Resolution (on the ms) …

January 19, 2009 § 5 Comments



The story of the mysterious manuscript, as it unfurls, is fairly anti-climatic yet not without its quirks.

My niece called yesterday and offered effusive apologies for not putting a note in with the manuscript she forwarded to me several days ago.  (aha!)
The ms writer is a friend of hers. He is a ferry boat captain, retired from a teaching position. The Captain writes.
The Captain is looking to get his book published, having already self-published a prior one.
Niece-y also apologized for not sending the ms sooner; the Captain handed it over to her last  October.
(hmmmm, you say. Is he not tracking who has the ms., and following up perhaps? … read on, dear reader,  read on!)

Niece-y also mentioned the following: 
   The manuscript can be read in one sitting.
   It has been read by and received kudos from actors Christopher Walken and Tim Robbins.
   A NYC publisher (Margaret someone) told the Captain that she would also take a look at it.

Why, then, is the manuscript on my counter?

It is interesting to note herein that the Captain often has occasion to ferry  celebrities from the mainland to  Block Island where they summer, and back again.

Perhaps in conversation with them about his job and what he does –  because it has a certain romantic allure including a ruddy complexion, the salty air, the raging sea – perhaps it has been mentioned that he’s a writer at which point you can imagine Christopher Walken saying in staccato, “Really? A writer? How is that going?”

At which point our intrepid Captain actually hands Walken a manuscript because he happens to have  about two dozen (bad) photocopies of them on board, just in case.  Walken politely takes it to read on his beach house deck one afternoon, having no scripts or filming of his own going on at that moment and this one could be a diamond in the rough, something more than an afternoon read.  And maybe Walken reads the whole thing and maybe he doesn’t, but what might compel him to take a look  at it is the fact that the book is about Block Island. And we all like to read fiction that just might relate to where we live, in part to see if the author got it right, right?

And maybe, just maybe, he reads it to see if he is mentioned in the book for some reason. And that it is “correctly” done, too.

Or, maybe he’s willing to consider the book as a screenplay, starring him in a nice little film about the island he loves dearly where he lives without a lot of hoopla.

And then, days or weeks later, when the Captain asks Walken what he thinksof the book, because there are likely moments where they are both leaning over the boat railing and are looking off at the approaching shoreline, Walken replies, “It’s … good. Keep at it. You got something there.”

I know little of Tim Robbins (either) but imagine somewhat the same scenario unraveling. The same kindness, the same sense of hope on both their parts.

And so those responses are good enough for the Captain to keep on peddling the book and writing and writing and writing more and other things.

But what about the publisher (the one who really counts here) ? Where does she figure? He didn’t just let her go, like a fish getting away with the bait, did he? I don’t know.

So, is the manuscript good, you ask?
Alas, I have read only the aforementioned two pages.
I will tell you this: I have learned that people will not always tell you what they think of your writing, specifically. They will generalize, afraid to say they have orhave not read it, not all of it; or, that they like or hate it.  Overall, most don’t know how to respond to the question, really but are generally kind, as they should be.

Sometimes the most you can hope for from  John Q Public (or Walken)  is “I liked it.” Or, the dismissive, “No, no, it was good” (the latter being a bit too dismissive; it’s detail the writer wants.)

So, what DOES the Captain want?
Well, Niece-y told the Captain that I am a writer and “stuff like that” (!!!) and maybe I would look at it for him because he would like feedback. Comments. Commentary.

Even now, several months later? After star quality has had a look at it?
Surely the Captain has something to go on already. Sure I can read it; then what? Send him a letter with thoughts, ideas, critique, whatever, and have it end up in his own “slush” pile? (OMG, I am forced to confess that I would do it for $$$$). Or, if we were good friends. Or, if I had to get from, say, Providence to Block Island and didn’t have the fare…

I dunno.
I initimated the other day that I knew why he sent it (wanted it sent). I do know, I think.
He wants it off his desk and into someone else’s hands; he’s tired of working on it.

But he sent it out prematurely.
I can feel it in the pages: I can tell that he stopped and decided to send it out to whomever, just as he might troll for fish with a big net, hoping to catch something, someone, some interest, a “yes.” 

There’s always luck, too. Maybe one of the ferry-taking celebs knows someone who knows someone who knows someone, and bingo! Hollywood will bite. 
Could happen.

In the meantime, I’ll construe this as errant form of guerilla marketing.

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§ 5 Responses to Resolution (on the ms) …

  • Kim L says:

    Mystery solved, huh? Now the dilemma of what to do about it. What a strange situation!

  • anno says:

    There’s a story here… possibly more interesting than the one in the manuscript on your counter.

  • lalber says:

    I was thinking the same thing as anno as I read your post. This is a great anecdote!

    After all the conferences I’ve intended, I’m no longer impressed when people say that so-and-so liked their manuscript or such-and-such publisher “expressed interest.” None of it means anything, because if it did they wouldn’t be at the conference and your mariner wouldn’t be still looking for readers!

  • oh says:

    Kim – Guess I might read the ms … I could send comments on his apporoach, how he might sharpen his skills in terms of submitting his manuscript. Or … not.

    Anno – I think you’re right. There’s a story brewing. Which also gave me another idea. I have actually been thinking about staying home from work for a day … to write.

    Lisa – You’re right! But wouldn’t it be funny if suddenly Mr. Walken decides he likes the book and gets it to screenplay level and voila – our mariner has a hit on his hands!

  • jeanie says:

    Oh, rats! I just read the comments before writing, but what I was going to say was “there’s a story in there for you!” A mystery, maybe, about the mysterious writer-captain or a fiction novel or something. But anno and Lalber beat me to the punch! It has sort of a “New Yorker” fiction feel to it. Some little twist in there sometime!

    So, the question is — do you finish it, out of curiosity or as a favor to the unknown captain (or your niece?) And then what! This story is FAR from over, my friend!

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