Here is a story from my book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia. Call it a sneak-peek into the book, if you will. This is from the chapter, Media Marvels. Enjoy!!!
It’s fortunate that Gwendolyn McCafferty and Porter Collins didn’t meet at that writers workshop in Cincinnati years go. Something kept them apart—the stars, or fate, or maybe a slight case of indigestion. Whatever it was, not meeting at that time blessed their later lives.
They were both intense young writers back then, and their love would have gone “kabloowy” in less than six months. Gwen and Porter didn’t meet until they attended a gathering for successful writers in New York City. And now they’re married and living happily ever after.
Gwendolyn McCafferty and Porter Collins won prizes in the “Genre Be Damned,” category of the annual award ceremony in what used to be the National Writers Union Guild of The United States of America and Its Environs (NAWUGUSAE).
Gwen won for her mystery novel and household hints book: The Tell Tale Toilet. Porter took second place with his best selling kid’s self help guide and pet training manual: Ten Ways You and Fido Can Drive Your Mom Bonkers. The book was a sequel to his popular, Ten Places to Stash Your Stuff Where Moms Never Look.
On the night they met Gwen preceded Porter on the purple carpet. After that everyone gathered in the ballroom. The tablecloths on the round tables were divided down the middle—one side was striped and the other side was checkered. Gwen and Porter were seated side by side at the awardees table, Gwen on the striped side, Porter on the checkered.
“The seating was fateful and fortuitous,” Gwen later told friends.
“And felicitous,” added Porter.
Their fateful, fortuitous, felicitous meeting came after a long discouraging career slog for both of them.
After the Cincinnati writer’s workshop which both attended years ago but at which they didn’t meet, Gwendolyn spent 16 fruitless years trying to crack the literary fiction market. She tried to place her first novel Dullness at Dawn over the transom (the phrase was in vogue back then). Three publishers sent the manuscript back in the SASE package with rote rejection slips. Fifteen publishers didn’t respond at all. Gwen suspected that the publishers’ office staff members had never shown the manuscripts to editors; she thinks they recycled the back of her manuscripts for their own writing and helped themselves to her stamps.
Next Gwendolyn engaged a literary agent, who had a New York City post office box, to place Seeking a Way and Dark Plateau. The agent charged Gwen $1,400 over two years for “placement lunches and other business expenses,” then cut her loose with a letter that ended, “it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the nature of the market right now.”
Porter’s experience was almost identical. His novels, A Rationed Youth, Flawed Encounter, and Secret Endeavors were never considered by serious publishers despite Porter’s tireless efforts and his scrupulous adherence to suggestions in the self help book: Publish Your Novel or Bust.
Both Gwen and Porter rejected writer-subsidized publishing. It was known in those days as the vanity press. Their marriages, and Gwen’s second marriage, failed. After that they went from scut job to scut job, honoring their art and subsisting on occasional literary fellowships and ramen noodles.
In desperation they began to write nonfiction. Fortunately, both began to publish—slowly at first, then with increasing frequency. For the first time they made some real money.
Twenty-first century culture created a market for cross-genre writing. Technology and the economy had blown a hole in the word business. Book publishing, newspapers, magazines, and even the movie industry and television networks became economically fragile. But like 19th century sailing vessels they trimmed their sails and tacked into the wind.
In 2003 The National Writers Union Guild of the United States of America and Its Environs floundered. Its members jettisoned the organization’s leaders and NAWUGUSAE moved ahead with a slimmer silhouette and a new name: Writers Work, Inc.
The new environment encouraged writers to mix fiction and nonfiction. That created a lot of genre-crossing multimedia products.
Gwen McCafferty and Porter Collins prospered in the newgenre-busting publishing/communication environment.
Now they own a ranch near Letongaloosa, and they’re busy breeding blended livestock—elkalo, jackalopes, and sheeparoos. Next year they plan to market a line of exotic vegetables including such innovations as fudge-flavored carrots.