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Writing

The Lonely Road is Not so Lonely
27th January 2015 at 2:42 pm 0
Before I took my first books online and became an Indie Publisher, I went down the route of sending my manuscript to agents and book publishers, unsolicited. As I sealed the envelope on each submission, I mused as to whether I should just address it to their slush pile, but a part of me hoped that I would have that lucky break and somehow stand out and be noticed. Mine might be that manuscript a bored publisher retrieves from the bin – as happened with William Golding . . . Every publisher he sent his manuscript to for ‘Lord of the Flies’ rejected it, as did the one who would eventually accept it. The story goes that the publisher had binned it, but while waiting for someone who was late for a meeting, he tired of staring out the window and retrieved a sheaf of A4 pages from the bin. And by this stroke of luck, a classic came into being. I assured myself that the exercise would not be utterly futile and that literary agents and publishers would actually look at my manuscript, but as they have different tastes and interests, and different priorities at different times, my carefully considered manuscript might miss the target, or the timing of my submission might be a little off, hence I anticipated the possibility of rejection letters. And as those manuscripts came home to roost as a flock of ‘Dear [INSERT NAME], Thank you for your submission of [INSERT NAME]. Unfortunately . . .’ letters, I sought assurance on the internet and practically memorised such passages as - All it takes is one rejection letter to make you an instant life member of a club whose luminaries include Walt Whitman, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss. What published writer has never received a rejection letter? These are our badges of determination. Of striving. And on bad days, of lunacy. Take heart. No one’s, and I mean no one’s, first query snags an agent and a book contract. Unless of course you are Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis or Fergie. The number of rejection letters you receive is proportional to the euphoria that will envelop you when you do get The Call. Think about it. If an agent signs you up three queries into your search, you’ll be ecstatic. And perhaps kind of blase. But get that call after slugging it out for a year or so and man will success be sweet. So sweet you can taste it even now, can’t you? I reminded myself of J.K Rowling’s initial efforts – a young reader in an agency pushed against the better judgement of her seniors, and convinced them to represent Rowling. The agency then sent Rowling’s 200-page script for her first Harry Potter book to 12 publishers, all of whom, in their infinite wisdom and esteemed judgement, turned it down. This billion dollar author was eventually picked up by Bloomsbury for an advance of just fifteen hundred pounds. Add to JK Rowling: Agatha Christie, Hunter S. Thompson, James Joyce and George Orwell, and many many more who have struggled for approval and suffered brutal rejection in their early days, and you realise that you are in great company – Stephen King got so many rejection letters that he used to nail them on a large spike in his bedroom. Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 different publishers before finally finding one to publish her novel, Gone With The Wind. William Saroyan may now be rated a literary great, but he amassed a stack of rejection slips 30 inches high — some seven thousand — before he sold his first story. So if you are going down the Agency / Publisher route and suffering a blizzard of rejection letters, take heart : ) Otherwise, go Indie, but then you have the occasional rotten review to deal with; or often enough, no sales; but more about that in other posts : )
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Saviour
Saviour
29th January 2015 at 10:55 am 0

This is a submission I did for the Powers Whiskey writing competition. The requirements were that a bottle of Powers had to be a central character, and it could not be more than 500 words. I didn’t win, but judging by the shortlist and eventual winner, it seems that they were more inclined towards stories of immigrants returned sipping a Powers with the mammy beside the turf fire. The €10k prize money would have been nice, but I did enjoy the challenge . . .

Henry stands in a corner of the descending lift. He pinches the knot of his tie - double windsor. It dismays him that he will never again have to wear it. He holds the retirement gift – a bottle of Powers . They got that bit right, he thinks, even if they hadn’t the time – the courtesy - to toast my departure. He sighs. Sure that’s just the way of it - it’s a dog eat dog world. The guy in the other corner jabbers into a mobile. Spanish. He’s a dark guy, black really, and Henry sees a suggestion of effeminancy. Effin’ something, he decides. The guy laughs, ‘Ni Hablar!’ Henry ponders the hanging jeans, the affected dishevelment. He feels the bottle in his hand - this craft that he values, this patience – and it saddens him that the standards he cherishes are mostly gone, as is he. He thinks bitterly that this guy might even be his replacement. The lift stops. The lights dim. ‘Jesus,’ cries Henry. ‘It’s a power outtage, man. Happened once already today. The whole area.’ Henry feels the old crawl of panic. He slumps to the ground. He stares at the metal plate, the brand: Otis. And he thinks: Otis, Otis Redding, died in a plane crash. The young guy is over to him. ‘It’s ok, man. It’s ok. What’s your name?’ Henry stares up at him. ‘Me - I’m Salvador Hurtado.’ ‘Henry Buttimer.’ ‘It’s cool, Henry. It’s ok.’ Salvador removes Henry’s tie and he opens the top button of his shirt. He sits beside Henry and he puts a comforting arm around him. Me - I got a thing about crossing bridges. Puts me in a cold sweat. You can imagine how fu-- . . . how inconvenient that is.’ Henry smiles. The lift flickers back to life and Salvador helps Henry to his feet. They reach the lobby and walk from the building. ‘Will you join me in a drink, Mr. Hurtado - Salvador?’ ‘Sure I will.’ Henry unscrews the cap from the bottle of Powers. They each drink a capful. ‘I retired today. Seventeen years.’ ‘Cool.’ Henry pours another capful. Salvador raises it, ‘It’ll be all good, my friend.’ They each drink a toast. ‘I still got your tie. Here.’ ‘Bin it.’ Salvador balls the tie and he tosses it into a bin. ‘You gonna be ok now?’ ‘I’m going to be fine. Thanks.’ They shake hands. And as Salvador walks away Henry feels a tight weave unravel in his chest. He feels a surging contentment and he understands that this is more – far more - than the warm course of the whiskey. It’s faith. It’s a departure – a beginning.
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