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POORWRITERS' BLOG

"WHAT WAS I THINKING?'


That's a good question. The simple answer is I wasn't thinking. Why is it often a given that newbies in the scribbling game have to invent, fudge or copy promotional blurbs to enhance their rep? Well, because it gets damn lonely out there in the fringes. Especially when writers come face to face with the reality of what a tough profession writing is. Not the actual writing but wading into the trenches of a commercial marketplace with little consideration for Never-heard-Ofs who don't have a survivor story, a screed on the meaning of life or a knock-out erotic scifi horror story.


In the middle of this quagmire of rejection and struggle, it is so tempting to light a tiny fire to get an agent, any agent, to take a good look and take a chance with an unknown author who has nothing but talent to recommend him or her. So, the frustrated scribbler might pen a little fib or two, like "Dedicated to my dear friend and favorite president Barak Obama." Even better maybe: "On Oprah and Dr. Phil's reading list." How about "Forwards by Adele and Beyonce." Wow. That sounds really good. How could an agent overlook that? You must really be somebody, right?


Let me share a true story when once upon a time, when I was a naive ingenue in the biz, I nudged my agent query over the line a bit. Well, maybe more than a bit. I fibbed, exaggerated anyway, enhanced you could say, stretched the truth just a tad. Anyway, I told the agent my MS was recommended by my friend and associate Author X who was a successful writer with a couple screenplays and numerous books to his credit. Although we shared the same city and had touched bases on a professional level with my real job, nothing literary-wise had ever been a subject Author X and I shared. A short while later, I learned the Agent had rubbed noses with Author X and mentioned his close friend in Portland who had sent him a MS and could the agent send it over to Author X for his review? Ooops. By the time I got wind of the bad news, I must have been blacklisted on every agency's "Do Not Call" list. Lesson learned. Desperation can push us even closer to the edge by the publishing industry's cruel indifference and rejection. Still, no pardon for even the inference of falsity.


Of course, we're all taught the elements of success are more about self-confidence, ability and perseverance than luck. But then there are those days when it's hard to see through the murk and believe in your own talent. In that vein, I'd like to pass on a little wisdom I picked up the hard way. Forget trying to impress the big guys in the Big Apple who never heard of you and don't want to unless you've been abducted by a UFO, married a serial killer, slept with a President or got the goods on a celebrity appearing on Dancing With the Stars who's really a lizzard alien.

Get in front of the people who would actually read your stuff. Passengers on public transport, librarians, local editors, teachers, mailmen. Always carry copies of your MS in the trunk of your car and hit all the independent bookstores you can find. Then close your eyes, cross your fingers and turn around three times. Bound to bring you success.


The moral of this story is the way luck and blind chance can find any one of us. It all happened for me. Years back, in the midst of a long-haul, tortuous journey to ignominy, I took a flight from Portland to NYC. I had left a copy of my book in the preflight waiting area. When I boarded, I sat beside a gentleman in the rear bulkhead row. After takeoff, I saw him take a book, my book, from the seat pocket and read. Gee. Was he really reading it? No pics in the book so, yeah. He was reading it. I finally got up the nerve and interrupted him with a tap on the cover. "How's the book?"

"Great. Gonna make a fun read all the way to Kennedy. You know this author?"

I turned the cover around to my author photo and bio on the back flap. "I'm the author actually."

"Oh, wow. Well, I love your writing and characters. You write more books than this one?"

"Unfortunately, yes. Quite a few."

Turned out this guy was married to Olivia Newton-John, and she had just penned a memoir and had a terrific agent and an amazing editor he clued me in. They would love my stuff, he said. And they did. And I was off with a headstart on my writing career. Just never know when opportunity will come calling, and you gotta be ready to answer the doorbell. Keep plugging along to blow your own horn with real readers and who knows? Serendipity might find you.


Oh, and second bit of advice: don't hesitate to book a bulkhead seat in the rear of the airplane. You're next to the toilets, last to get served and enduring the bumpiest ride on the flight, but you never know who might be your seatmate. Maybe he or she'll be reading your book. Just sayin'.

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