Written, but never packaged

John Barlow recalls his failed fling with a book packager.

In the midst of this I had a disagreement with my (then) agent, in which I gained the upper hand in very convincing style by sacking him. In this way I moved instantly from promising-but-unknown writer with a middle-ranking New York agent to promising-but-unknown writer with no agent, a career decision that few people found very smart. Nevertheless, I was stuck with the contract. Then, in a sudden flurry of typing, I finished the novel. Somewhere during this flurry I got hooked on the thing. What had been a writing gig that I was not taking very seriously turned quite unexpectedly into a real pleasure. I came to know the characters, and I enjoyed going back and writing about them every day. The book came alive, and I loved it — I still do.

However, having never lived in the United States, I had no idea about what was permissible in terms of cussing, especially in kids’ fiction. We had agreed, previously, that I would write the thing as naturally as I could, and the people at 17th Street would filter out the unacceptable elements. So, I did just that, leaving in the text a modest fistful of shits, craps, a bastard, and several fucks. I even told them so when I mailed the finished text. Did they filter? Did they read? No; they gave the manuscript straight to the 8-year-old son of the company president. Little Timmy saw a shit and a fuck. He cried. He read the word bastard and needed counseling. It was a catastrophe.

My 80,000 words were dead words. A book that I love never got published.

(Via Moorish Girl.)


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