Re-homing a stray- Author?
Two years ago this month our last beloved collie died. Having written a poetic tribute to her ( here) we have gradually become used to the sense of absence. Life is flatter, the day without a wag of celebration or the need for disciplined walks. A dog’s life it is no longer, but a dog’s life it now feels.
Recently the urge to try again has been festering. But here’s the thing. We are too old and too arthritic to contemplate a puppy. Yet it seems an adopted dog is a half formed affair, a love born of need ( both ours and any-old-dog’s) one with a time limit ( our decrepitude and a dog’s need to age in synchrony) and a substitute for the choice of that glossy coat, that starred bib, those soulful eyes and then the bond that comes from mutual training, mutual acquaintance and the growth of mutual tolerance. The thread of an infant dog is twine that snakes through every routine, we grew up together, didn’t we? We both know where all the balls are buried.
Shall I re-home a half breed dog, a mutt mongrel of no known pedigree, and when people ask simply say ‘I felt sorry for this abandoned cur and we hang out together. Don’t ask me why.’ ‘Nobody else wanted it; I suppose that explains it.’
It occurs to me that this is a parallel for my own condition. Anybody willing to re-home this similar runt of an author? Rejected by so many trial homes? The latest promised well; a home that advertised the persuasive search for ‘your signature story’ and had me biting out fleas from my matted coat? I do have quite a flourish signature story ( nearly as many curlicues as the Virgin Queen) so, with a will, I re-launched a shiny new website ( this PHI one) that has garnered even fewer pats than the previous version. Then I visited the home that promised my ‘first ten thousand readers’ and asked me to ‘funnel a free book’ to hook in a devoted following who will sniff out my continuing hot off the press, book-a-year series with as-clear-a-genre markings as a Dalmatian. Or ‘get together with other similar authors and box a set for a mega splash‘ Yeah? Who might they be? This beach I occupy is deserted.’Oh you’re the intellectual indie‘ they said when I tried.’ Not much of a fit.’ Nobody realises that my signature story is as contra-intellectual as ‘Hello Magazine’? Not so much flesh, granted.
None of my potential ‘funnels’ are any kind of guide to my smelly genre which changes as the seasons do. ‘Fergetit, Novellas are read only by the French, not cool. Short stories? Nah. Now whaddya got besides?’ The home that blasted an advertisement ( for a whopping fee) and gave me the first respondent ‘Not very modest are you?’ I yelped a protest ( It wasn’t me wot wrote it sir) and slunk away.
I had been whimpering quietly, and to myself for years and thought ‘ah well, these professionals should know what they’re about. Time to bite back modesty and accept help! Let’s PAY to be re-branded!’ I was branded a boaster with fire tongs. Szzzz. Ever smelled burnt hair?
That was after I had become house-trained in the independent author kennel. I tried not to foul my concrete run; I had given before asking (some thirty odd reviews of demanding books) and four for a single small, no, not small-minute, publisher. Not a peep of ‘how can I help you, need a run? Stretch your legs? I hung out the Twitter taping and Facebook bunting, and made metaphorical cup cakes for the indie street gang. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed doing it, because Oh, I was young and easy under the apple boughs, about the lilting hope; licked any hand extended, but now I curl up with a chin on my paws, time holds me green-and-dying-and-all-that. Even my favourites are scrambled. Purity never pays.
Once in awhile I get thrown a snack ‘I bought your book, really enjoying it but wonder whether you might…?’Or the publisher who suggested he’d like to republish part, but ‘Here’s the deal. You pay set up fees, you buy review copies ( at a mere 55%), you repurchase unsold books and I authorize any publicity and hold the copyright for five years of the one you have already managed to publish’ The one already published that ‘magnum opus’ doorstop I bravely put about when I was a young and agile trainee in agility classes , wiggling through tunnels of editing and clearing those hurdles of high-flying endorsements. You just try endorsements without an intellectual pedigree! To be allowed to think you have to have letters, peers, published papers, and tenure.
Even those endorsements were a humiliation ‘Send me the script in hard copy by next week when I have a holiday window’ Fifty pounds and four months later ‘I have not had time unfortunately to read your script, but leave it with me, I’ll see what I can do’. That was three years ago. The worst but far from the only. So under this plastic tunnel I lurk, and the rain spatters down.
