I steer clear of agents, usually, because I am going to have to do all of this alone. I've had three agents in the past. Not one placed so much as a single story, sold a book, netted me an assignment. They were each incompetent. One of them sent a story to Boston Review, and there were misspellings in their half-assed one sentence email, nothing about me, the story, no presentation. It was something that the most ragamuffin eighteen-year-old intern would have done a vastly better job on. It was so lazy.
What agents want from a writer is what I could never give them right now. They are simple, they have no vision, no acumen, and, again, they are so lazy. They want you to come along with a bad, retread of a book every five or six or ten years (as their industry dies, because of practices like these). They want that book to look like other books they've sold to the same old editors, that do nothing in the world. That no one cares about or could. And they want you to have a label and do the same bad, boring thing each time. They want you to have your book on some feminist cause, or for you to be black and have your book about being a person of color. Or if you write about music, to have your music book, you and your ability and the range of what you can do better be able to fit on the front of a postage stamp. They don't want you being dynamic, a genius, able to change the world. Further, they want to be your boss. The expert. You listen to and defer to them. You are the lap dog. Obviously none of that works here. They are not going to know a fraction of what I know, I have the vision, I have the art, I have the entertainment, and I expect you to work you ass off for me, to put the time in, to be good at your job, to earn you 15% which ultimately is going to be many millions of dollars for you when I get past these people.
This blog shows what I do every week, and it leaves much out. I am hated and blackballed by an entire industry, and yet, I dominate, and that is with everyone against me. I need to make this happen despite everyone being against me, and I will. I need to make this happen despite the reality that the more success I achieve, the more I am hated. The rubber has met the road on that score with one particular bigot mentioned in a post--though not by name--recently, and he will be going up on this website, name and so much more, in all of his bigoted glory very shortly. I am waiting on one more thing from him--call it a final chance--and then I will move with what I have when that goes as I expect it to. The way this person talks to me, how absolutely filthy their entire bartered, favor-traded career is, with the magazine they preside over which no one cares about, nor reads, and the absolute filthiness in how this no-talent fills it with his friends, and yells at me, and talks down to me, and lies to me. I'm not an enemy you're going to wish to have, because I don't do anything half-assed, and if I say I have the goods, that's an understatement. But we will do that later.
If I write 100 agents, with all of what I have going on, lighting it up week after week, moving between so many mediums, there might be one that will write me back. Because of the hate, the fear, the envy, the blackballing. In the summer, that one agent was Sandy Dijkstra. She is completely flighty. It's hard, of course, for me to summarize what I do, and it's hard for me to summarize what I have done in a given week. There is no career in American letters like mine, never has been, never will be. I can write everything, I do, and I feel like I am just getting started, even though there are thousands and thousands of works in my body of work, many books, so many books of all kinds to come, TV, radio, and we'll get to film and beyond. There is nothing I cannot do. I wrote her this summer. She had, of course, forgotten that she had heard from me in the past. She sends me one of her typical emails, which has that kind of seventh grade cheerleader punctuation, something you wouldn't think could come from an adult. And it's like, "good Christ, look at this." And she says, passive aggressively, that they hope I've given them the exclusive opportunity to see the work. She says that, and what I know is is that this genius, who wants me to wait on her, show the work to no one, could give a toss about actually replying to me. She's seen the fancy places I write for, and to her, that translates to a kind of writing in her head. A boring, bad, stiff, meaningless, vapid form of writing that "fancy writers" specialize in. The system people, in other words. But they are in those venues because they suck at writing and they are one of this lobotomized species of pretentious, arrogant, entitled, talentless, Ivy League grad connected people. That's all it is. Then she's going to see my work, and she's going to see that it's not like that at all, it's nothing like her expectations, her locked-in, wooden, one-note ways. And they don't like that. She's going to get back to me in mere days, she says. Days.
