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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon


Easy reading is damn hard writing. N. Hawthorn

Stuart Sheldon, Follow It Home, acrylic and Chinese funeral paper on panel, 24"x24", 2004

Stuart Sheldon, Follow It Home, acrylic and Chinese funeral paper on panel, 24″x24″, 2004

My dry heart drinks …

A National Book Award winner and Oprah Book Club selectee recently thought enough of my debut manuscript,  A LONELY FOOL’S MASTERPIECE, to share it with her powerhouse editor. This generous best-seller acted wholly of her own volition. And her seal of approval ladled cold fresh spring water into me after five years toiling in the blistering sun of obscurity.

I want this badly, more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my creative life. Because what I really want to be when I grow up is a writer of books. One down …

And suddenly appears a bona fide shortcut through the grimy bog known as:

  1. finding an agent

  2. hoping agent can convince a NY publisher to roll the dice on an unknown man-child from out of the blue

These days, a good story is just the start. Traditional publishers want 10,000 blog followers (thus the recent increase in posts; thank you for reading – now get your friends to subscribe), 5000 Facebook friends, a Twitter feed and a host of other “platform” metrics. It all makes me throw up in mouth a little. Because, even though I stand proud to have launched an award-winning magazine, directed a TV documentary, written national articles and had a few decent art exhibitions here and there …

Let’s be real … in the literary world, I got nothing. Nothing but the words on those 265 pages my author friend sent to New York. Would they sweep this Senior Editor off her feet? Would she ring me up excitedly? “How soon can you be here?”

A week passed. Two. Three. And then the email … “The reading of fiction is, as I am certain you already know, very subjective, and as such I encourage you to try other editors and publishing houses, or even perhaps to seek representation by a literary agent to assist in this process. Your passion for writing is clear in these pages, and I wish you every success going forward with your work.”

My chest ached, as if a brawny man cupped his hand and hit me square in the sternum with a loud hollow thomp! Typically smiley lips pursed involuntary, and I shut my computer and stared at the coconut palms blowing obliviously in the February breeze outside my third floor office window. I stood, walked to my car and simply drove home in the middle of the day. Every ten minutes or so I silently shook my head ever so slightly. Damn!

She did nail the passion for writing part. And I responded gratefully for her time. And gently reminded her that, in fact, every word of my book is true. It is a memoir.

What looped in my brain the rest of that day and part of the next was an echo in negative space. The reverb of a dream not getting fast-tracked. I hate to say it, but after ten years getting brushed off by top-shelf galleries, I’m somewhat used to it. Still, it hurts. And there’s nothing to do but be with the pain … until it goes away. And I sell my book. And it is a best-seller. And I send that lovely editor a signed copy with my genuine thanks for being part of the journey.

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