Persistence Pays the Persevering Writer

My own shiny beauty. I lost my first one on the road (it might be in space now)

I keep a running list of article queries that haven’t landed a published home. Some of them are many years old, but I still like many of the ideas, and know that even an old query can still shake the right editor hand if the pitch is well-timed and properly directed. I didn’t quite realize just how wobbly-kneed the oldest of those queries is until I got an editorial yes on one that was several years old.

Today I breezed through the entire list, and saw that the geezer at file bottom was a pitch for a review on the best Palm OS-based exercise software. For those of you that exist in this world, Palm hasn’t produced one of its PDAs (a term as hoary as my pitch) since 2010, but people stopped buying them well before that, and my pitch predated 2010 by some years. By the way, if you’re wondering, PDAs have essentially been replaced by a device dubbed a “smartphone.” Who knows—they might catch on.

I’m amused by the fact that the file name of my query list is called “New Queries.” On reflection, “New and Essentially Deceased Queries” has more ring, but I’ll leave that for now. What I did want to emphasize is that if an article idea grabbed you once, grab it back, and send it out on its rounds now and then. The piece that was just accepted, by Wired UK, is about the history of the Fisher Space Pen, which wrote its way into history by its gravity-defying ink, first used in space in 1968, on the Apollo 7 mission.

The Space Pen just had its 50th anniversary (and continues to make its presence on all manned U.S. space flights), so perhaps it was newsworthy again. I’ve sent that query out to between 10–15 publications over the last three or four years, and finally got a hit.

Persistence pays, grasshopper. (Don’t think the Palm pitch will be exercising any editors now though.)

Free Circles

I’ve made the Kindle version of my first novel, All Roads Are Circles, free on Amazon and at other online booksellers. Circles is a lively story about a couple of high-school doofuses who hitchhike across Canada, getting their eyes widened due to their naiveté about the ways of the road. Wise guys they are, but wisdom is in short supply. Check it out—won’t cost you a thin dime.

Trimming the Shrub

And a request for anyone who has bought my newest novel, Swirled All the Way to the Shrub. If you didn’t bite, it’s a Prohibition-era piece about a sozzled society reporter and would-be author who blunders in and out of love, lunacy and sorrow in post-Crash Boston. If you have read it, please consider an online review at Amazon, or Goodreads or any other online book vendor. Reviews help a great deal with a book’s success. Thanks!

Gravity Can’t Defeat Us (But My Handwriting Might)

In celebration of twaddle and inflamed sentences

In celebration of twaddle and inflamed sentences

If you’re an old crustacean like me, you might remember the heady days of Tang, the drink of the astronauts. Who cares if it was sugared vitamin water—John Glenn drank it! So did I, and I was often given to flights of fancy. That’s why when I first heard of the Fisher Space Pen in the 70s (a few orbits after their first manufacture), I wanted one. The astronauts used them!

And how could one not crave something that used gravity-defeating “thixotropic ink-semisolid …pressurized with nitrogen”? But I didn’t own a Fisher until sometime in the 90s, and slippery little capsule that it was, it disappeared on me. Probably floated off with some pixie dust from a passing comet.

But I finally have another, seen in the image above. They’ve fancied it up a bit since the original days, putting on an anti-gravity clip, but its ink still flows freely, space-bound or not. I’m combining it with another historical item, my first Moleskine notebook, on which I inscribed its first page a couple of writerly quotations. (Picasso and Hemingway scribbled in them; I can too.)

Flight from the Mainland
What’s prompted these new treasures? Flight from the mainland! My gal pal Alice and I are heading to the Big Island of Hawaii in two days, where we’ll be house-sitting in a little home at the very northern tip of the island. I haven’t done a lot of travel writing lately about new places, so I’m thrilled to get a chance to get to know an island that’s actively spewing hot gases and chunks, like many writers I admire.

One of those paradoxes: I very much like the physical act of writing, the texture of paper, the angling of the pen (or pencil), the variances of pressure from the hand and fingers, the roll of ink across the page. I love writing instruments, paper, bound volumes, calligraphy. But I have forever loathed the crimped, jagged splotchings of my own handwriting—no matter how slowly or carefully I try to form letters and words, they come out as an intestinal product, something that looks as though it should be covered up.

However, I’m delighted to think that I’ll have new promptings of sea, sky and soul to scrawl on about, so I’m looking forward to taking notes of island ventures. And I won’t have to wear any bulky helmet or pressurized suit.

About Those Quotes
Again, I did as best I could with penning those bits from esteemed writers to inaugurate my Moleskine, but you might not be able to read them. They are thus:

“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.”
— Katherine Mansfield

“With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs.”
— James Thurber

OK, off to the island. If I’m lucky, no coconut will drop on my noggin while I’m trying to think of the perfect metaphor for the big, blue Pacific.