Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bennie the Circus Elephant

Beginning a new novel is a bit like watching Jerry Springer. One minute everything is calm and subdued, Jerry is sussing out the necessary information from the guests to set the crowd ablaze and you're wondering why you're even watching the stupid show. But the next minute – bam! – your fingers are whipping out a story like a blood thirsty cheated-on wife who is up out of her seat, tearing the stage to shreds, hell bent on exacting revenge with her fingernails as she claws her way to the woman she holds responsible for her husband's infidelity.

I told myself that I wouldn't start another book until Spring and I'm beginning to think that for once I should have listened to him, that part of me that seems to know what to do, always correcting my choices as I invariably choose the opposite. Luckily I'm not yet making money from this writing venture so the time at which I begin my next book is of little consequence, and moreover, I don't have to listen to anybody, especially not myself.

Yet I almost startle myself with my absence of conviction as I struggle to find a way to piece these developing fragments of a story into a coherent plot, at least one interesting enough to read. My complacency may derive from the uncertain future of my first book. My latest manuscript is out there and sitting in the New York offices of book publishers and literary agents, floating as though it's on the open water like a ferry boat ripped from its own pages, drifting uncontrollably and completely at the mercy of the wind and waves. And I watch from the shore helplessly, hoping someone pays it notice and picks it from the water before it drowns. 

Glancing out my window at the mailbox has almost become a nervous habit, ticking my fingers on my desk as I wait for the red Jeep that will without doubt bring no news from the Eastern front.

I suppose hearing nothing is better than hearing “no”. I theorize that they must be seriously “studying” my work. Right - it's sitting in a pile with the rest of last weeks unsolicited submissions, unopened and unnoticed, waiting to be carried home in the backpack of an intern who's dissatisfyingly been assigned the daunting task of weeding through the slush pile.

I can imagine the tiny mid-town studio apartment and the intern, who despises the idea of spending a weekend poking through unwanted submissions, and my manuscript, buried halfway down in a pile underneath a story about Bennie the Circus Elephant, and on top of an autobiography of a would-be American Idol star who maintains he just wasn't given a fair shake while ranting on and on that the whole sha-bang is rigged.

I just received a heartening letter from the Editor at one of the publishers which I sent my book to. It was surprisingly good news, not a “yes” but certainly not a “no”. He says that I couldn't have picked a worse time to try to publish a book, mainly because of the economy and “mass reader estrangement from the written word.” He goes on to describe me as a “very talented young man” which definitely feels good. But point taken, in this economy its the crème de la crème or “finish your coffee and get out.”

Meanwhile, I have work to do. I trust that the aforementioned floating manuscript will eventually find itself a home and for now I sit at my computer, staring at a blank page on my screen, dreaming of success and eagerly waiting for Jerry to get the crowd whipped into a frenzy so the cat-fight can finally commence once again.