Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Help Dave Live!

Bad news first: I still have no job, and I'm down to $80 in my bank account. Rent ($750) is technically due tomorrow, though I'm told I probably have about ten days leeway.

Potentially good news: I'm currently listed with three unemployment agencies, none of whom have called, but I remain hopeful. I also registered with the Lynne Palmer Agency, which allegedly specializes in finding jobs in publishing and editing, and I hope to hear from them for an initial interview by the week's end. My current best hope for an agent (Alex Glass, Trident) is supposed to be contacting me this week with a thumbs up or down on my book. (Still no word from the five others I e-mailed.) And just yesterday, the Vice President of Putnam (a division of Penguin) offered to help me out and asked for my resume. (Thanks, Mark Winegardner! You're the coolest!) Haven't heard anything from him yet, but of course that was yesterday. And there's a well-connected crossword editor, Leslie Billig, who has forwarded me at least one puzzle job. (Alas, it's a crossword CONSTRUCTION job, which I no longer have the software to do.) I'm sending four readings-and-tapes to This American Life today, and maybe that'll help too. And in a long shot, I also got the fax number for The Daily Show, although the secretary said, "I can't promise they even want anything or will look at what you send. Use it at your risk."

So I'm optimistic that SOMETHING will come together for me in the next month. For now, all I have to do is pay my $750 rent. Which means, for the moment, that my "job," as it were, is to sell my car.

Here's where you all come in. I need ideas. The car I'm selling is a '91 Acura Integra sports coupe with 207,000 miles, but everything works (except the driver's side door handle) and it runs beautifully and---since it's lived its entire life in the desert---has no rust on its underbody. Plus, it's an Acura, so it probably has another 50,000 miles of life in it. Its Blue Book value is technically $1375, and so I posted on Craigslist asking $1100, and the best offer I got was for $600. It's a standing offer, and it's nice to have a fallback, but it sure would be helpful to do better. (I would have sold it long ago, but I had to send away to get a duplicate title, and wasn't THAT a pain!)

I've just taped signs on the car itself: "FOR SALE--- '91 Acura Integra---$1000---Call Dave at . . . " But aside from that, I'm not sure what to do. An ad in the Times would eat further into the small stash I still have, and I'm apparently unable to become a seller on eBay for another two weeks, which is when my official bank card allegedly comes in. (My current card---and my current checks---are temporaries, and they don't pass eBay-registration muster.)

Send me your ideas! I'm still optimistic, but my happy smile is getting a little strained at the edges.


P.S. This would be so much easier if I had the brainpower to be a waiter or bartender. But my memory has always been so bad I've always been afraid I'd screw up everyone's order, and anyway it's a little hard to start now, since I'd be competing in New York with every actor who DOES have years of serving experience. Or am I just talking myself out of a good gig? Office work seems like the best short-term solution. So why aren't the damn agencies calling? Sigh . . .
P.P.S. What makes this all the more frustrating is that the moment I sell my book, I can probably expect about a $20,000 advance. (That's the industry average.) And if I sell any of my articles to a major magazine, that's $1,000 easy. It's the short term that's killing me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard an ad for Carcash ("I'm in love with those Carcash guyyyssss"). How do their prices compare to the other possibilities?

3/30/2006 8:28 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Good idea! I'll look into it. I also recently obtained a potential buyer, thanks to my friend Stacy. But of course, the deal could fall through, so thanks for the suggestion. I'd never even heard of Carcash before.

3/30/2006 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Temp, man, temp. If you know Word and Excel, you should have no problem landing a temp job. Take a day and register with as many temp agencies as you can. No, the money's not great... but the money EXISTS, and I gather that's the important thing right now.

Also, on finding agents: You've contacted only five agents? By *e-mail?* I sincerely hope these agents accept e-mail queries -- most do not, and if they don't I can assure you you will never hear back from them.

The best advice I received about finding an agent is this: DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY, in terms of contacting them. If they want a query only, send a query only. If they want a query and five-and-a-half pages of your mss, send exactly that and not one word more. They get so many requests every single day that they can afford to simply ignore the writers who refuse to follow directions.

I sent out a good twenty queries before I landed an agent, and some of these people I never heard back from at all.

