My Memoir, agents and publishing.

People who come from my background are supposed to die toothless in some cockroach infested dive with a bottle  or needle in one hand and a cigarette in the other. People who come from my background are not supposed to be talented writers with an intellect.

I have written a memoir. It is tragic, sad, funny, depressing, uplifting and it is all true. Two famous people appear in this book: Anne Murray and a former Canadian pop star who is currently a sitting MP in the House of Commons.  Despite the quality of my writing and its originality, the wall I face between myself and the publishers who should be handling the marketing of this story, is too thick with literary agent gate keepers. I have sent dozens and dozens of query letters over the past seven months and thus far only a handful have replied. It was clear from the content of the responses that only one agent actually read my query and two were form rejections. I am 52 now with two benign brain tumors and a lumpy breast that will probably be more than displaysia in the future.  I have lived through some incredibly horrible events: the poverty and abuse of my childhood, my first husband’s battle with Schizophrenia and ultimate suicide at 38, rape and abuse, the abduction of my child, homelessness, domestic violence shelters and illegally being dragged through court by an American monster who abducted and withheld my baby and  who was helped by the very system in Canada that was supposed to help us seek justice, not persecute us. Throughout I have worked for everything I have. I have never had drug problems, I don’t drink  or smoke and I’m not mentally ill. I have done more than just survive, I have overcome everything, no matter how brutal or overwhelming, but this one has me stymied. I am completely dismayed at the challenge I face to have this book published.

My writing is all over the internet and in print. I have done interviews, book reviews of some repute,  essays, poetry, fiction and  I have a global political, arts and lit magazine online that has a very healthy readership. I have what agents and publishers require: a finished book that is highly marketable, a platform online and four more books ready to go. However, for some mysterious reason I can’t quite fathom, books written by fictional dogs discussing the meaning of life is worthy of a spot in Chapters and the seal of approval of an editor at one of the big six publishing houses.

Could it be that people like myself are still considered a bit too real and therefore distasteful?  If that is so, then how can any writer overcome the incestuous class system that infests the Canadian publishing industry? I think my experience proves that you can’t, no matter how talented or good your work, they won’t let you in.

Sophie’s Place, Shannon Tweed and Pornography.

Shannon Tweed has and continues to be involved in the pornography industry as an actress which is why it is shocking and despicable that no one is concerned that her daughter Sophie Tweed Simmons has opened a center for child victims of sexual abuse in British Columbia. Apparently child protection advocates as well as those involved in rape and abuse prevention are ignoring this silent sanctioning or diminishing of an industry that is responsible for an increase in sexual violence against women and children.  Not one person has asked Ms. Tweed Simmons to clarify her position regarding pornography or her feelings about her mother’s role in promoting it. This is more than a contradiction, it is completely unacceptable from a child protection perspective. The fact that the creation of this centre had more to do with an episode of her family’s reality television program only highlights the questionable nature of her involvement.  When you also consider that policing and child protection agencies are utilizing this centre, it is beyond disturbing.  There is no separating Sophie Tweed Simmons connection to this children’s centre from her mother’s involvement with pornography because her entire reputation is based on her parentage, hence her name being used to promote this program in the first place. As a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, I am disgusted and ashamed that those who are suppose to be protecting children have sanctioned this obscenity, it is an insult to all survivors and victims.

This article from the January 15, 2012 issue of the Vancouver Sun makes everything quite clear:

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Daughter+Gene+Simmons+lends+name+Surrey+centre+abused+children/6000513/story.html

 

 

 

Tuck Magazine, Awards and Poet Michael Kweku Kesse Somuah

Ghana poet Michael Kweku Kesse Somuah is not just a wonderful poet who has written for tuckmagazine.com BUT he has just won the Youth Achievers Award in his home country of Ghana. Congratulations Michael, you are a talented young poet with a wonderful future of brilliance ahead of you.

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Life

Those four letters above are pregnant with meaning. We all have one with breath and a beating heart. We will either attempt to hide it or share it depending on our experiences and choices. We love to read about and explore the sordid lives of others, a shameful type of voyeurism we indulge through tabloids, reality television and the occasional memoir. What are we looking for in the misery of others? Is it a distraction that makes us feel superior because we are not quite as fucked up as the person we are reading about or viewing? Or, do we secretly  hate those who expose their wounds for all to see/read/hear?