Months go past. Nothing. I follow-up after a few. She's sufficiently rude that she ignores me. I've moved the book by myself by this point. It's what happens with her every time. Sometimes she farms my email out to Elise Capron, who is even less competent, if that's possible. So, I'm up in the early hours recently, and I decide to send Sandy a letter. This is how hard I try. I will try anything. I can see how absolutely useless and disrespectful and unprofessional you are, and I still might try with you. Because there is no competence here, pretty much, and I will do anything to get where I am going. I will do anything for my work. Because my work is the most powerful force of change and impact, I believe, this world has ever known. And when I have a chance and a platform and it is seen by enough people--hell, if this blog was seen by enough people--I think I will be proven correct. Another thing: writers, besides lacking any ability, are lazy, but it's more than just being lazy. A woman writes me the other day, says that we should provide each other prompts so we have something to write on. I'm like, what? I tell her I just wrote a 3100 word essay. Took me eighty minutes. I'm on to the next. She asks how I got inspired to do that. I said that had nothing to do with anything. I create. It's what I do. Imagine asking Mozart how he got inspired to write a given piano sonata?
He'd be like, dude, I'm Mozart, you're playing an out of tune on a broken guitar and singing bad rhymes, we're not the same, we might as well be a different species from each other. She was nice. She wasn't trying to be a jerk. People have a level, though, and the first thing they're going to do is try to pull me down to their level as part of their process of trying to equate us. That's not going to work. She adds that she's been trying to finish a short story for five months, I add that I've written sixty short stories since July. Again, we're not the same. I get this a lot. A lot a lot a lot. People do not have talent, they don't have imagination, and of course they can't create. They have this dream-thing that by calling themselves a writer they are special, it's their identity, like being a football player is Tom Brady's. It's their special hat they plop on their heads. It's how they try to feel special. And because there's no accountability here--you just need some people like you to lie to you (or hook you up, back you, stick you in their magazine, rep you, award you, anthologize you) and say it's great, so that you will do the same for them--they can carry this throughout their lives. People who write, and people in publishing, hate the truth, because most of them live a giant lie. They hate me, the interloper, who is all about truth, who gets the things that even with all of the help of their crooked cronies, they can't get. Or they can't get as much of. They can't create as well, produce as much, do as much, speak as well, and still be sending the emails to the evil bigots, like my aforementioned friend, whose day--actually it will be a series of days/posts--is coming upon this blog.
They want people like themselves in their venues, and agents want people like them. Or their brother-in-law's cousin. It's always stuff like that. But my point is, production is exceedingly hard for most would-be writers, by which I mean the people who shit out the bad, to-be-expected-in-content book every eight years. Go to any other writer's site. Do you see how little there is? How little they actually write? Look at their news sections. It's all about the puff reviews and the blurbs. It's not filled with news of things they wrote, new things they wrote. They hardly write more than you do if you're a plumber. That's the system. Sucking and mediocrity. I am here to change the bloody world and make a fortune and reach people and connect and inspire and compel and move and breathe so much new life into your lungs and your brain and your soul. That's what I do. That's what I am doing in this post, that's what I will do when I am done with this here before the dawn when I compose a Wall Street Journal op-ed that will run on New Year's Eve, then again when I complete "Spines," a short story like no other, then again later today when I write more for my Sam Cooke book. Again and again and again and again.
And I'll write twenty letters too to bigots, the same bigots who will hate me more when The Wall Street Journal op-ed runs and the seven or eight things that will run between now and it. Hate because of someone else's virtues and unique abilities, and because of their insecurity and paucity of anything of any positive substance. But if you're an agent, you could say, huh, this guy is doing novels, he can do a screenplay, a children's book, that blog is catching on, looking at the memoir writing, the music writing, the sports writing, all of these crazy op-eds in front of millions of people, he's amazing on the radio which he is on constantly, there he is on TV, he could work in radio full-time, explode, he says what no one else dares to say, and he walks a bigger walk than any talk he talks, and he has all of these short stories, and this one that could actually influence gun legislation, and my God, he creates so much every day, I would never have to prod him, he'll talk on any work, any book work, magazine work. But they don't want it. They want simple and stupid. They want to be lazy.
