sensitive about our work because it means so much to us, that we have trouble saying to our family, friends, co workers, enemies, daily chance encounters and anyone else we bump into: “Hey, My______ ( insert your art form here) is rockin and you should come and check me out! Bring your significant other and hang out. Here’s where you can see or hear me next _______________ ( fill in venue here).”

Artists, as a bunch, I think are largely introverts when it comes to self promotion and as a result we are creators of our universe!! But even a simple verbal announcement to promote your work isn’t enough! You need to brand YOURSELF just like you brand your genre or art. Find your audience through newsletters, building a mailing list and using it six – eight times a year to produce an interesting read of what’s happening in your world and MAKE your audience happen. If you think its any different in the world of FOR PROFIT; think again. Its all the same stuff and artists will benefit ENORMOUSLY by developing their audience strategically.

After all we are in the 21st Century which is being called The New Creative Economy. Creativity is being valued like never before. Fortune 100’s like MasterCard have built ad campaigns about the magic creative special moments in life create. Their next ad should go something like this:
Terrific hot smokin jazz at 4164 N Lincoln Avenue~ $10.00
A double espresso~ $5.00
Experiencing great live music with your significant other~ priceless.

On Tuesday night’s starting for sure by 7pm, go to The Red Eyes Coffee House at 4164 N Lincoln and check out Jazz saxophonist, and flutist John Goldman and his group Quadrangle.