I don’t even look up anymore. I watch the adoptive readers walk by for the breeds they recognize, the Spaniel romances, the Red Setter spotted crime, the Labrador litters that wrap ‘cosy mysteries’ in loo roll. They get film rights when they grow up to join the opening credits of Downton Abbey? What IS a cosy mystery? A mongrel doesn’t stand a chance. Especially a grey muzzled one.
I still wag a tail for a kind word. I have a few and very valued occasional visitors, and some stay to talk awhile, but a home is fast fading.The tramp of the 20K a week soft porn and pecs drowns out the whistle I was hoping to hear.
Any suggestions? Anyone with an idea? I’d accept a modest outside kennel and write to order? Sod expecting to sell. Is anyone like this dishy owner who turned up for my companion when we were both dreaming of adoption? His mentor was envisaged, and conjured up with horn rims and a lovely smile. Led him away for a life of adoration.
Now that I have watched my kennel companion’s happy valley I realise I am not even a hound dog. I am a pangolin without a neck to take a leash, a iguana with swivel eyes and bristles; I am in the wrong department.
By Karsten Seiferlin from Neuenegg, Schweiz – Beast, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32903243
17 thoughts on “Re-homing a Stray- Author?”
What a treasure. Keep pouring out these essays that are so worthwhile.
Yes, it took me a little longer to read Re-homing a Stray-Author but I knew when I opened it I was in for great prose.
I had thyroid surgery earlier this week, and pray for my vocal chords to be near 100% soon. And so I entertain myself, attempt pen and ink, converse with Rumi, and read and paint. My Rebbe turned out to be Darth Vader. https://scontent-atl3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/14516387_10154160892159086_5825954240145764952_n.jpg?oh=63b05fc18fa7cf62fd99d74ad2becfd3&oe=58AB8CF5
With prayer for my daughterâs safe return from Haiti where she has been on a volunteer teaching assignment for one month. I know where her heart is but pray she knows when it is time for her to come home or travel elsewhere to renew. I wouldnât be surprised if she adopted a few children.
Be well. Enjoy your gorgeous property, splendor in the right hands.
http://www.evelynasher.com I coach people who have a fierce desire to learn and grow.
Sending a little stardust to invigorate every cell of your being with love.
Can’t you free up some funds to put your mind at ease by selling the Cowshed, or the Hedley Hay building?
I face a similar quandary Philippa re publishing upcoming book (a collaboration actually with another). I KNOW that I don’t have the heart and soul for all out promotion of myself and my writings. I am very loath to pay a publishing company who knows how much loot for someone to guide me. I wonder sometimes if it just my very stubborn streak, and I would say very likely.
So I’ve examined every which way – all I know is that I like writing, usually psychological (not always, it’s good to lighten up sometimes) and like Kristin, I write because it helps in some way to be disciplined. If I am talking to myself, so be it, I like the conversation with myself.
Have you got yourself a dog? The rescued ones are so precious. I somehow I imagine you with a beloved dog, basking in the love you give it and get back in return. Pure animal instinct …
No dog yet Susan! Nor any clear directions re re-homing ourselves! The latter seems to be required first. Though I look at Romanian dogs waiting for willing recipients and feel I should take the lot! As I do re the re-homing issue- not of us, but of Syrians who would find this place a paradise. Yet those in charge of such things, in their wisdom decide what is appropriate ( to those fleeing barrel bombs with children shell shocked into speechlessness) and I could not face arguments with social workers braced by GOOD WORKS.
The marketing matter is presented as more or less effortless if you follow the defined strategy, but first you have to write the right sort of books. Even paying for PR (rather more than I could afford) achieved nothing so soliloquy with oneself in polished prose must suffice! Those slide effortlessly books/stories would not be interesting conversations to me!
This is a poured glass each for the kind friends who heard the baying at the moon and appear simultaneously today on my desktop. For Kristin, John, Joe and any others who turn up. Last week one of my daughters suggested my dotage might be better spent moving to Oxford ( an antique dream- robust enough to set a whole book there, where I only visited a dozen times). Her motive was that her solitude loving mother might ‘get out more’ take in a theatre ( yes that WOULD be nice!) and I said that all my closest friends were here. So these deeply kind comments prove. Thank you all. I will resume Kristin’s love affair with words, Joe’s independent resolve, and rejoice in John’s exhortations to celebrate primal power. My Daimon resides in all of you, and the sounds of a few hands clapping. Prost! Bottoms up?
