Columbus Day, noon
When I click open my inbox the name pops up. I’m not sure how to feel. This agent has shown interest once before. I breathe in, staring at the name in the inbox. This needs to be good.
I open the message and read it quickly. It’s the exact opposite of what I’d hoped for, a diagnosis of a tumor when you’re banking on that neck-lump being a zit. Humor stories are hard to sell, didn’t quite connect for me, thanks for…. Dealing with agents always makes me feel like an Indian greeting Christopher Columbus for the first time -- I’m standing there half-naked, feeling unknown and primitive, awaiting some fatal disease.
Maybe I should go down to the corner pub, load up the jukebox, and drink the rest of the day away. Take Richard Buckner’s advice when he sings “Gonna pour the last year down my throat.” Come out a few hours later like the guy I saw the other day, the one who staggered out the door and used a street sign to prevent his flaccid body from stumbling into the busy intersection. I’ll bet he’s a writer too.
Note to self.
Maybe I need to change my approach. Jane Austen has been pretty hot recently. Not Jane Austen’s books themselves, which would make sense given her obvious talent, but books about people getting together to read Jane Austen. Perhaps I could jump on that gravy train with a new approach. Come at it from a completely different angle: Four guys with a host of problems – substance issues, car problems, too many children by different women – form a book club. They all agree to read Austen, with each guy choosing his own book to read during the month. At the end of the month they regroup for intelligent discussion, but chaos breaks out when it’s revealed that one guy is reading the memoir of Tracy Austin, the tennis star. Tempers flare and they don’t talk to each other for days. But then they work through their issues and emerge stronger, filled with love and renewed self-awareness.
Okay, it’s time for a walk and a few big cups of coffee, the usual post-rejection routine. I need to get away from the computer and go read a newspaper. A good accident story could lift my spirits by way of comparison, perhaps something about a guy going over the handlebars at a No-Helmet-Law rally. That’s a little known secret about newspapers – they aren’t meant to inform us, they’re here to constantly remind us that things could be much, much worse.
I stroll through the park, cross the street, and push through the squeaky screen door of my local coffee shop, wondering how I became a forty-year old man with an allowance. I’m not asking for a lot here. I just want to get the thing published, sell a few million copies, and then choke on my own vomit. That’s all.
I order the largest-sized coffee from the new owner, the same guy who rejected my suggestion that he should sell his day-old coffee for half-price. I shuffle to a window seat, look around for a paper, and don’t find one. I stare out through the windows at the park across the street and think. Maybe this is just a marketing problem. Three ideas come to mind:
Marketing Idea #1
Marry a once-big-but-now downward-arcing, rehab-weary rock star hanging on by a string. Organ transplant a plus. A year later release a tell-all book, appearing on morning news shows and daytime TV. Throw in a personal eating disorder (Twinkies) to generate sympathy and broaden appeal.
Marketing Idea #2
Hike into forest with small chain saw. Use saw to gouge out chunks of wood in base of old-growth tree. Slip leg under tree as it crashes to the ground, and then hack off leg with chain saw. Bounce back to car and return home. While recuperating in hospital write inspirational memoir titled The Audacity of Hop.
Marketing Idea #3
Shave off all body hair and then tattoo the book’s cover-image onto chest and back. Put on a leopard-pattern thong, a full length white mink coat, and fly to Italy. Attend the papal Christmas mass. Fling off mink coat just before tackling the Pope. Resulting media exposure for book will be free, instantaneous, and global in reach.
A loud-talker at the counter breaks my concentration by recounting his experience from last night. He woke up in his Volkswagon bus at 4am, roused by a thumping noise. Lying on the foam mattress he heard a “Shump, shump, shump’ coming from outside, at the rear of the vehicle. He rolled out of the bus and found a guy with a gas can at his feet, sucking on a garden hose that was plugged into the fuel tank. He chased the guy on foot for two hours, continuing the pursuit mostly for fun, and then stopped for breakfast.
As we laugh, I realize that I’m present to hear this primarily because I got rejected this morning. So, who cares if the manuscript has been rejected more times than Mel Gibson’s profile on Match.com? There’s always tomorrow for submitting, but hearing this story is a one-shot affair, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Humor always brings me back to where I should be – squarely in the here and now.
published 29 October 2011