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Literary Misfit

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Marcy by RenoirAs some readers may know, I recently uploaded my novel, Halfway to the Stars, on Scribd, a relatively new service that offers unpublished/unpublishable books for sale. I’d only sent it out to a few agents/editors since completing it two years ago, and then stopped trying to publish it: after four previous novels I no longer have the heart for the rejection process. In the first two days the book got over 50 hits– and no sales.

I immediately saw the problem, unresolvable: because it’s tagged–honestly–as erotica, sex, sexual content, etc, it drew a rush of readers. But because it’s not porn, or even erotica really, they were probably disappointed. This book is a novel first and foremost, with a plot and characters, and the sexual content is more often expository than titillating–that is, very few scenes are actually sexy, although the book is about sex. It’s sort of a window into the sex scene, with descriptions of a women’s masturbation workshop, a nude protest, and stuff like that–the main character is a sex journalist. Anyhow, it’s not selling. I’m thinking of removing the sexy tags.

Oscar the GrouchOne of the few gratifications of getting older is being able to look back and undersand why certain things happened as they did. In my late 20s I wrote a
Sesame Street episode called Oscar the Grouch Gets Married. He met his bride at the dump, of course, and though I don’t remember her name, she was a female version of Oscar. Their wedding was a total grouch spoof, with a Maid of Dishonor and a Worst Man, and god only knows what other subversive elements I merrily threw into the mix. I thought it was hilarious, my kids, aged five and seven, thought it was hilarious, and I sent it to the Chidlren’s Television Workshop, producers of Sesame Street. Needless to say, I got a form rejection. Which baffled me.

I tell this story as but one example of the kinds of stuff I’ve been writing all my life: I’m subversive without knowing I’m being subversive; or I mix genres in a way that makes the work unpublishable. I have to admit, I’m still somewhat baffled–while I see what’s in my way, I also see subversive books that slide into print, or some that manage to transcend genre restrictions.

I was just sitting around at 5 a.m. today drinking my coffee and pondering the Halfway to the Stars conundrum, when the Oscar episode popped into my head.Oscar Grouch 2 There’s a lesson to be learned here, but I suspect that if I haven’t learned it by now, I never will. You know what they say: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I suppose I’m doomed to continue bumbling along in my subversive, unplanned, spontaneous way for the rest of my life. Thank god for the blogosphere.

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2 responses »

  1. i have much the same problem. i think, in my case, though, the subversive stuff i see in print is more authentically edgy than my stuff — the authors are actually part of some counterculture.

    Not sure what you mean by “part of some counterculture,” but I’ve been in and out of alternative cultural groups my whole life, and that’s part of the problem: it’s reflected in my writing. A great therapist once told me I was an “iconoclast,” and after looking it up in the dictionary, I had to agree.

    Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your work.–MS

  2. Don’t give up. Many of us are unemployed and cannot spend right now. Not a good time for self publishing, or even for publishers who are downsizing also. I do know a lit agent who got the book I facilitated at my last job published….of course it was self help book. And everyone knows we all need help, including me

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