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January 10, 2014: The Writing Life – The Composting/Composing Proposal

I’ve decided in the dispatches to include titles that are reflective of my current three thematic interests: horses, dogs, and writing. This way, my growing circle of readers (Hi you all!) can go right to the subject matter that most interests them.

A few days ago I figured that I might start to write exclusively about horse care and behavior. I then realized that there are some people out there (like my biographer, Christopher Benson) who have absolutely no interest in horses. Actually, they have less than no interest in horses. He is a writer, so he does have an interest in this particular subject. And



he has a dog, so he does have an interest in that particular subject.

It’s hard to please everyone, though I am giving this a go. If I hear that my readers want to read about something different, like say, removing sticks and twigs from sheep wool, I will do this and then write about it. I don’t have sheep. But this would provide me an excuse to go out and get some.

Well, writing. The latest. I presumed that James Engelhardt, the acquisitions editor at the University of Alaska Press, had decided to pass on my book proposal, the working title of this book being Material Matters. Today, he resurfaced in an email – he said that he didn’t think that my idea, to separate my two topics – writing and composting, by using Interchapters, would work.

My not hearing from him for a while had allowed me to distance myself from this proposal – a good thing I think, because I immediately tore into the proposal after reading his message. I began by first ripping apart the sample chapters and then reconstructing them. After a bit, it seemed to me that what I was coming up with was fairly good.

So today (after working for a few hours more on this project) I called James Engelhardt and we talked for a bit. Really, the news could not be better. We agreed that I should write a MEMOIR about my writing process, focusing on how my thoughts about this were shaped by my living off the grid. I say that things could not be better because James Engelhardt repeatedly used the word MEMOIR. You see, in many circles the MEMOIR form is frowned upon. In fact, I’ve used this word and then watched open mouthed, as many an acquisitions editor went running in the opposite direction. It’s quite odd, memoirs are out. But everyone and their second cousin twice removed wants to write theirs. Memoir. The word brings to mind those who stand on street corners with tattered street signs reading “Will Work for Food.” Yes, those with money give them a wide berth.

My audience is those individuals who have a story to tell, but like me, are having a hard time telling it. This is because other things in life impinge. In my case, what’s impinging is my having to deal (on a daily basis) with manure.

So, back to the drawing board. This time dear James gave me a deadline. I need to get my again revised proposal to him by the end of February, so that he can give me additional revisionary suggestions. He will pitch the proposal to the board in April. Heck, had he said that he needed the proposal yesterday, I would have gotten it to him then. I would have hopped in the wayback machine (remember, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?) and delivered it to his door. Me, in a toga, a scary thought.

So now I am going to have to again be shuffling my day’s around so that I can find the time to get this done. The good thing is that right now, my days are still my own. If I was working for The Man – let’s call him the Big Cheese – I would not be able to get this project done. The bad thing is that writing doesn’t pay, and all an advance for this book will most likely pay for is a week’s groceries.

I feel like for the first time in my life that I’m now going for broke. We now really need my second income. The trip costs sent us into the red. And the border collie’s education is costing us dearly. (Yep, there’s herding, and agility, and obedience, and search and rescue, and with this, related costs). Pennies from heaven would now be most welcome. Except the problem is that metal bouncing off one’s head really hurts.

Yep, I concluded my conversation with James Engelhardt thinking that I’m the person for the job. Now I just have to shut up and produce.