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So You Want to Write a Book

Notes from a first timer. (Warning, irony ahead.)

Sara Bynoe 14 Jul

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It’s probably every writer’s fantasy to have a publishing house approach them, and at the age of 23 that’s exactly what happened to me. A dream come true? Well, I think Alanis Morrisette angstily said it best; “You live, you learn.”

It actually all started one day when I was talking with a friend on the phone and I came across a binder (yes, a binder -- with over a hundred pages) full of poetry that my high school boyfriend gave to me.

I read this poetry to her, which was given and received in “love” and laughed at it. I laughed out loud, with tears rolling down my face. There was one particularly awful line in one poem that went something like “with my peripheral vision I have seen your eyes divert to the path made for one,” that made me keel over.

But I want to act!

I then went back to the five journals (yes, five) I’d filled with my own angst-ridden poetry (which at the time, I thought was pure genius) and realized it was even worse.

So I created, a place for the world to post its penned adolescent anguish. After years of blogging about my website in cyber space, hosting teen angst poetry nights, and pounding the pavement postering cities, I received an e-mail from a woman at Random House. She had come across my website, and thought it would make a good book.

A few months later I had a mini-manuscript and an agent and that’s when the real angst (and lessons) began.

I found out I only had two months to get it all together. Wha?! I was attending Studio 58, the Survivor of theatre schools, as I like to call it. And I was in the play: the ingénue with a big kissing scene (yesss!).

And I was sleeping all the time -- strange behavior for an insomniac like me. I even started napping which I haven’t done since I was five. I had a fever and my glands were huge. It turns out that I had mono: the kissing disease, where and who from still remains a mystery -- although there are a few suspects.

During the day when I was supposed to be “recovering” I was on the phone to my editor in NY, on the phone with a lawyer drafting contracts for contributors, sending out hundreds, if not thousands of e-mails on my biddy hotmail account, sorting out submissions, hunting down contributors contracts -- “sign this!” -- writing and angsting over my own contributions (oh yeah, I’m writing too), and then my printer broke which meant going to school and paying ten cents a page so that St. Martin’s could have a hard copy of the competed manuscript. “Are you serious? Can’t I just e-mail it?” No. Oh yeah and it takes a week to mail to NY. Ugh. This is the real life of an author, apparently. Is your couch occupied?

Compiling the book was just stage one, then there were copy edits by a guy who didn’t get the satirical nature of the book.

“Why is this poetry so bad?” he asked.

Umm, have you read the title?

But he wasn’t the only one that didn’t get it. In fact, it was a typically Canadian publisher response. One publisher, that publishes edgier humorous work, wrote back, “We think anthologies should be contributed by authors who are known.” Just they wait until I get the celebrity edition together.

So, I had to go to the US where apparently they understand bad poetry, er I mean irony.

Finally a release date is set: April -- National Poetry Month. I was determined to make something of this. I niced up to my father who has enough airmiles for the moon and back, and I asked for a trip. I booked my own media whore tour/ book launch: New York, Toronto, Chargin Falls, Ohio, Calgary and Vancouver. I chose those places because I had friends to stay with there. Sure, paying your own way has its downsides; I slept on the floor in Greenwich village - but it was still Greenwich Village.

Then the media begins to call you for interviews some have never seen let alone read your book or your website. And you think, “Jeez people, don’t waste my time - do your research, take five minutes and Google my name!” But that’s not how it works. Almost no writer, producer, or editor has time to read more than the jacket cover.

See, “you live, you learn.”

One thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of angst out there and I can’t wait to find it.

Teen Angst: The Musical here I come!

Sara Bynoe is running The Tyee’s Teen Angst Poetry Contest with us. Enter, and you might win fame and prizes! For examples of bad poems, see here. For contest details, see here. Contest ends Friday, July 15th.

Sara Bynoe is the creator of and the editor of Teen Angst Poetry: A Celebration of REALLY BAD poetry. She regularly performs bad poetry readings in Vancouver.  [Tyee]

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