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!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chillin With Trillin

I went to Calvin Trillin's reading at The Strand tonight, and it was terrific. I got there early, sat in the front row, and even chatted with him a little as I waited for the show to begin. And, as I've mentioned before, I had a small sheaf of poems to give him as thanks for helping to perpetuate the art of light verse. (And of course, I'm hoping for the miracle where he reads it, loves it, and says, "Hey, young man! Let me find you an agent!")

Anyway, Mr. Trillin's book---A Heckuva Job: Further Poems From The Bush Administration---is really wonderful, and during the question and answer section, I realized that this is a guy I've known about since forever. I made up my mind to be a humor writer in high school and I studied every existing essayist there was, right about the time that he published Uncivil Liberties. And yet, in the intervening years, I've read almost nothing else the man has written, except for occasional pieces in The New Yorker, and his collection Too Soon To Tell. (I've had Tepper Isn't Going Out---his sole novel---on my to-read list for years. A novel about parking! How can I resist such a high concept?) Mostly I've just spent the intervening years re-re-re-reading Ian Frazier, Woody Allen, and P.J. O'Rourke. I should have done more research before the interview. A quick scan of Amazon shows that he actually has no fewer than FIVE books of poetry to his name! I should have been a fan of his long ago!

In any event, he was very gracious, and when I handed him my small paper sheaf, he looked at it, smiled weakly and said, "What do you want me to do with this? I'll do anything but read it."

"Uh," I said, "It's just a gift. No one does light verse these days, and this is to thank you."

"You don't expect comments or ...?"

"Oh, no. Since no one actually publishes light verse, it would just be nice to share it with another writer who enjoys the same idiom." [Note: I just made myself sound more coherent than I actually was, since his comments were the opposite of what I'd expected. Mentally add hemmings, hawings, and a mumble or two. I really had to wing it.]

Anyway, I realized how much crap he must have to put up with on a tour---to have an "I won't read it" policy means he gets stuff shoved under his nose all the time---and it struck me again just how incredibly fucking hard it is to get noticed in this town, where everyone is shouting for attention of some sort or another. How will anyone ever know that I'm the real deal, that I'm better than Susie Housecoat and Johnny Punchclock, if I can't even arrest someone's attention long enough to get them to read a single page? Yeesh.

The trip took all of my after-work day, and now I have to crash, so on top of everything else, I don't even get the joy of being able to post a really cool entry today. Pah! Fortunately, things get easier starting tomorrow.

AFTERNOTE

By the way, I was going to hand-deliver my cartoons to the New Yorker at lunch. That travesty-in-waiting will have to wait until next Tuesday. Tuesdays are the only days they see the cartoonists, and there's probably going to be fifty of those guys, too, all clamoring for attention. My head hurts just thinking about it. Maybe if I try hard enough tonight, I'll be able to generate a pleasant dream.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Berlin said...

I can remain silent no longer. Don't visit the New Yorker in person. Learn the lesson that began to dawn on you at the Trillin reading: People who try to meet a writer or editor or agent, believing it will improve their chances of success, are automatically labeled amateurs. Whatever you hand over at that moment will be weighed down by that fact: Your manuscript or cartoon or whatever will be colored, and not in a good way, by your non-traditional approach.

I absolutely swear to God: The best way to stand out from the crowd is to find out exactly how the editor or agent prefers submissions and then follow those instructions to the letter. So few people do that that a truly professional-looking submission stands out like it's painted gold. If your submission reeks of professionalism from the moment the editor or agent touches the envelope, you'll have colored your submission in a positive way, and the fact that you can actually string a bunch of well-written sentences together stands a greater chance of being noticed.

6/21/2006 6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Yorker still does Tuesday cartoon walk-ins? No way! I assumed they gave up this holdover from the old days many years ago. I'm sure they're still incredibly picky, but it's not like you see too many new cartoonists in there.

6/21/2006 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Toonhead! said...

er that was me -- I really hate the way Blogger handles comments...

6/21/2006 2:11 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks, Eric! You've cheered me up with your wise clarity. It's when I'm in my own echo chamber that I start to think stupid things are a good idea. Such a shame that I'm so bad at selling myself that I need an agent---and the only way to do that is to figure out how to sell myself to one. Oy.

6/27/2006 6:40 AM  

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