Friday, August 2, 2013

For Writers In Hope of Good Angels

This is my first "unassisted blog," one I'm doing by myself, so I want to address it to other writers, particularly. I'm one of you and have been writing creatively for 40 years, keeping a journal for- gosh- 46 years. In sum, I've been through the ropes and through the publishing world mill, in various ways. All along, I got handed the same bullshit by top agents and big publishers: "You're really a fine writer and, if you were famous, I'd sign you up (or publish this), but you're not famous so I have to say No." When I asked how any writer was supposed to get sufficiently famous without an agent or publisher going to bat for them, these people invariably said that they couldn't answer that question. All said, "Basically, it's a crap shoot so... keep trying."

But it gets more surreal. One top agent in London who asked to see my work after we met socially, ripped my book to shreds when we spoke on the phone (by appointment) six weeks later. He told me that, though he hadn't finished reading the novel, he'd read enough to know that I had little, if any, talent; that I might consider going to school or learning how to write; that I didn't have a sensible plot or real characters. As he went on and on in this vein for at least five minutes, I took notes. Finally, when he'd finished, instead of committing suicide, I asked, "Well, as you say, you didn't finish it, so could you tell me where you are in the book so I can better understand your critique?" He said, "They're in London now." I replied, "Mark, my book doesn't take place in London." Long silence. Then I inquired, "Mark...? What is my book about?" Another long silence. Then I asked, "Mark, have you read even one word of my novel?" After another silence, he said, "I am so embarrassed." In short, this asshole hadn't even read one word of my work but felt justified in shredding- or trying to shred-  any confidence I had in myself as an artist, or a creative person with integrity.

My point here isn't to complain. In fact, it's the polar opposite. What I want to say to all writers out there is this: after four decades of being bludgeoned by top agents and big publishers, I realized that, even in a publishing world as crazy-making as the one in which we (all) now find ourselves, it's small independent presses, which treat authors with sensitivity and respect. And now, after all this time, almost as if the gods decided that I'd been through enough, I've connected with someone wonderful, whom I respect as a human being and friend. She's showing me that the equation so widely touted as a thing of the past- a human relationship between a writer and a publisher- is not entirely dead. It still does exist. Somehow, I've stumbled upon it. And it seems to be acquiring traction.

I cannot tell anyone else how to find it. In my own case, it came almost as accidental magic, simply as honestly respecting the publisher involved, not seeing her as part of a publishing world engine. Perhaps that is a lesson? Perhaps when/if we surrender to our own karma, or trust the fates, or don't stop believing in ourselves, (or listen to asshole agents who set out to destroy without bothering to read our work!), we allow ourselves to see others- and for us to be seen- in appropriate context? I hope so because, having been bulldozed and knocked around by the Establishment, I can see that the personal, warm, human association which I celebrate in my work and so looked for from editors or guiding figures is not impossible to attain. It still does exist. People do come through for one another and, so, I'm writing this to encourage all who read it not to give up believing in yourselves, or in your work, or in the fact that there really are "good angels" out there. I earnestly hope that you find them.