Recently I sent a query to an agent for a book I’m writing. The story could be about any event in my life but I specifically chose this because it has some serious potential to positively affect the lives of battered women and children. I sent my query to a female literary agent because she has a good reputation and of course her bio states that this book is something she actively seeks. I have been down this path before, querying for two other books, sending out dozens of emails to various agencies in both the US and Canada. I sent this particular query Friday, received and  automated response and forgot it. However, yesterday she promptly responded requesting clarity to an already very concise query. Her email was depressing but not because it was a rejection (that came the next day) no, it was her complete lack of respect for the content of that query and the suffering that myself and other women have endured that disgusted me. She clearly skimmed over the text then emailed to ask me what format the book was written in when I had addressed that, if she had bothered to read my words. When I replied I cited the paragraph and location, expanding once again on a very clearly written summary of the book with even more background included. Her response? A very terse ‘not interested’ with absolutely no reason given although deep down I do know why and she should be ashamed. When Ms. W from F agency takes her next shopping trip through Walmart, I want her to stop and look at that wall full of faces of women and children and know that her cavalier fuck off email to me was tantamount to spitting in their faces. When your ego is enormous and your courage absent you miss opportunities to do good things for the vulnerable. She fucked up. Nuff said, venting done, over and out.

 

 

 

BRUISES, CHILD ABDUCTION, CORRUPTION AND TUCK MAGAZINE

Ten years ago this coming August I lay face down in the dirt, covered in bruises while a maniac sped away in his truck with my five year old daughter. I didn’t see her for three months during which time I went through the shelter system in the US, initially as a battered woman then as a homeless person.

I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on this past episode, although if I wanted to I could choose any horror in my life to discuss, from sexual and physical abuse and poverty as a kid to the suicide of my mentally ill first husband. So why does this one period in my life seem to have a meaning beyond those that came before? Because it didn’t happen to me, it happened to an innocent child; my child.

I’ve always been clear about the people and circumstances around me and this awareness has contributed to my jaded view of what this world is. There is a deterioration in the social structure on this planet that is hardly surprising given the sham compassion on which we’ve built our communities. I suppose you couuld say that at least the human race has progressed to faking respect for the vulnerable.

Right about now you may be thinking that I am full of shit and that is your right but the bare knuckle facts are that I am in a position of authority to speak about things like corruption, ineffective social programs with their anaemic and feeble attempts to do anything but line their pockets with tax free money and create barriers for those who suffer daily and need help. Oh yes, I have the credibility to say how it really is and not the mass delusion that passes for truth on this planet.

I could wax eloquent for you and make the filth palatable and easy to swallow, but then that would defeat the purpose of this post which is to plant a seed or two that may or may not sprout and eventually flower. At least I will have dug the hole and dropped it in, which as it happens is my entire purpose for breathing.

For those you who know this story, feel free to flee to the more subtly pleasing social environs of twitter, facebook or god forbid, the real world. What follows is the timeline that came to the astounding sum total of ten years, an entire decade of persecution, abuse, terror, poverty, homelessness and yes, writing. I could go back to when I first went to the us and regale you with stories of beatings, intimidation, rape and isolation but overkill is not what I’m aiming for here as you will see.

Time line of my previous ten years:

August 1 2002: My child’s father beats me and kidnaps our five year old daughter. I call the state police who then turn the matter over to the tribal police. The tribal cop comes and the first thing he asks me is if I am drunk, NOT if I am okay although he can see my body is black and blue. The fact that I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs seems to be lost on him. My gut sinks as I take my very first step on the path of degradation, humiliation and persecution courtesy of all sorts of agencies.

August 1 2002: I enter a domestic violence shelter. I meet some other women. I am inconsolable. I am now taking the second step on the path, this one is all about nightmares, PTSD and the daily diet of terror and dread I feel for my missing child. The fear for her safety consumes my every breath and yet this seems to be unimportant to those around me who are supposed to be helping sad little fuckers like me. Early on I am beginning to smell a rat in the social service sewer and boy is that bastard pungent!

August 2 2002: I am informed that only tribal police will handle this case as it occurred on the reservation. This is not an revelation to me as I know the full well the score of all things tribal with regard to my child. The evil monster who took her is related to the chief in a neighboring tribe and is a landowner in this reservation. My goose is cooked and I know it. They take photos of my bruises and say all the lies they have memorized by rote: “we’ll keep an eye out for the vehicle. We’ll call you as soon as we locate them.” I look in the cops face and say “Bullshit.” He looks away. I leave.

