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.

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Publishers, Fantasy Stories And Children

 

Yesterday,  I met with the gentleman who is going to publish my Children’s Fantasy Story.  We had coffee and chatted about the book, the business of publishing and marketing.  He liked my story and is as enthusiastic as I am to place it in those wee hands I’ve mentioned more than a  time or two.   The publisher  is a small independent, located in St. John’s Newfoundland:  engenbooks.com

Matt Ledrew, the owner,  is dynamic and full of passion for his work.  He is also a writer and I think this was essentially why we had a meeting of minds regarding the material and how to care for it.   Our perspectives on children’s charities being involved with the sale of this story  also dovetailed nicely.  As some of you know, the purpose and origin of the story were about pain and healing, and although it’s been through a few incarnations, the core of the tale is the same and the motivation still pure.  

Another brilliant detail I should mention, is the illustration of the work.  Matt is also an artist and will bring my characters to life.  How brilliant is that?  🙂  I’m completely impressed with the entire situation and even though I may have to wait a bit before the ball gets rolling down the alley, it’s gives me time to jot down some ideas regarding the marketing etc.   Here are some scary things to ponder for any introverted writer:  Book signings, book readings, conventions, podcasts, book trailers, web site creation,  charitable event book readings, readings in schools, hospitals, shelters etc.  Because this is a small publisher, I will have to  pull my weight in order to get the word out there and sell this story.  Hmm, kind of like the old days, when Mark Twain used to stand on the corner and hawk  his stories and book himself into halls to give readings.  Can anyone say PERFORMANCE ANXIETY?  😉  I can, and I’ve got it in spades, but what’s life without some nerve jarring terror?   Be good to yourselves this weekend and please send the good vibe to your fellow scribes.  

 

 

John Kennedy Toole And The Bone Pickers

  

John Kennedy Toole

December 17, 1937-March 26, 1969

 

 

 

A bunch of years ago, I wandered around my library in search of something new. I was on a mission for something different which would feed my hunger for written art.  After looking for nearly a half hour, I resorted to a decision making relic from my childhood.  I randomly chose an aisle, closed my eyes turned three times and pointed.   when I opened my eyes, I pulled the chosen volume from the shelf and saw the image above.   I promptly went home and indulged my addiction for reading and from that day onward, Ignatius J. Reilly altered my understanding of the writing of fiction.  My artistic eye was opened to new possibilities regarding character development and how limitless it could be.  Several rules I’d adhered to as a writer went out the window and a firmer belief in the neccessity for writers to cement their individuality in their work replaced them.    If you’ve not read A Confederacy Of Dunces, I urge you, no I implore you as a writer to immerse yourself in an intellectual and artistic ride you’ll not soon forget.  

John Kennedy Toole, could be a psychological profile for many writers.  He was brilliant, unrecognized and sensitive.  The latter proved his undoing and his suicide was not only a tragic loss for family and friends, but a loss for the world of literature.  Like so many prematurely lost before their time, we will never have the privilege of experiencing  the full scope of their brilliance in future work unrealized.   What exactly happened to John Kennedy Toole?  I’m sure many of you reading this already know the sad tale of his personal and professional demise but for those who don’t I give concise account.  John wrote A Confederacy Of Dunces during the early part of the 1960’s.  Eventually, Simon and Shuster took an interest in the manuscript, touting it’s worth.  However, they eventually dismissed it as being about nothing and rejected the book.   The ensuing decline in John Tooles mental and emotional health were related to this rejection and while I have my own ideas regarding suicide, based on my own experiences with someone close, it’s not unrealistic to think this pushed him over the edge.  Subsequent to his death, his mother, with the support of writer Walker Percy secured a publishing deal,  which ultimately resulted in a Pulitzer Prize.   After many years it would appear John Kennedy Toole was more than justified in his belief in the artistic merit of his work.   It is also glaringly apparent how many times Publishers, editors and agents are wrong.  Damn wrong.  In fact, they are wrong often enough to inspire both writers and readers to question the machinations within the business.   The increasingly cavalier attitude displayed in all facets of the business of writing diminishes us all and does nothing to promote the beauty of our art.  The shelves are lined with formula novels and with the exception of a very few, and I emphasize ‘very few’ novels of literary quality,  the general population is careening toward a future devoid of intellectual stimulation and literacy.    I’m an optimist and humanist, therefore I refuse to believe the Phillistines have completely taken over the publishing world.  If we are indeed in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, then surely once the bones of ignorance have been picked clean, rather than the bones of an artist,  a new vision for the profession will appear.   Either way, to those editors and agents out there who work dilligently on behalf of new as well as established writers, Thank you.  You are the facillitators of culture and art. To those editors and agents who don’t care, I have nothing but silence.  To other writers, be aware that your worth and the worth of your creation is not determined by a publisher or agent, but rather by your belief in it’s value and truth.    

I will leave you with some words from Jonathan Swift, which incidentally were the inspiration for the title of John Kennedy Toole’s novel.   

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

-Jonathan Swift 

November 30, 1667-October 19 1745

Author of Gulliver’s Travels