I want to rip the world a new soul.
And I will.
So, this is the letter I sent to Sandy. With the whole pre-dawn thing, that's kind of suggestive that this guy, when everyone else is a lazy clown, works his ass off, non-stop. He does my job better than I could. (They also don't like that.) Realize, this exact same behavior has gone on with her for years. "You better not be showing that to anyone, but, ha, I'm going to blow you off anyway, dick, because I am that hubristic, even though I sent you a note that was punctuated like I'm seven." Also realize that it takes a long time--it usually takes years, many years, before I will finally say the truth to you, but there comes a point when I will. And, in the larger sense, I see no reason to wait years at all anymore, given what is what, given this war, given how these people conduct themselves, given the blackballing. I think it's just go-time with everything now. I've had it. And this blog is an atomic tank of truth, and that is ultimately very important and powerful in the eventual winning of this war.
How are you? It is quite early here in the East, but I am awake with a bad cold, and thus tending to some business.
I had reached out to you in the summer. Not sure if you remember me. I recently had fiction in Harper's, I have written for just about everyone. My career is a challenging one to summarize in two sentences, so I will direct you to my website at the link below. I offered you a unique novel, a very funny novel. You said to me that you would read it straight away, and that you hoped I was only contacting you, and not other agents.
I find this kind of passive directive odd--which is one reason why I've made my own way thus far--as an agent is just as likely to then never reply. As it were, you did not reply, and I sold the novel myself. (As well as another book.)
But, I did wish to offer you something else, which I would like to place with a good home. It's a fine story collection, called Cheer Pack: Stories. The stories in it have run in the VQR, Harper's, Commentary, Glimmer Train. Not that any of that matters, given that almost everything in publishing happens for the wrong reasons, and a story buried under a rock often means no less than a story in The New Yorker. Artistically, anyway. And I understand the rep that story collections now have, but I believe that is a matter of bad, retread-y MFA stories that really have no traction in the world, offer no substance, no entertainment, no soul, no grip, no connection, with little resonance for readers. People out in the world. Not people in an MFA program that barter favors and pretend to like work which they shill for which they never read, much less care about.
My stories don't do that, are not like that. They're unique, they forge relationships. As my career is unique.
A lot has happened in the past week alone, to give you an idea, which is now a standard week, thus making it impossible for me to bring anyone up to speed on much more than a week. To wit:
I was on network TV discussing my work. There were op-eds in The Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News. I sold fiction to Salmagundi. Ann Beattie and Joyce Carol Oates had recent stories there; they publish but four works of short fiction a year.
This is me talking about Ella Fitzgerald on Tuesday:
This is two people talking about a piece of mine:
A piece on Orson Welles is due shortly in the TLS. I picked up a new regular radio gig. I am better on the radio than anyone. I will have a career in radio as well, and I think that is becoming obvious. Just as I will branch out into television and film, which a number of my works lend themselves to already, and which matches my background.
The latest spate of op-eds are due soon in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Daily News. I say the things that no one else in America will say. And I say them articulately, in arguments that cannot be rebuffed, with edge and sagacity. And humor.
Next week I will be on two different radio programs, and God knows what else will happen, because each week is now a kind of epic adventure as I make my way to where I am determined to get.
There have been Twitter mobs of late descending upon me, with the aim of ending my life and career, but I have become accustomed to this, and it doesn't much faze me. My only concern is continually pushing forward. There is no mob I cannot handle.
Each day I awake, and each day there are more letters than the previous day waiting for me at my website, and more subscribers, by far, to my blog, which documents discrimination and corruption in publishing. It names the names. Among other things. And each day I see notes like, "your work gives me a reason to keep living." A woman had to put down her beloved dog this week, who had seen her through a nasty divorce and a cancer diagnosis that had looked like it was going to take her life. And she said, "I don't know why I am telling you this, or why I would expect you to care, but your work makes me feel close to you."
