Saturday, December 01, 2012

Me Bewk

Oh my God, how I have been longing to write this post.  Here's a story about something that's been in the making for a very long time.

As you may know, I started driving a taxi in New York City in 1977.  Already a writer at heart, I recognized from the start that this profession of taxi driving automatically provides a continuous source of what writers refer to as "material", and I started compiling notebooks of my more interesting fares. 

In the mid-nineties I decided it was time to take a crack at writing a book of my favorite taxi stories and I produced a relatively thin volume.  I shopped it around a bit, received some encouragement, but no bites.  I put it aside and placed my attention on other projects, mostly stage plays.

In 2006, having by then a better idea of how my taxi book should be structured, I decided to rewrite it.  I started working on the project, but, wait, we were now in the cyber-age and it hit me like a feather that a better idea would be to start a blog (this blog) first, then rewrite the taxi book.

If you've been a reader here for a long time (and I thank you), you may have noticed that at some point - around 2009 -  my posts became less frequent.  That was because there are only so many hours in a day and I was spending more and more of them writing the book. 

I am not a particularly fast writer.  I tend to turn phrases over and over until they sound just right to my mental ear, and I am a ceaseless self-editor.  These are not necessarily virtues in a writer, but I seem to be stuck with them, so I carried on in this fashion until, finally, the book, a full-sized 250 pages, was finished - yes, finished! - in the spring of 2011.

An analogy that has often been made to artistic creation is that it's like having a baby.  So much labor and care goes into the thing, and when it's finally born your dearest hope is that it will not only exist but grow and meet its potential.  You want to see that baby acquire strength and be able to make its way in the world on its own, sort of as an independent entity.  In a way, you also come to see your creation as a gift from yourself to the world, even if "the world" never knew who you were, and even if you never made a dime from it.  To know that your gift had been delivered, that it had created some worthwhile effects on those who had been willing to receive it, that would be a great satisfaction indeed.  But as many of us know, that is where the greatest disappointment awaits you.

In 1981, after two years of disciplined toil, I completed a full-length comedic drama written for the stage, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II set in modern times.  I thought then, and still do, that it was well-written enough to warrant professional production.  I tirelessly sent letters off to all sorts of theatrical enterprises and put it into the hands of whomever I could find who had hands.  My friend Ed, who reads a lot, called it "literature".  My friend Tom, a Shakespearean actor, said it was "better than Henry IV, Part II".  Wow.  And my mother described it as "a charge card at Bloomingdale's".  How could it miss?  Well, to this day A Creator Of Superior Realities has yet to have had even a staged reading.  So I know that disappointment well.

I knew, however, that the taxi book would be different because with a book, even if everything else failed, at least you could always self-publish.  And some self-published books actually do quite well.  After you've written a play or a screenplay you still have a whole series of production hurdles to jump over.  One never likes to think about what the chances are of ever making it past all these hurdles, but the sad truth is that of the vast quantity of plays and screenplays that are written, only a very few make it onto a stage or a screen.  This can be quite a slap in the face, considering the effort that went into its creation.

But this was a book, not a play, so shortly after completing it last year I began the process I have learned to loathe of sending out communications to literary agents.  The idea is: a) get a literary agent, b) the literary agent gets a publisher, c) the publisher publishes your book.  I researched the names and email addresses of dozens of agents, wrote a query letter which in itself was so well-crafted it could have won the Nobel Prize for Query Letters, and started sending them out.  After several months of this activity, though, my results were fruitless.  A few "thanks but it's not for us" replies and the rest simply never bothered to respond at all.  But I was not terribly discouraged.  I knew self-publishing was a route I couldn't be shut off from and I was pretty sure that the readers of this blog would want to read the book once it became available.  These two things kept me in motion.

And then something happened, I guess the kind of thing every blogger dreams about.  Through what might be called karma, fate, determination, intention, or just the residue of design (luck), I was able in January of this year to get the manuscript into the hands of a major publisher in England without an agent and that publisher, HarperCollins, offered me a book deal.  My book, which is to be called Confessions Of A New York Taxi Driver, will be published in the U.K. in print and as an ebook this coming January, and subsequently in Canada, Australia, and Ireland.  Publication in the U.S. is still pending at this writing.

How's that for some front-page Cabs Are For Kissing news??!!!

I'd like to tell you a couple of things about me bewk.  The stories are categorized into chapters - for example there's a chapter of celebrity stories, another of road rage stories, and so on - and are connected together by an opinionated, first person narrative, kind of like if the reader were a passenger in my cab.  In fact, these stories have a verbal tradition.  I've been testing them out on passengers for over thirty years.  Nothing like having a captive audience to practice on!

I'd also like you to know that of the 108 in the book, only nine of the stories have already been published in this blog, so the book is not a compilation of what's already been written here.  You see, I've been holding out on you.  You've never read my best stories unless you've been sneaking into my room while I was sleeping. So if you were thinking, why buy the book when it's already here, fageddabowt it.  You're gonna have to fork over some dough, yo.

The truth is, I'm pretty confident you will enjoy reading Confessions Of A New York Taxi Driver.  It was a labor of love and to say I'm proud of it would be an understatement - it's my personal best, maybe even my justification for having lived.  I will be posting updates here (of course!) about exactly when it will be published in various parts of the world and how you can order a copy.  Or ten copies!  Also there will also be a future post about just how this connection to HarperCollins came to pass, quite a story in itself in my opinion.

So that's the big news.

I thank you again for being there.

:)

If you'd like to see what the cover art and book jacket will look like, click here.