The Audience for “Thank You For Ten”
Unless you happen to have stumbled across my blog or my Twitter account for the very first time today, you know what Thank You For Ten: Short Fiction About a Little Theater is. As I get closer to the summer launch of this self-published collection of my stories, I want to share more about it.
Why did I write these stories? (All of which take place here. ) There are multiple reasons why a writer writes anything, I dare say. But perhaps the biggest reason I wrote this collection, (along with my upcoming novel, Flowers to Dionysus, set in the same location), was to both exhibit and explore everyday creativity, craftsmanship, art.
I’ve explored this topic outside of this collection before and will of course continue to do so in future works. But in composing these stories, I set out to take my readers on brief but deep journeys into the original, undiluted concept of the “amateur“.
The word “amateur” is rooted in the Latin word “amator”, which basically means “lover”. Applied directly in this fashion, an amateur is one who pursues an activity or discipline because of a love for same. A passion. In other words not to receive monetary gain, but out of strong affection for the thing in and of itself. Note that strictly speaking this does not preclude someone from making money from the activity. Money is just not the impetus for pursuit.
You’ll find some official definitions that nearly match this. This dictionary has as its prime definition; “a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit.” Almost… but it lacks the hot-blooded urgency that is endemic of the Latin root; “lover”.
The very same dictionary gives a secondary definition of amateur as, “a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity.” The Oxford Dictionary goes even further with its own secondary definition; “a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity.” These secondary definitions I feel are becoming, if they have not already become, the primary association most people make with the word. From political campaigns to football matches, the term “Amateur Hour” is far from a compliment.
Combine this tendency with the overwhelming notion in many Western nations that the procurement of money is the true indicator of individual value, and you have a social tendency to dismiss anyone who pursues anything without monetary compensation as somehow inferior. True, do it long enough or in an odd enough way and you may be lucky enough to be labeled “hobbyist,” a term that carries somewhat less of a stigma. Still most amateurs, especially within the arts, are met with pity and condescension at best, and disdain at worst.
I speak from experience however when I say that some of the best art comes from those who pursue it with love as their sole purpose. Some of the best writing, sculpture, dance, acting and singing can be found within the ranks of the amateurs who not only don’t make money doing what they do, but may in fact make themselves less effective at their jobs the next day because of how much they have poured into their passion the previous night.
When such lovers buckle down or band together to present their efforts to a skeptical world, the result is often transcendent. Not everything is a masterpiece, but the same can be said for “professionals” who get paid for what they do. But art begets art begets passion begets more art. And while professionals can certainly still be artists, there is something about those who make spare time for it that ought to be admired, not ridiculed.
That’s what Thank You For Ten: Short Fiction About a Little Theater is about. That’s why I wrote these stories. Whether you dance, paint, play the flute or play Mary in your church’s annual Christmas pageant, I offer the characters in this collection and what they experience outside of their professional lives as a reflection of your own artistic endeavors. Some are meant to be funny, some thoughtful, some are just a Chekhovian slice-of-life, but all are there to offer a communion to my fellow amateurs of the purest kind. You don’t have to know theater; you only have to know a love of your particular art or craft to find something to enjoy in this collection.
Of course, the creative process can be a long, messy one. I’ve included plenty of warts and false-starts and straight-up bumblings for the amateurs in these stories. My goal, however, was to enhance and not degrade the process by including the missteps and confusion that make up any given day in the life of an artist. We become afraid of that aspect of the creative life at times, but we know it’s all part of the adventure, and that’s why it’s in my stories as well.
An agent or business-oriented person may ask me of this collection, “who is your audience?” I like to think people from all walks of life would find something in this collection to enjoy. Yet if I had to answer this question in front of a board of some kind, (and thank the Divinities I do not), it should be clear to you by now what my answer would be. My audience is the artist in all of us who will give up time, sleep, energy, sometimes even food and money in order to create or pursue that which has welled up inside of us from a place that a career or business simply cannot extinguish.
My audience is the amateur. Actually, my audience is the amator.