Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Unlike the natural diary with its hidden pages and its secretive shape, perfect for tucking inside or under things, this blogging thing is way too out in the open. I have no idea which of you might be peering in right now. I have no defense if you are sniggering at my words. You are getting such a shallow glimpse of me! It's frightening. And now you are learning what a truly terrified person I really am. Heheh. I will leave you with a piece that appeared on my radio show last week, the first in a series titled "Dispatches From the Lonely Road of Writing:

Dispatch #1:
There used to be a time when all you had to do was write and some savvy editor at a publishing house would find you, huddle you under his wing and say "Kid, I'm gonna make you somebody. Stick with me." And the wide-eyed, trusting writer would begin spending even more time in front of their Underwood, being a little sloppy about punctuation and knowing that a little plot confusion or flat character development was no big deal. The editor would take care of that, would fold the writer's creases into smooth, public-worthy lines. These publishers acted like writing coaches. They took raw material and helped shape it into perfection. Editors like Gordon Lish, famous for working with Raymond Carver among others. Though later it was revealed that Lish may have actually re-written entire parts of Carver's work, not just edited.
I embarked on the long, lonely road to publishing seven years ago with visions of being ushered just like this down a special corridor to fame once somebody recognized my talent. I celebrated each small zine publication of a short story, each public reading in watering holes and cafes because surely, surely, that moment of discovery was just around the bend. I have been writing, after all, since the age of eight. And there's all that talk about how persistence pays off. I was persisting, wasn't I? I wrote a novel. I rewrote it. I sent it out for feedback. I scrapped it and rewrote it from scratch until I was sure I had it right. But how to get this precious thing out into the world? How to get it under the eyes of those who would rocket me to fame and fortune? Fate had my back. Fliers turned up at just the right time in my mailbox. A writing conference. I attended the Mendocino Writer's Conference on a scholarship. This was good. Scholarships come to those who are Worthy of Being Published right? There I met literary agents.

Let me detour for just a second: There has evolved a creature known as the literary agent. Do not be fooled into thinking this means someone who fosters literary, or even someone who believes in literature. Think more of the agents in the Matrix movies. The agent is the formal go-between, spawned to stand between writer and publisher, created to navigate the world of contracts and business-speak. It means for the writer that she need be less savvy, less worried about the fine print, but it also means, no more sloppy punctuation or haphazard plot lines. Your agent demands a finished manuscript. And publishers demand that writers have agents. It also means giving up fifteen % of all money made. The publishing world is just another commercial industry and it will not tolerate rule-breaking or bending.

So, back to the conference: there I was, Meeting Literary Agents, pitching 350 page novel in a five second breath to a hurried agent as we walked from workshop to workshop. "Sounds interesting," she said. "Send me a sample."

So of course, I sent her the requisite query letter and sample chapters. I was So Sure this would that moment. I could almost see the warm down of her wing as she stretched it open to usher me into it. We were going to be best pals. She was going to love every word that dribbled out of my pen. Fast train to publishing here I come!

Eight months later I got an apologetic rejection.

I quickly become more realistic. Tune in for more dispatches next time.


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