June 16th 2012
This coming week is The Aspen Writer's Conference, which is where I found my agent (after many years of submitting to agents and editors there.) The problem was that I was always writing new stuff, so I would submit whatever I was working on at the time. It would have been better to have kept submitting the same piece, so there was some consistency. Anyway, it was lucky that I did submit the sample I did when Esmond Harmsworth was among the agents brought in to the conference that year. It was a fit, and that doesn't happen that often.
What I like to go to most at the conference is panels of writers talking about writing or about the publishing business. I'm going to one on Monday with writers who write about the place they come from. To me, it is more unusual when a person doesn't write about the place they come from. If writing comes from a place of longing, and the writer isn't living where they grew up, as is usually the case, then why wouldn't that place well up out of them? Being so far away from Scotland in exile, I get in front of my desk, go into the zone, and Scotland is all around me. I want to experience it, so I conjure it up through writing. Someone like Colum McCann, who comes from Ireland, but writes about everything under the sun but, is a puzzle to me. He's good, but he must be writing out of a different place.
Another event I am going to at the conference is a two-hour seminar on How to Market Your Book - I'll report on that next week. Everyone tells me it's not like it was in the old days. No matter that you have a major publisher, you're going to have to get out there and sell your book. Marketing is not something that comes naturally to me, or even unnaturally. It just doesn't come to me at all. That's why I'm a writer and not up on the stage. I'm a hermit by nature.
I have been doing a lot of hermitting lately, trying to get through this re-write for the publisher, which is turning into something of a major re-mix. I'm so close to the material now, I don't know when I put this in or if I pulled that out. The facts and figures of it are swirling in a cloud above my head.
This week, I was talking to Scott Lasser, a writer friend of mine. His fourth novel "Say Something Nice About Detroit" is coming out next month. I was expressing my anxiety over not being able to come up with a title for my novel I liked. I even proposed "Auld Lang Syne" to my editor this week, and I guess the lack of reply meant she didn't think much of the idea. Scott said that the title doesn't matter that much, doesn't need to have that much to do with the book, as long as it is a good title. If it needed to be about the book, he suggested, I could call mine "Cold and Wet." Well, it's a nice cold and wet, Scotland is, and it's not always cold, though it's usually wet. It belongs to the longing at the heart of me. It's probably the reason I write.