clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Civilized and the Barbarous

I've traveled enough to wear the descriptor "well traveled."

I've journeys civilized and barbarous.

Helsinki and Stockholm are wonderful cities.

They polish the train platforms in Stockholm with the same machines they use to clean the floor of your local hospital. Yes - the outside platforms. Daily.

I've also been to less lovely places. I'm not repulsed or surprised by the kinds of things one human will do to another for money, politics, religion, or because it is a slow Tuesday night. Disclaimer: I live less than an hour from downtown Detroit.

I've learned to judge locales by their culinary offerings. I consider a city/town/village civilized if I can buy a newspaper in a European language and order pot of tea with strudel or cheesecake. Short of that: B.F.E.

I lived my youth in a part of the world that was B.F.E. right here in the continental U.S.

What I have noticed is that when I am in B.F.E. the locals regard manners as a point of pride. People introduce themselves or at least respectfully acknowledge you. If you go to B.F.E. and have a letter of introduction, it acts like a real introduction and you are trusted and embraced.

Which brings me to our writing involvement. I have a friend who has a pretty good story ready for submission. Literary stuff. I volunteer to look over the cover letter if they want. I've looked over the story several times so I feel very close to it.

They hadn't planned on sending one.

They were just going to bundle the manuscript and shove it over the transom. I don't think it is common knowledge that a basic business-tone cover letter is no dis-qualifier to a piece of work and ... remember ... you are building impression from the time the packet is received. People make impressions quickly. Short-story and essay should be just as civilized in their introduction as a novel. You wouldn't just send off a manuscript blindly to Miss Snark. 

If you've got the chops, you can be fine shoving your work into the hands of a stranger un-introduced. [ Ah, Mr. Hemingway, I didn't recognize you. We'll read this straight away.]

A cover letter is however courteous. There is a nice explanation for those looking to avoid the connotation of barbarian here.

I'm off to loot and pillage.


Unknown said...

Dear J: Thanks for the advice on cover letters. Hasn't worked for me yet, but I always include one. Must be the story that follows. Guess I need to keep working on my writing skills. By the way, my wife Brenda and I loved Italy. We sustained ourselves on lattes, gelato, and paninis. Yours truly, Toe.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Wow, polishing the train platform, huh? Reminds me a little of where we grew up. In parts of Baltimore, a lot of people who live in the old row homes scrub their front steps every day. (They're marble.)

You're right about the cover letters. They aren't as big of a pain as a synopsis, but just as necessary.

jack welling said...

Toe -

Italy is lovely. I had some of my happiest days there. I spent a lot of time in Naples and learned to disconnect my state of mind from my economic condition. Glad you enjoyed.

Oh - I'll be posting this week about some of the writer's instruction I've got in the library, too.

Susan -

Thanks for stopping by ... Baltimore. Wow. I love marble.