Traditional Publishing

One brash request, 7 books, and 34 bits of advice for writers – Thursday February 9, 2023

How a whimsical invitation featuring the Rolling Stones and a Shelley poem led to some essential writing advice.

Early in October I received a small package from England, which looked most interesting even before I opened it. The envelope celebrated “Her Majesty the Queen’s PLATINUM JUBILEE.” Five stamps carried the postage, each with a distinctive image: Soldiers from World War II; three lines from my favorite Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, “To a Skylark”; four members of the Rolling Stones; and a gray cat with its eyes closed.

When I flipped it over, it was sealed with a Mick Jagger stamp and a handwritten note: “He also can’t get no satisfaction …”

I was intrigued. Whoever sent this seemed to know something about my interests and sensibilities. The sender was a writer named Paul Khanna. He described himself as a scribe who was, like Jagger, not getting satisfaction from his work; no mention of his acting career. He had written three diet books and had taken a course on screenwriting during the pandemic. He experienced personal setbacks. Both parents suffered serious illnesses and his cat went blind. (I thought of that stamp of a gray cat with its eyes closed.)

What did he want from me? It turns out he had read two of my books and found them helpful. He then caught a notice of my new book, “Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing,” due out April 11. He wanted a preview copy. “Just like the Apollo 13 which launched on that day,” he wrote, “I’m feeling lost in space and can’t wait to find my way home.”

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