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Loving Vincent, saying no to Beth

Yesterday I went for a long walk on the Don Valley trail with my old friend Marilyn Biderman, who has made a very successful mid-life career change, from working as a foreign rights manager in a big publishing company to, after being brutally downsized, setting up her own literary agency and now working as an agent in one of the biggest literary agencies in Toronto. She’s a source of great wisdom for an outsider like myself. She told me the first question a prospective author will be asked by a publisher or agent is: How big is your social network platform? Apparently having thousands of Twitter followers is not enough. Deeply discouraging. I have seven Twitter followers, I think, maybe not even that because I never tweet, have always thought a blog was enough. Not. She told me other facts that were deeply discouraging about how hard it is to sell memoir.

This morning I heard back from another agent friend to whom I’d sent a query and the first 50 pages of my book. After talking to Marilyn, I was not surprised to read this:
I read and really enjoyed your submission. You’ve got such a distinctive voice and a dry sense of (impeccably paced) humour. It’s impossible not to relate to this young woman as she makes her way out of a thorny nest and out into the world.  This being said, personal memoir, even well written, is a tough sell, more so when it’s without a big or more delineated hook. So regrettably, I don’t think I can take it on.

A hook, a hook, my kingdom for a big delineated hook. Ah well. That’s the biz. Time to send it somewhere else.

Even before this, I’ve been kept awake two nights in a row with serious pain on one side of my back – a burning ache. No idea where it came from or what it is, but I’m off to Shopper’s to get painkillers and ask the druggist if he has any idea. Must relax back. Tension will make it worse.

On Saturday afternoon, I went down to TIFF to meet Annie and see Agnes Varda’s Faces/Places. It occurred to me that we should book in advance, and then I thought, who’ll want to see an obscure French film in the middle of a cold Saturday afternoon? I’m such a geek that recently, when I decided to see California Typewriter, I bought my ticket in advance because I was so sure it would be sold out – and there were five people in the cinema besides me.

This time, however, wrong – I got there half an hour early to buy tickets, and the showing was already sold out. Who knew? Annie and I saved the day; we went to see Loving Vincent instead, an extraordinary work of art about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. It was shot with – of course – great British actors and then, frame by frame, painted over in Van Gogh’s thick brushstrokes by 100 visual artists – so it’s like seeing the whole world from Vincent’s eyes, inside his paintings. It is of course the tragic story of a magnificent tormented genius misunderstood and neglected in his time, except for a great hero, his brother Theo who kept him alive. Vincent was not only a superb painter but a wonderful letter writer, constantly detailing his life and work for his brother and other correspondents. A beautiful experience in the cinema. Don’t miss it.

And now, this:

Entirety Of Hollywood Film Industry Replaced With 40,000 Christopher Plummers

LOS ANGELES—In the wake of numerous sexual misconduct allegations against prominent figures in Hollywood, the entire film industry will reportedly be replaced by 40,000 Christopher Plummers, sources said Friday. “Going forward, veteran actor Christopher Plummer will write, direct, and star in every movie we make and is currently working with us to reshoot hundreds of features already in production,” said studio executive Christopher Plummer, adding that the entire history of film would eventually be altered with Christopher Plummers swapped in for the roles and also feature revised credits to reflect the fact that Christopher Plummers performed every behind-the-scenes task. “We’ve got Christopher Plummers serving as sound designers, foley artists, background extras, hair and makeup, key grips, and even craft services. To be honest, this was long overdue.” At press time, Plummer had been forced to resign after allegations of sexual harassment from five other Christopher Plummers surfaced.



2 Responses to “Loving Vincent, saying no to Beth”

  1. theresa says:

    Isn't it amazing that it comes down to the hook and the social media platform? What a world. I think of the books that will never see publication because the authors aren't social-media adept or because their story (stories) don't follow the modern trajectory. What we all miss….

  2. beth says:

    Yes, it's scary for us old-fashioned writers, isn't it? As my friend the editor wrote:
    What really gets me is the focus on publishing only those writers who already have a high profile and a mass following on social media. Is there no room left for anyone who is simply a good writer with an interesting story to tell? Seems not – in all genres, really, except fiction, where, for first novels, a young and attractive face on the publicity circuit will suffice.

    However – onward. We do what we do because we need to do it.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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