The stories in Cheer Pack are in that spirit, as is the attached new single story, "Fitty," which I am keen to sell with a good magazine. It is a story that would trend, that would go viral, in the right setting, that looks at the school shooting pandemic in a way that no other work yet has. It's a work, too, that can bring change, and it's as moving a single story as I think one will see. It will floor you. The world needs to see it.
I understand that it strains credulity, but I have composed well over sixty short stories since summer of last year, to go along with the dozens and dozens and dozens of essays, reviews, op-eds, personal essays, a novel. A book on Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club comes out next year. And there have also been dozens of hours of radio, and now I am moving into TV. Further, my blog, launched last summer, and now over 400 entries (it is about the length already of Proust's In Search of Lost Time), documents publishing from tip to tail, while documenting much else; a life in art, a friendship with the precocious young girl I mentor, the ballet, film, literature, nature, sports, endurance, and every day, and more so each day, there are new subscribers, as this thing is starting to get big. People become addicted to the blog. It makes them think, entertains them, inspires them. I have written it as a series of books in plain view of the public.
I am not any other writer, I am doing things no other writers are doing, and each week I am having what would be a successful career if you limited me to those mere five business days.
So that's the letter. Does she even write me back? No, of course not. That's the kind of person you are dealing with, and she's one of the better ones, by far. The bar is so low with these people, it might as well be buried in the center of the earth. And yes, I know as they read this, because they will, the others I have never interacted with, the ones that ignored me over the years, they will share it around, they are becoming more frightened of me. Boo. The big bad scary genius man, with his standards, and his expectations if you are going to take his money, and his work ethic, and the size and power of his mind. Yes, scary, I get it. I need someone great. Someone with balls and character and vision. I don't think they are out there. They would have chimed in here, dropped the dime, as they used to say, a long time ago. And I realize, too, and I realized it when I wrote that letter, that she couldn't reply. How could she? It's completely beyond her world, completely out of her depth. Where would you start with someone like that? Again, they want the simple person, with the bad book, that's easily classified, who comes along every seven years, "here's my my book on being a person of color, here's my book on feminism, here's my story collection about being a person of color, and, naturally, I can do nothing else in this world, except write this same hackneyed junk again and again, and I'm part of the problem of why no one reads anymore, and so are you, agent, because we exclusively shovel this slop at people and no one honestly cares about any of it because it's so weak and ineffectual and anyone could do this Writing 101.)"
But I know what she's going to do. She's going to farm it out to Elise Capron. And what she's then going to do, is condescend to me. And so it went:
Thanks for your patience. We’ve seen quite a few projects from you at this point, and we appreciate that you keep us in mind.
You have terrific energy and passion as a writer, and we respect that very much. And we all greatly admire that you are always getting your work out into the world.
That said, I’m sorry to report that the stories are just not right for us at this time. Collections are quite difficult, and simply aren’t what we’re focusing on right now.
We have every confidence that you’ll find this work a good home. We wish you ever success, truly.
Cheering you on,
And now, what I am going to do, after all of this time, and all of the performances like this, is I'm going to tell the truth:
That is, sans any surprise, remarkably condescending. My energy and passion, eh? It's called genius. Having infinitely more talent than anyone you represent. Which is why I achieve more every single week than any of your clients do in their careers. But sure, send me a letter, after your usual display of incompetence and entitlement, and pat me on the head like a good boy for being an eager beaver. You people are unreal.
So, agents. That's what you're dealing with. Like I said, I'll do anything on behalf of my work, but you cannot do anything with people like the above. And they don't want someone like you anyway.
You'd be amazed how often these people say the energy and passion thing, though. Jon Peede at the VQR used to condescend to me endlessly about that, like I was some developmentally challenged squirrel who happened, through sheer foraging intensity, to find a nut every so often, when talent--something infinitely beyond talent--so obviously burns and blazes in everything I do. But they don't want to go there. They want to pat me on the head, the insinuation being I'm a moron who just works really hard, and if they wanted to work really hard, they could do all of this, too. Right. You should try that. See how it comes out.