Dan Buri Day 5
This week we have had the pleasure to explore Dan Buri’s
new book—Pieces Like Pottery. On our last day, we have some final questions for
Dan about his writing experiences and advice for writers.
Thank you again for sharing your book and experiences with us this week, Dan.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently than traditionally
I think this used to be the case without question, but we have seen significant changes
in the last 3-to-5 years. Ebooks have done wonders for changing the accessibility of
indie authors, both from a publishing standpoint as well as from a readership
standpoint. It has become much easier to see your work published than, say, 20 years
ago. This has naturally had an effect on what gets published. The big six publishers
are large corporations and as much as they aim to focus on creativity and great works,
it’s difficult for them because they have thousands of people that work for them and
rely on them. So the big six are constantly focused on what will be a commercial
success. The irony is that they don’t know what will be a commercial success just like
you and I don’t know. What do Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, Gone With the
Wind, and Twilight have in common? They were all initially rejected by publishers.
They just don’t know what’s going to sell. Indie authors have a little bit of freedom
from these commercial requirements. We all want our books to do well commercially
of course, but we are also able to take creative chances that a big six publisher might
be unwilling to take.
I think the quality of indie/self-published books has improved immensely too. There
is such a high bar for indie authors and we quickly lose the reader’s trust if there are
errors or incongruities in our stories. The editing process is so important in avoiding
these errors. I don’t have any evidence to back this up, it’s only anecdotal, but it
seems like the best self-published ebooks are of a higher quality now than 5-10 years
ago. This has helped close the perception gap between indie authors and traditionally
Which book would you say had the biggest effect on your personal development?
Wow, this is a tough question. If I’m forced to choose one, I would say The Lion, The
Witch, and The Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis). I’ve read it a half dozen times or so, but
the first time I read it was with my mother. I think I fell in love with storytelling
hearing my mother read this book to me. It’s a beautiful fable. I can recall laying up at
night before bed as she made the world of C.S. Lewis a reality for me.
Pieces Like Pottery contains Stories of Loss and Redemption. How do you motivate
yourself not to quit during tough times of loss or sorrow?
This is a great question—a very difficult question, but a great question. Every person
has trials in life. Life always presents obstacles and disappointments. I am a firm
believer that it’s not what happens to us in life that determines our happiness, but
what we do with what happens to us. There’s a famous college basketball coach here
in the states, John Wooden, who passed away a few years ago. He had a quote I love:
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
That’s a beautiful sentiment to live by. (This was actually quoted in the excerpt we
read yesterday from “The Gravesite.”).
For myself, I try to live this sentiment the best I can. I have an amazing family who I
can rely on in tough times, which is very important. I pray and meditate as well.
Mindfulness is important to me—focusing on staying present. It certainly helps to
avoid ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. I think we are all
communicative beings and life is intended to be shared with those around us, but a
deep interior life is paramount to finding personal peace and satisfaction. I try to
foster a deep interior life as much as I can, which, I hope, allows me to offer more to
those I encounter in my life.
Obstacles build character. Which would you say is the most character-building
obstacle you've faced?
Another great and difficult question. This is a very deep question. I particularly like
that you used the term “character.” Many people concern themselves with their
reputation, which is who others think you are. Character, on the other hand, is who
you really are. It’s difficult not to focus on reputation, especially in today’s social-
media-crazed culture, but I always try to remind myself that my character is what is
truly important. I wouldn’t say there has been a “most charter-building obstacle” that
I’ve faced. Each obstacle shapes who we are, no one more important than the other.
How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family, society,
Balancing writing with the other areas of my life is a difficult task. I am an attorney in
a demanding job. I ghost write non-fiction regularly for a couple of websites. I have
an amazing wife and wonderful 2-year-old daughter with whom I love to spend time.
All of these things take considerable time away from my fiction writing and, to be
honest, all these commitments are why it took me years to complete Pieces Like
Pottery. But balance is incredibly important, so I strive to find a good balance. I have
an amazing family on whom I can rely. I try to pray and meditate consistently, which,
I hope, allows me to offer more to those I encounter in my life and into my writing.
Then, on the flip side, I try to create deadlines for myself in my writing. Without
deadlines, my writing tends to drift and I don’t create the time to just sit and write.
What would be the top three things you would tell aspiring authors?
Over the years I have been lucky enough to be offered abundant feedback and to hear
excellent commentary from a few creative people that I admire greatly. There are
three comments/ideas that have stuck with me throughout all my writing endeavors.
(Each of these is summarized in my own words.)
1. When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing,
Elizabeth Gilbert (best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love) said she finally had
an epiphany that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If
she doesn’t tell it, she said, then the muse would move on to someone else
who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no
longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” It was
almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write
every day without fear of the result.
2. Ira Glass is an American public radio personality and the host and producer of
the radio and television show This American Life. He has a great quote for
young creatives. In short, he encourages that your work is not going to be
good when you’re first starting out. We may have an excitement for our craft
and a killer taste for what’s good, but our execution is poor. The only way to
improve your work, the only way to close the gap so that your work is as good
as your ambitions, is to do a lot of work. Write. Every day. Every week put
yourself on a deadline to write something new. It’s going to take awhile, but
that’s normal. Good writing doesn’t come the first time you sit down.
3. Louis C.K. is one of the most thoughtful and innovative comics alive right
now. I heard him once speak about his HBO show, Lucky Louie, which was
cancelled after one season in 2006. He was asked if he was disappointed with
that and if he looked back at it as a failure. His answer was unequivocally:
“No.” For him it was just another experience that taught him how to hone his
craft, which was invaluable.
So those would be my three pieces of (long-winded) advice. One, don’t worry about
whether you have anything important to say. If you are inspired, say it. Two, write
constantly. You won’t become a good writer unless you’re writing all the time. Three,
take every writing experience and use it to hone your craft. Something is not a failure
simply because the public doesn’t receive it the way you would like.
Dan Buri's first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of
heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His
writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the
human search for meaning in life.
Mr. Buri's non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including
publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and
TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-
Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.
Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by
Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World's Top 300 Intellectual Property
Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old
Pieces Like Pottery Links
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