20 July 2016

The story of Pockets: my second solo novel

I'm pleased to announce that I recently signed a contract with ECW Press for the publication of my second solo novel, Pockets. It will appear in fall 2017 under Michael Holmes's Misfit imprint. This will be my sixth book with that press since 1996 (they published my first four poetry books and my first solo novel).

I had three other novels on the go (and still do), but this one broke out of the gate and crossed the finish line in the blink of an eye. Last December, I sat down to reread, for the umpteenth time, Toby MacLennan's astonishingly beautiful 1972 novel from Something Else Press, 1 Walked Out of 2 and Forgot It. I first read that book when I was still in my late teens. I hadn't read anything else like it, and still haven't, but I decided on that day in December that I would model a novel after MacLennan's. I liked the way the little chunks of prose rested on the bottom of each page. I liked the tone and the magic of the book.

That day I wrote about 40 pages of the novel I dubbed Pockets. (Some of the pages were only a couple sentences long.) I picked it up again in February, and started adding a new strand to it. I wrote another six or seven pages. Through April, I wrote on three separate days — first, eliminating the February strand (I'll use it elsewhere) and then expanding, lengthening, twisting. The novel reached about 70 pages (with a word count much shorter than your average Derek McCormack novel).

After those five days of work, I inserted epigraphs by Toby MacLennan and John Lavery into the manuscript and spent a week trying to decide where to send it. Perhaps because it is related so closely to my novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, I sent it to Michael at ECW, and within a few days he had accepted it. (In my dreams, SDJ was going to be the book that would launch me into the big time, but that never happened, and the tiny, experimental Pockets certainly won't do it; I'm in the time in which I will remain.)

I've worked on Pockets for one more day, and I think I've got another few days' writing left, which I hope to accomplish by summer's end. (If you want to help facilitate my writing, please visit my Patreon page.) Then I'll see what Michael has to say about what will hopefully be a 90-page manuscript by then (about the length of Toby MacLennan's book). He has been a great supporter of my writing for two decades.

One nice side-effect of all this is that I decided I should finally search out Toby MacLennan and thank her for writing that book, and let her know how much it has meant to me. It wasn't hard to find her online, and I wrote her, and we've had a really lovely and inspiring email conversation that I hope will continue. As I get older, I realize how important it is to let writers — writers who are important to you — know the impact their work has had on you.

Over and out.


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