When I click open my inbox the name pops up.  I’m not sure how to feel.  Excited, but also nervous.  This agent has shown interest once before, the only one so far.  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 lump being a zit.  Didn’t quite connect for me, thanks for submitting, etc.            

I feel like one of the indians on Hispaniola in 1492.  Cut down.  Blown away.  Unknown and primitive, awaiting disease.  Maybe I should go down to the corner pub, load up the jukebox with country songs, and drink the day away.  That would definitely improve this situation.             

I’ve always wondered why many artists who make it proceed to disintegrate into a haze of drugs and alcohol.  Like the guy in Motley Crue who writes about being slumped on his bathroom floor and shooting heroin into, among other places, his thing.  I used to think it was excitement and momentum over their success.  I now realize that it’s pure relief, at least at first.  Years of missteps, frustration, and wondering how long a body can survive on ramen before rickets set in – it packs down in the soul like a cannonball, just waiting for the fuse to be lit.            

Note to self.            

Maybe I just need to change my approach.  Jane Austen is hot right now.  Not Jane Austen’s books themselves, but books about people getting together to read Jane Austen.  Why would you want to do that?  Do you know anyone in a Jane Austen book club?            

Perhaps I could jump on this 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 renewed self-awareness.            

Well, hell, this isn’t something that can’t be overcome by a huge cup of coffee.  I hop into the car and head down the road to a bookstore.  Ten minutes later I park and walk to the store.            

It’s closed for the holiday.            

Screw the new year.            

I stare at the door considering the fact that Hitler was a failed painter, but he still managed to make something of himself.  Most people didn’t approve, but the guy definitely made waves.  That alone is reason to support small, independent art.            

I ramble back toward the car, wondering how I became a forty-year old man with an allowance.  Getting behind the wheel I recall something I read about a woman whose second book had just been published.  She was upset because the publishing house was comparing her work to that of male authors, well known ones at that.  Hey, call me the Britney Spears of verse or compare me to Charles Manson, I can handle it.  Maybe we never run out of things to complain about, even as things improve, shoving gratitude under the carpet like dog hair.            

Maybe this whole writing thing is misguided.  There are definitely easier ways to make a living.  I should just claim to be an “investment advisor” and show up at corporate retirement parties, promising 20% returns for life to unsuspecting employees.            

Maybe this is just a marketing approach problem.  I just need to get creative to open a few doors.  Two ideas come to mind:  

Creative Marketing Idea #1

Marry a rock star.  Gender of target is less important than degree of dysfunction and exposure.  The more of each quality the better.  Ideal candidate: once-big but now downward-arcing, rehab-weary rock veteran hanging on by a thread.  Multiple organ transplants a plus.  A year later release a tell-all book, tapping into the He did that? crowd by appearing on morning 'news' shows and daytime TV.  Throw in a personal eating disorder (Peeps ™) to generate sympathy and broaden appeal.  

Creative Marketing Idea #2
Sleep with a Governor.  Again, gender of target flexible.  After media explosion, hole up in apartment for week and then release press statement.  Something like “I met secretly with Mr/Mrs X while finishing my book, a stirring tale of redemption, now available at........”              

Something feels right when I enter the bar near my house.  A guy at the counter is talking about his experience last night.  He woke up in his VW 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 gas tank.  He chased the guy on foot for two hours, continuing the pursuit mostly for fun, and then stopped for breakfast.            

When the conversation shifts to concerts, I note that you can always spot the doomed couples at concerts.  The lingering tension is easy to spot.  The guy is rocking out with abandon while his girl stands still, checking messages on her cell phone.            

We laugh like water-logged farmers shaking off the potato blight.  I don’t care if it sells, it makes me tick.  Humor always brings me back to where I should be – squarely in the here and now.

Thomas Sullivan: writes short humor essays. His work has appeared in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Bad Idea Magazine, and Art & Opinion among others.

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