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If you could go back in time, Philippa, would you completely cut that part of yourself out which urges you to literary creation and live an ordinary life, with simple joys and more carefree pleasures? I wonder what your life might have looked like if you never had your powerful mystic visionary experience and never had your particular literary genius which is so original it has you crying in the wilderness, or baying at the moon, a voice which is solitary in its very essence and so appears to be destined to remain that way and to keep you in that condition. Sometimes I hear such a burden in your voice, something so hounded about you in your efforts to “get out there” and to fit in somewhere, to find a home so to speak, it brings this question seriously to my mind.
It would be interesting if you wrote an envisioning how your life might have gone if that cosmic consciousness never exploded in your poor head, lighting up your whole soul, and changing your life forever. Basically I suppose it would be an exploration whether ignorance really is bliss.
I’m glad to hear of that connection with one of your daughters and her caring urge to you. I wonder if it would do you good to go to Oxford to soak up some of the culture there, if the idea sincerely excites you. I’m going to another Opera this up-and-coming Friday, Don Pasquale. I’m becoming something of an Opera freak. With my interest also in all kinds of dark underground music and art, I never would’ve thought I’d be capable of enjoyment of Opera a couple years ago. Maybe you could arrange it so that you can go to Oxford, first provisionally, as a kind of visit, with the option of returning to where you live now if Oxford ends up not being as enjoyable as you imagined. I like the idea of you throwing off the burden and enjoying yourself a little. I think you deserve it.
Prost back to you! To Joe and Kristin too. Here’s to hopes of sound and simple enjoyment for Philippa. Hey Joe, dude, I hope you’re well. And Kristin, I really like what you wrote here.
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Interesting questions John. The memoir I have embarked upon has a working title ‘A Broken-Backed Life’. That visionary experience and what followed I see as the breaking of my life into two clean halves, only as connected as a piece of ragged cardboard snapped across a celestial knee. Hardly connected before and after. What preceded it seemed the ingredients of the words provided and which continue to compel.
In essence the ‘break’ has demanded tonguing its aching tooth ever since, so I cannot imagine a life without writing, because ( like Kristin) writing is how I speak to myself, or perhaps how the Daimon speaks to me and affirms that I exist. I suspect drawing drafting and painting does the same for you? Brian meticulously polishes words and cadences until the reflect his own perfection. But I did have a long period of simply building and gardening and planting vegetables but then there were daughters to feed and educate, so there are always ‘recipients’ and without recipients ( aka now readers?) not much is rewarding.
I used to adore Oxford. On my first ever visit I felt completely at home and knew unerringly my way to the most obscure corners of it, from the Raphael cartoons in the basement of the Ashmolean to the Holman Hunt ‘Light of the World’ in Keble College chapel and that Pre-Raphaelite painting seems to sum up all our conditions- Christ knocking at a closed door that can only be opened from within- no handle on the outside! But I am sure I have lived a rich past life in Oxford and perhaps the counter-academic Involution is a signal of having been enriched and moved on to simpler languages?
Curiously I seem to be recovering my daughters this week- one I have not had contact with for ? 20 years comes today. Perhaps to ensure a farewell since she cannot know how long is left! Thanks for your warm friendship, always warmed by it. You have no idea how much it means.
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Intriguing working title, Philippa. Knowing you a bit now, that title brings a wry smile to my face. There’s God’s-honest-truth in it, but with some self-deprecating humor. Atlas is in good company.
That’s wonderful that your other daughters seem to be seeking you out, that there’s a possibility of reconciliation, even if at first it comes in the guise of chit-chit. Even if a reestablished connection is twine-thin, I still think that’s something. It’s a start. One doesn’t need to open old wounds, or revisit where matters went array in the past and became hopelessly tangled, an abyss opening up, and finally a total breaking off of communication. It’s amazing to me that not all but many individuals eventually find their way back to one another, sometimes after many years.
In family if there’s a getting back in touch, even after many years, one can just begin again in the fundamental blood bond that’s already there, and has always been there, and feed and quietly nourish that at a steady and comfortable pace. Everything else will take care of itself. The conversations which need to be had will enter and unfold almost by themselves at the right time.
Primordial trust, Philippa – it’s primordial trust! Go with the gut and heart and listen to the inner voice. This is what I do now, or try to do (I still have my cowardly moments, let me tell you). Not literally but in a psychic and emotional sense I fall backwards into the Universe, arms out wide, and trust Mother Nature will catch me, and at least for a little while set me back into the world freed of myself, freed of the burden I had accumulated, crushing me under its weight.
