Reprinted from last month’s guest blog on 49 Writers, No Moose. I was invited to write anything I wanted, about writing or not, so I did. I’ll be posting them here for the next four Fridays.
For years I tried to get an agent because “everybody” told me that the way the publishing game worked was you got an agent who then got you a publisher.
“Everybody” didn’t tell me that if you’re trying to get an agent from Alaska, the difficulty compounds geometrically, like interest owed to a loan shark. My manuscripts returned regularly like little homing pigeons accompanied by letters which read, “Alaska? Where is that?” and “Alaska? Is that, like, you know, a state?” My favorite letter came from an agent who said, “Your manuscript is wonderful and I would love to represent you. Unfortunately, I only represent American authors.”
It’s funny now. It wasn’t then. I wound up getting a publisher first and an agent after, but the, let’s say the distinction of coming from Alaska continues to present me with interesting experiences. Like on the book tour when I went into Oregon Public Radio and the host greeted me with a bellowed, “WELL I SEE SUSAN BUTCHER JUST KILLED ANOTHER DOG!” This guy, who I caught on right away was an animal rights activist, carried on and on about how HE owned dogs and HE didn’t kill any of them and how the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was an ABOMINATION and a DISGRACE and anyone who condoned it was a MURDERER.
Of course, today I’m looking back on these episodes with a certain amount of nostalgia. After last year’s election, everybody knows we’re a state. I can’t fake being from Canada any more, which I used to do whenever I met someone overseas who was pissed off at the U.S. (when aren’t they). I confess their own ignorance helped. “Alaska?” they’d say. “Isn’t that up next to Canada?” “You bet,” I’d say. “Canada,” they’d say, “you’re all right.” “You bet,” I’d say.
No longer an option. Governor Palin has a lot to answer for.