The great Lazlo Toth, an inspiration to me, once maybe said “You write letters, you get letters back. That’s for sure.”
I have only occasionally found that to be true.
But then, I’m pretty sure he sent his.
8/12/21: Weird experiment day!
Today I am going through every page I have in Life is a Fountain and adding something hopefully relevant to it from the annals of Clerkmanifesto. It’s my desperate attempt to freshen up everything after being away for a couple weeks. So here you go:
Dear Literary Agent,
As a literary agent you have been waiting your whole career for me to write you. You did not think it would happen, and yet here it is.
No, you don’t know me.
No, you have never heard of me.
Perhaps it would be expedient for you at this point to pause in your reading of this letter to consult the enclosed examples of my work. I’ll wait here…
I know, right? It’s like turning over a rock and finding William Shakespeare, only not writing plays and not dead and using a contemporary vernacular. It’s like finding someone is writing the Tao Te Ching before your eyes, only nothing at all like Tao Te Ching in any way, and far better.
At this point one question is undoubtedly foremost in your mind: “Why are you not terribly famous?”
I feel the answer to that should be very clear from this letter. I am terrible at marketing. Why, look at how badly I am marketing to you right now!
That’s where you, a literary agent, come in.
As you know a great literary agent can sell two things: Great works that no one in their right mind wants to read until they’ve been properly marketed to (think, for instance, Finnegans Wake), and worthless formulaic writing that no one in their right mind wants to read until they’ve carefully been marketed to, like unto pushers hooking innocents like it’s an addictive drug (think, for instance, the work of Lee Child).
This is why literary agents, marketers, and publishers are so essential. You alone create the link between writer and reader. You alone create all fundamental interest in any new works of literature anywhere.
It is a terrible burden!I am here to help you.
Once, when you were younger, you perhaps had exalted dreams for the work of a Literary Agent. But alas how the mundanity of it all challenged those dreams! The addictive drug writers, such as James Patterson, were many, and the money from their representation was some succor, but it was not ennobling. It did not touch on your mighty, secret dreams. The James Joyces of the world were very few, and doubt rose in you and you hid away your dreams. You dampened your mighty, essential skills because your heart did not sing with the full pride it was entitled to.
I am as great a writer as James Joyce. I rival William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Oh, sure, not in my use of language, or storytelling, or sublety of expression, or power of poetry. But what is that? I am a visionary, the word of God, the sword of justice. I am just the sort of person who needs a mighty Literary Agent.
You can be that person.
I am not popular. I will always criticize the wrong things. I am not on the side of man and I do not get along with the gods who spur me on and shower me with gifts I spurn and resent. In two years of hard work writing and blogging I have attracted roughly 30 regular readers. This number would dwindle every day, but is too small to do so, so has to dwindle on a monthly basis. It draws near to the point where it must dwindle on a yearly basis.
I am a terrible challenge that no sane Literary Agent would embrace. But calculations of sanity must sometimes be set aside to prevent the soul from withering.
Your destiny has come. Let us ride out to a glorious defeat!
Inflate your take home percentage if you must, I am no businessman, but say yes. There is a mighty work to be done.
You may not be entirely aware that Life is a Fountain is run as a Public 504R In Share Corporation. You may also may not be aware that fact that you’re reading this confirms that you are an officer of said corporation and own at least a half percent share in Life is a Fountain, possibly even more depending on whether you receive this via email, have bookmarked the site, or came upon it by fate. According to Public Exchange, in The Wall Street Journal, a percent share would be worth about $245 at current rates, even more if you are in the Asian Markets. Of course, this fluctuates greatly depending on the quality of the daily posts. An amusing post involving George Clooney has induced near doubling of the share price, while my comments on squirrels have caused panicked selling.
But I am really only telling you about all of this to explain that, due to organizational bylaws, I am required annually to publish my budget and earnings. You don’t have to read this all if you don’t want to. It’s pretty dry stuff. But as a shareholder, and in your de facto position on the board of directors it would be the responsible thing for you to do.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist, $14,500
Tattoo day at the State Fair, $8,500
Sidewalk chalk, $12
Neighborhood Urchins, $398
Catster Magazine, $4,440
Customer Appreciation Week, $18,585
Cat refund processing, $11,325
Caviar with a blogger day, $255,000
Equipment and costs:
4,648 gel pens (blue and black), $2,920
Post-it notes, $28
Internet connection, $417
Pain and suffering for Internet connection, $5,282
Domain name, $5
Lucky blogging slippers, $70
George Clooney Foundation, $100,000
Mary Oliver slipper fund bequest, $70
Trifling detritus of Bob Dylan sold on ebay, $1,950
Gates Foundation bribe to “cool it” on Gates, $15
Blog subscriptions, $-295
Life is a Fountain brand Creme De Menthe, $9,224
Mysterious squid to Monterey Aquarium, $500
Nobel Prize for Literature, $923,179
Good Blogger Samaritan Award, Gates Foundation, $100
This year we have run a tidy profit on Life is a Fountain, and that money belongs to you, the shareholders! As is custom here (and also part of our bylaws), we have converted the $707,191 into a like value in kittens. These kittens will be sent out this week to you, the shareholders, according to the number of shares you are holding. If you are a longtime shareholder you will note this is a much bigger profit than in previous years and so likewise you should expect a significant increase in kittens. We advise that you try to have someone around the house over the next couple of weeks to help deal with the deliveries, of which there may be quite a few. And now would also be a good time to start thinking of cat names, lots and lots of cat names. I’m fond of the name “Linus” if that helps.
Thank you, and see you next year shareholder!
Feldenstein Calypso for:
I have been writing now with at least a little facility for almost 40 years. And though over that time I had my moments, it is only in the past five years that I not only became very dedicated, but I also got really good at it. I got so good that I started to think “Hey, I could go pro!” I work at a library and I see professional writers’ work all the time and I swear I can hardly open up a book anymore without thinking “I can totally do this!” Maybe not Jane Austen or James Joyce, but possibly Rex Stout, I’m pretty sure Jodi Picoult, and definitely Kazuo Ishiguro. So I began to contact publishers like yourself. Over a few years I contacted 93 professional publishers (like yourself) and not a single one of them thought I was ready to go pro.
I had to face a reckoning: Should I believe 93 writing community professionals whose very livelihood depends upon their acute evaluations of the quality of writing, or should I believe in myself.
I decided to believe in myself!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Good choice!”
But I was a little nervous about it because 93 sober, intelligent professionals were a lot to go up against. So I looked to the Internet. I typed in a search for believe-in-yourself quotes thinking I could find inspiration from the authors I most admired. But it turns out that while there are an almost endless array of quotes by famous people about believing in oneself, not a single one of them was by a real author. Not even Kazuo Ishiguro, if that would count.
Here is a partial list of the people who told me, in no uncertain terms, to believe in myself:
Norman Vincent Peale
Oscar Pistorius (!)
So, I’m feeling a little confused right now, and I’ll have to get back to you later.
Thank you for your time.