August 3 – September 7: I live in the domestic violence shelter. Everyday I file new paperwork with the court and I am told I have only one option for legal representation: An attorney who works for the tribe. Legal aid won’t represent anyone in a tribal court, thus my right to fair representation is another lie I must swallow. Having no choice I see this attorney. He is a fool. I recoil, realizing that my child and I are on a downward spiral with no end in sight. What do I do? I say fuck you! That is my child and I WILL find her and you can all kiss my arse. He shakes his head as if I am mentally ill or at the very least seriously deluded and naive. This entire time is spent in on and off the reservation, waking up in terror with nightmares that are more horrifying than anything Stephen King could conjure. Eventually, a bench warrant is issued, but no one is actually looking for my baby, but they sure are filing lots and lots of paperwork! The sheer volume of court orders, statements and warrants would make lead anyone to conclude that much was being done to save my child. On september 4, my child’s birthday and one day after my 40th birthday, they inform me he has been located and ordered to return my child to me and appear in court. I sit in the tribal court, filled with expectation, arms aching to hold my little girl. I sit some more. In fact, I sit there for four hours until I am newly informed that she won’t be coming after all as it is clear he is ignoring the order of the court. No one seems very perturbed by this new development and it becomes clear to me and the social worker with me that this was all a ruse and not real at all. Something happened to me then and there, a resolve built on the foundation of indignation and anger. They were fucking with me from the get go but I was going to rescue my child if it killed me. Little did I know this would nearly happen in two different ways. Finally, this episode ends and I am sent elsewhere to live.

September 7 – September 28: I live in the YWCA shelter for homeless women. My entire time there is spent trying to stay alive, eating from the food bank, (when I eat at all) getting a crash course in jurisprudence and the mountain of corruption I must climb as well as finding a lovely, rather large lump in my breast. This lump is examined at the free clinic. The physician’s assistant tells me after a mammogram and an ultrasound that the lump is not normal and if I wait to have it removed I could die. Ah, a new horror but oddly one that strengthened my resolve felt previously in the tribal kangaroo court. I am now on a mission and I don’t give a shit who tells me no. I have to find my child and take her home to where we were born and get this thing out. If I don’t I will die and she will be left in the care of an abusive monster. When my time runs out at this shelter I am given two options: a Pentecostal shelter for homeless women or the street. I choose the shelter.

September 28 – September 29: I enter the Pentecostal shelter towing my one posession: a suitcase containing every photo of my child, her toys, some of her clothes and my notebook filled with anguished poetry and letters to my now dead first husband. I have one outfit and I am wearing it. I do however have the luxury of two pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks. I am doing well for a homeless person and I damn well know it too! Although I have been living on Starbucks week old donuts that they donate to the shelters from the bottom of their generous corporate hearts, my 5’7” frame is carrying only 98 pounds and I am feeling it. Anaemia is now my bosom buddy and we black out everywhere together just us two. It is in this state of physical weakness I enter the intake office of this shelter to encounter who I have soon began accurately referring to as Nazi Iris. Her finger jabbing in my face while she asserted in her harsh German accent that I needed to accept that I was NOT going to ever find my child was only enhanced by the room filled with concentration like bunks lining the walls. The irony that I carried a copy of Anne Frank’s diary in my suitcase was not lost on me. After being told I could either 1. Take a shower in the morning or 2. Eat breakfast, that we were not permitted to swear, accept help or share transportation with each other, use a cell phone, miss prayer services three times a day or not be in our bunks by 10 pm, I decided to leave the following morning and take my chances on the street. But before I left I place that copy of Anne Frank’s diary under my pillow, proving that I still maintained a bit of my soul despite efforts but others to destroy it.

September 29- October 2: I live on the street. I eat nothing. I have no coat and it is cold. I learn quickly that you have to choose your spots carefully and that cat napping is all you should ever do lest you find yourself raped, robbed (yeah I know I had nothing of value but nothing of value is something to a junkie) or murdered. After a few days of this, the water from the bus station fountain is all that is keeping me alive physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually, my little girl is the power inside me. On my morning trek to the water fountain I meet one of the girls from the YWCA shelter and she informs me she now has an apartment. I begin living there, where we sleep on the floor and eat mouldy bread and rotten food from the local food bank. I am happy though because I can now sit on a toilet without fear I will catch something. This way of living goes on for some time and I bond with this beautiful woman and two others from the shelter who also stay with her. They gave me the love and emotional strength I needed to carry on until I finally found my child.

This is of course the condensed version of events because I am concerned about that attention span business we no longer have thanks to twitter and soundbites. Bear in mind though that the people and experiences I’ve left out were life altering to me. Perhaps if I believe it will matter I will attempt once again to find a publisher but until unicorns dance on rainbows I’ll keep it in my word program and marvel at our surival, the power of love and the immense size of my balls when challenged.

Tomorrow I will post part two. Oh I bet you can’t wait for that! Highlights: wiping shit off walls in a care home, being drug through court and having a lump removed from my breast and so much more!