With just over two weeks to go until Career Night for the Arts, the Arts Council has been picking the creative brains of successful BC alumni for a quick preview of their expert insight into the arts industries. On Thursday Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., these arts aficionados will be sharing their wisdom with current students in the McMullen Museum, Devlin Hall. If you’re considering a career in the arts, you can’t miss this opportunity to meet professionals working in publishing, film, theatre, visual arts, music, and arts administration.
Today, we’re talking to writer Tim Lemire, ’89. Tim has occupied numerous writing related roles, from English teacher to newspaper editor, and after penning no less that seven books, he’s certainly learned a thing or two about the publishing world.
You’ve worked in many different fields over the years! Do you have a favorite job? Would you recommend experimenting with different careers, or do you wish you’d stuck with one?
My favorite job was journalism. I could write every day, interview people, learn new things, and I felt like I was working for a public good.
The collapse of newspapers is a good example of what I’m seeing more and more: the marketplace making career decisions for you. When I graduated college, making a career was like forging a path; today, it’s like navigating a torrential river. It can be done, it’s just more precarious.
The road to publishing a book seems especially rocky and uncertain. What’s the most challenging thing about the process?
Answering the first question that the publisher wants to know: Who’s going to buy this? “Everybody” isn’t an acceptable answer. You need to be precise, otherwise the publisher doesn’t know who to target the book to, to make a profit. And today, the question is: Why should this be a book and not a blog?
The most challenging thing about having a book published is that instead of just sitting back and enjoying sausage, you get to see how the sausage is made. You see how many decisions there are, and for better or for worse, you don’t make all of them.
What advice would you give to a first-time author about publishing a book?
Keep an open mind. That novel or short story you want to write may work better on television or as a self-published e-book. Or it may not work at all, and you should go to the next idea.
When I got out of college, I wanted to be like the authors I’d read: Hemingway, Cheever, Joyce. But that entire model of publishing—that entire literary culture—is long, long gone. It took me years to realize and accept that, and to move on—to be me instead of someone else.
How did your time at BC prepare you for a career in the arts?
Boston College, for all its merits, didn’t have an arts scene in the 1980s that you would call “burgeoning.” Opportunities were limited. When you’re young, it’s tempting to be cynical and just give up and think, “No one cares, what’s the point.”
But that situation can be liberating: if no one cares, you can do whatever you want! Experiment, be bold, try things out. I think young people today are more adaptable to a D.I.Y. environment — they have better technology to help them. My generation had MacWrite.
Boston College prepared me for a career in the arts by letting me try a lot of things so I could figure out what I wanted to do. Every time I come back to campus, I reconnect with that spirit of adventure and possibility.