Let me recommend It's a wonderful resource, regularly updated, and shows the areas of interest for each agent as well as those all-important submission guidelines.

Best of luck.

3/31/2006 6:45 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks! I guess I know what sort of research I'm doing today . . .
I was hoping to meet each temp agency personally, on the theory that I come across much better in person than I do on paper. Thanks for the ass-kick!

(Actually, I don't know Excel, so that may be the problem. But at any rate, I'll be looking up temp agencies by the bazillion this morning.)

For what it's worth, I've been good on the agent front: I've contacted eight out of my initial twelve, and was just waiting for my most likely first candidate to get back to me before I pursued further. Kind of like holding out for Yale before you apply to Brown. But if I don't hear from him by today, I'll start my second go-round this weekend.

Thanks for the tips!

3/31/2006 7:40 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

P.S. I was afraid that if I registered with more agencies, it would be like sending out an article to more than one macazine at a time. (I.e., they'd get pissed off if they found out and then no one would hire me.) So I went with "register with three agencies" because that's what each of the agencies told me to do. (And they all came so highly recommended! Sigh . . . )

Life's got a heckuva learning curve.

3/31/2006 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You're a cowboy in New York (or at least playing one on the Internet); your moneymaking course is clear. You don't need an agent -- you need Brenda Vaccaro.

What about house-sitting? When my sis-in-law had an upper West Side apt., she had somebody staying there half the year. I'll have to ask her how a poor, honest fellow might find such a nice-work-if-you-can-get-it situation.

I wonder if the table-waiting jobs are in fact all taken by actors... With your head for words and trivia, I can't imagine that you'd actually have that much trouble remembering stuff. If you do end up taking this route, here are some handy tip-increasing tips that arrived today in a wine newsletter...

12 Ways Servers Can Increase Tips

from Dr. Michael Lynn, Cornell School of Hotel Administration:

1. Introducing themselves by name.

2. Personalizing their appearance by wearing a funny tie, hat or flower.

3. Kneeling down next to tables.

4. Recommending appetizers, wine and other extra items.

5. Smiling.

6. Telling customers a joke or playing a game with them.

7. Touching customers occasionally.

8. Thanking customers.

9. Drawing a picture on the bill.

10. Using credit-card tip trays.

11. Calling customers by name.

12. Giving customers after-dinner candy.

Gee, these techniques could work for almost any job!

Except maybe this one:

Sperm donor. I know, it sounds crazy and demeaning and has all those ethical angles, kids looking you up twenty years from now, etc. Plus, most women may be looking for taller with more hair and less acid reflux (when my sister did artificial insemination, she had height, health, and hobby parameters -- her donor ended up being 6'-5" and now her daughter towers over the other 4th-graders). But breeders can't all be choosers, if adding parameters costs more, which apparently it does. In any case, as you may have seen in a recent Sunday NYT magazine, more and more women are seeking out these services. And if they're just looking for brilliant and witty and gentle and generally good-hearted, well, you never know.

That's the thing. You never know, and then you're elected President. Good luck, Dave! Sorry I'm no help!


3/31/2006 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Welcome to my world (minus the aggressive pursuit of agents and their ilk). Austin, TX sucks ass trying to find a job. I, too, am signed up w/ employment agencies, who haven't called, and even if they do, I will end up going to some office and breaking the paper shredder or burning the coffee or killing a blathering catalogue-browsing, nail-painting hair-sprayed co-worker. But other than that, things are GREAT!!

I took all the microsoft suite tests and passed via trial and error.

I now know how to spot a pyramid scheme.

I still don't want to join the Navy, but recruiters keep trying, thanks to

Tomorrow, I'm sucking it up and going back to "Can I get you any chips and queso to start off with" It's my true calling...


4/02/2006 10:00 PM  
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4/02/2006 10:02 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks, Siobhan! It's great to get back in touch with you. But I kinda wish you hadn't forwarded the porn review job announcement. Now I know ANOTHER job I'm not qualified for!

P.S. At least be glad you've got table-waiting experience. That makes you very marketable in this town.

P.P.S. Last time I talked to you you were engaged. What's up now? Your blog isn't as helpful as it could be on the details.

4/02/2006 10:21 PM  

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