I have a story to tell. I am angry. My daughter and I have been persecuted. Our Charter Rights as Canadian citizens were violated and this was never addressed by the Canadian government. We were supposed to disappear. We haven’t. I have been waiting, for ten long years and I am now ready to open my big mouth and holler it. Shall I? If I do, then those within the Newfoundland Justice system and in Ottawa will have a lot of explaining to do. I may appear to be a small fish but I have teeth like a shark.
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.
I mosey around the internet on a fairly regular basis, when time and energy permit. Primarily, I visit blogs by other writers and poets and often there is some discussion about contemporary writers which inevitably expands to accomodate a variety of opinions. Sometimes I comment, although not with any serious intent to impart wisdom or sway someone to my side of the gate. Usually I write something silly and leave. Always I’m ignored. 😉 Anyway, on the heels of my rag chewing event yesterday, regarding the crap lining the shelves in various book selling venues, I felt that post needed some balance. See? I’m not completely devoid of seeing the sunny side of the egg. 😮 Therefore, I’ve been thinking about the emergence of some literary giants within the past forty six years (my age).
First, I never intentionally read crap. If I do read crap, it’s usually a paperback accident foisted upon me by an acquaintance, and after I disinfect my head and eyes I vow to never be hoodwinked again. I’m down to two hoodwinks a year so I’m making progress. I’m not a difficult reader to please. I expect the author to be able to spell, understand where to place prepositions, utilize commas correctly, avoid fucked up tenses, be consistant and respect periods. Experimental anything should never be attempted unless you know what you are doing. Everything else is a matter of taste.
I’ve three writers I adore. They are brilliant because they produce quality work, they are original and their writing will stand the test of time. Remember, these are just humble assumptions of literary greatness from this mere peasant.
JONI MITCHELL: I know this seems a bit odd and out of whack, but beyond her iconic musical status and undisputed artistic genius, she is first and foremost a poet. I’ve a deep respect for her both as an artist and a woman. Many years ago, a group of my friends I were gathered around a fire pit at a lake in Northern Ontario. After consuming far too much beer and smoking way too many cigarettes, the conversation meandered it’s way around the meaning of life, our plan to make a million by thirty years of age and our socially conscious superiority to our parents. Doesn’t it always when you’re young and full of bullshit? Eventually, my friend asked if each of us only had a week to live, what famous person, dead or alive, would we most like to meet. The obvious names were mentioned: Einstein, Socrates, Marilyn Monroe, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King etc… Me? I wanted to meet Joni. Twenty six years later, I still have the same answer. She is as relevant to me now as she was then. She has broken through so many social restrictions, it would take all day to list them. Although she lives in California and has for many years, she is the truest of Canadians.
Books: Joni Mitchell, The Complete Poems And Lyrics.
ALICE SEBOLD. She has lived, suffered some very real horror and after immersing herself in the darkness that could have buried her, she emerged valiant. She is incredibly gifted.
Books: Lucky, The Lovely Bones, The Almost Moon
ANN MARIE MACDONALD. Multitalented doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of this writers ability. She is a playwrite, novelist and has even completed an opera libretto. I’m in awe. I can honestly say I will never achieve this level of competence as a writer.
Books: Fall On Your Knees, As The Crow Flies