I Like Long Odds

This started out as a FaceBook reply but then outgrew its welcome.

In the “Fat Chance, Toews” department, I have hired a London editor; a young freelancer named James McKnight. He has a book out, a historical novel called “Letters from Erzurum”, and a degree from Cambridge. That’s likely good enough for this son of the prairie sod. I am not sure, but a sharp Seattle editor referred me to James and he and I have hit it off! So away we go.

James is helping me to edit all of my short stories, old & new, and pull them into a collection to pitch to publishers. Also, based on my editor’s encouragement, I am 17K-  words into a short novel. Irrevocably bound. This new story has some Menno bones but is not solely of that ilk. I toil on my novella almost every day and having a pro editor makes it much easier to keep track of a longer piece like this – most of my short stories are around 3.5K.

Why a UK editor? Of my 40 published works in lit mags, the biggest or best editor/reader response so far continues to come from the UK & Ireland and California, where perhaps 1973 rural Manitoba has a certain ALIEN appeal.

I yearn for Canadian uptake, but I still need to work for that. I remain optimistic, especially with James screening the goalie.

Characters based on the unforgettable Chuck Toews, my grandparents, Pete Vogt, Breezy, and petty crooks in the North End intermingle with various passing Schnooda-Rotz-näs folks. These fictional cast members are fresh and compelling, so I am told. I should have known – having grown up with them, and all.

James also puts me through prose-writing exercises and is a strict, relentless editor. (I am earning my “McFA”.) That’s valuable to me – a would-be author who spent most high school English classes building up an inventory of life experiences in the LaBroquerie bar and other institutions of ‘higher’ learning. NOT – I now sadly realize – availing myself of the teachings of Voth, BoPeep, Gunner and others fonts of literary know-how in the SCI/SRSS. The last 20-years writing ad copy for fenestration companies (bor-ringggg) further skewed and flattened the earth for me, literature-wise. Still, I was, “part of the creative economy,” I would remind myself.

Life is good. I am too young to retire (actuarially and optimistically) so it makes sense to have something hard to chip away at. Am I right? Damn rights I am!

I exercise, build stuff, fix the stuff I have built along with other broken, aged bits & pieces of the 1950 cottage we heat through the winter. I write several hours a day. For a break, I feed the birds and shout at the TV. I shout at Trump, who is like an uncharacteristically vile Pine Grosbeak who has somehow tricked the forest creatures into naming him king. I try to read a bit, too. Oh yeah, and Canucks games, when the lords of SportsNet deem it worthy to broadcast out to the wilds of Manitoba.

 

pine grosbeak
‘I am the King. Long live me. Very, very longly.’

 

Writing gives each day added shape and substance. If James can mould me into a better writer, I will benefit from the effort. If he pulls off a long shot and I am published, then I will greatly benefit. Either way, I’ve made a new friend and one with a younger, non-Canadian, non-Mennonitisch outlook and that’s a win even the King of the Pine Grosbeaks would envy.

allfornow, Mitch

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