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Yes John. Thank you John.
I must leave here in five minutes, Philippa, but I should give the shadow side of this too, the darker underbelly. I perhaps come off as too overly spiritual. I have harder stuff in me too. In reality, in certain interactions, there are still significant differences of nature, even within the same family, and frustrations and challenges. I have this experience too! Some individuals are just more in natural sympathy than others. But I gotta run. Just dropping in some thoughts as they occur to me.
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Hey, John. Thanks for the shout out. On the open C lately. Good to hear from you again.
Ah yes, Joe, the open C. Close the gap and make it into an O, and you got yourself a life-preserver.
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Hello, Philippa. In this post I think you express something of your predicament with amusing pathos and poignant wit. But I don’t think you yourself are a mongrel, a stray dog, though that’s certainly one of your aspects, which a while ago broke free of you, innocently wanting to roam and explore, planning to return home but getting lost, and through time becoming mangy and impoverished. I understand your heartfelt identification.
However, who you are from the apex of your being where your genius resides (in your genius you contain the entire animal kingdom) is not so easy to explain. “Purity never pays,” as you wrote. But it’s not only a matter of purity, it’s also a matter of freedom, something which by its very nature resists captivity, always rebelling, forever pushing to remain outside category and unassimilable. You do have this quality resistant to popularity. You have more primal power than domesticated charm. To the many who desire comfort and appeasement, more soothing words which aid in forgetting, there is something about you which is unruly and disruptive (your Daimon despite all your best efforts to contain and control it always breaking through the husk of your genius, your suffering providing the coloring and fragrance).
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You know I have become inured to the idea of being on anyone’s list. If the best I have in me meant nothing to most people, well then, there’s no hope of audience. Writing is now a means of talking to myself in the most disciplined and demanding way.
Now the question is whether this dismissal by the world at large is reason for despair. I believe the answer is no. I will always need the words. The lushness of it all. If I am with the words, then they are happy and alive in me.
An example: Last night I was watching a show on TV and heard a familiar speech pattern coming from someone’s mouth. I didn’t know the fragment, but plainly it was Will Shakes (a fact confirmed later). It was a huge pleasure to meet him there, in an accidental sort of way–and I thought how the whole of life is better, more vivid and more rich, just for being able to recognize that remarkable, inimitable cadence.
You are not an abandoned dog, P. You are the dog that, once let off the leash, flashes off on its own to run the moors beneath the pale moon.
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Good synopsis of predicament. I would read another novella from you. No idea how French that might make me. I love novellas. In any case, those categories are what publishers use to pigeon hole things. A writer writes, call it what you will. If you enjoy writing, write. I still suggest CreateSpace for you to publish. No cost (excepting a hard copy proof copy, if you want one, which I would recommend so you can feel and smell and see what it’s like). Sell through Amazon worldwide. You’ll get monthly reports of results. No inventory (print on demand). No storage, no remainders or remainder fees. Market thru your networks, electronic and acoustic. Will it sell 100,000 copies? 5,000? 1,000? Would you be satisfied with 100? It’s a hard market, many distractions, fewer and fewer readers of fiction, particularly experimental works.
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Thanks Joe. I did use Createspace for Yucatan, but have a long way to go to get to 100 copies sold. I offer it free for an email address and get no takers! Meanwhile I have boxes of the hoped for reviews copies(of both) gathering dust. I accept some responsibility, mainly in wanting to push myself in new directions. I was tempted by an offer to republish the poetic narrative of Involution, but on the conditions outlined and demurred! So this was an impotent whine!
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Interesting. I saw this: “Publisher: CollaborArt Books; 2 edition (June 9, 2014).” So you created an imprint? I very much liked your “A Shadow in Yucatan.” As for reviews, they’ve followed the lead of the declining industry. Yr mention of academic credentials by the way – does anyone read those journals? It’s all funded. Most of these are behind the paywall, and who pays? Anyway, I still think there is a kind of writer that will be happier in the so-called “Indie” mode rather than the traditional mode. “A Shadow in Yucatan” should have hit 100 copies, though, or 1,000. I’m puzzled by that. But those books “gathering dust” won’t get read if you don’t somehow get them distributed?