Welcome to the sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers and more. Today’s is with poet and non-fiction author Lawrence Berger. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Lawrence. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Lawrence: Well, that’s a bit of a long story, the short version is I wrote my first self-help guide in the hospital and to this day I’ll still tell you that Rush Limbaugh saved my life. I moved to California and worked as a marketing director for an “agency” out there while I was trying to sell the book. The “agent” I was working for suggested I go to a poetry reading and I haven’t looked back since.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write?
Lawrence: Mostly Poetry. I do still “review” scripts and write self-help books too. But mostly poetry.
Morgen: I have two poets in my writing group and they love the genre. What have you had published to-date?
Lawrence: Well let’s see: I’ve published four poetry collections (‘chocolate box’, ‘Dragon’s Dance Volume one’, and ‘Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!)’, the last of which is currently in its third edition), two “showcase anthologies” (‘Goldminds’ and ‘Working Title’), a self-help guide (‘The Green Lantern: a guide for Achieving the American Dream’) and I’m working on a screen play. I also have a few credits which you can find if you Google me under the name “Laughing” Larry Berger.
Morgen: You mentioned an “agent” earlier, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Lawrence: I’ve worked with an “agent” but I had to do all the work! I’ve worked with others and their magic number is 10,000 copies. If you can’t convince an agent you can move books on that level they usually won’t want to talk to you. I’m mostly self-published and it works for me.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Lawrence: The third edition of ‘Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!)’ is available in both kindle and nook formats. To-date I’ve sold over 100 copies of this edition (this one was out by I universe for purposes of mass market distribution, therefore I won’t have hard data till august but I do know that out of the 100 sold I’ve made directly), one was an eBook. I find that most poetry readers are still bibliophiles and will be for a while yet.
Morgen: I tend to agree, from what I’ve heard. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Lawrence: A little magazine called ‘Of the people’ (Tiger Lilly Press), yea it was a thrill for five minutes.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Lawrence: Sure. Some were helpful, some nasty. I usually apply a Sales technique call the law of 100, 20, 10 which states that for every 100 calls you make 20 will listen to your pitch and maybe 3 will buy. A “good salesperson” will move that number from 3-5 and a “closer” to 10, which is where the rule gets its name. Rejection is just par for the course. It’s the acceptances that pay the bills.
Morgen: I’m rubbish at selling. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Lawrence: I’m updating the self-help guide and working on two movie projects as well as continuing to push ‘Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!)’.
Morgen: Two movies, wow. Do you manage to write every day?
Lawrence: Yup! at least a little.
Morgen: I only worked out recently that 300 words a day equates to 100,000 a year – that’s doable for most people, surely. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it?
Lawrence: The writing style I use does not allow for writers block. Instant poetry is an improve-based form where I go to a reading and take titles out of the audience and build complete poems on them in 30 seconds or less.
Morgen: Wow. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Lawrence: Sure. I’ll do 15-20 Instant Poetry pieces a night and I’m lucky to remember even two a week.
Morgen: That’s a shame. Maybe you could have a dictaphone with you. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Lawrence: Don’t give up. If you’re meant to live as a writer you will.
Morgen: Great advice – I’ll remember that. What do you like to read?
Lawrence: Sci-fi, Greek Roman and Norse mythology.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Morgen: I know Winning Writers but Poetry Super Highway is a new one on me so thanks for that. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Lawrence: USA. I’m not sure that it matters much.
Morgen: I think you’re probably right given the depth and breadth of the internet. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Lawrence: I belong to several Facebook poetry groups. I’ve also found several through a service called LinkedIn, if fact I believe you send out a request on that service and that’s why I’m doing this interview. I base my business on making connections these services allow me to do that.
Morgen: It was indeed – two fellow LinkedIn members were swamped so I offered and am so glad I did, it’s fun. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Lawrence: You can search “Laughing” Larry Berger or visit my blog at: http://www.poeticconversations.blogspot.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Lawrence: Thank you for the interview.
Morgen: You’re very welcome, Lawrence, thank you for taking part.
Lawrence R. Berger is an accomplished poet whose work has appeared in http://www.everydaypoets.com. The Poetry Super Highway’s Featured Poet of the week (May 2nd-May 8th 2011 edition),“Sips from Foreign Shores”, and “Le Mote Juste.” He has also sold over 2,500 copies of his collected writings titled, “Instant Poetry (Just add words!)”. Mr. Berger taught creative writing at The Step up on Second program in Santa Monica, CA and the Strong Ties Program at the University Of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY. He holds an Associate’s degree in small business administration and has also participated in numerous show case events such as : The LA Spoken, The 9th annual DADA festival, The Java City Marathon, The Sacramento California Heritage Festival, the 5th and 6th annual Peace day celebrations, the 9th annual Denver Poetry Rodeo, the 2009 and 2010 Art walk Alive festivals, and more.
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