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August 1, 2014: The Writing Life: Onward and Upward with the Arts

There was another reason for wanting to venture to Fairbanks. It was, I thought, high time that I again talk with James Engelhardt, the editor of the University of Alaska Press. I had this gut sense that it would be a good idea to talk further with him about The Proposal, for I’d recently reached an impasse. He’d sent it on to reviewers and had gotten feedback on it. The comments of the two readers were such that I didn’t quite know how to continue. I understood that I needed (in proposal form) to better make the connection between my attempts to write and live in a sustainable fashion. I foresaw that I could do this. However, I didn’t fully understand their other suggestions, some of which were that I rely more heavily on the claims of those I call the “latter day compositionists” and also just plain draw on the claims of the eco-compositionists.

And so it was with these two major and many minor things in mind that I met with James. We sat down to talk outside the Fifth Avenue Café which is located next to the University of Alaska Press offices. Pete joined us – this added yet another dimension to the discussion, in fact giving it greater depth. (I am, in the company of just one other person, a rather flat and undeveloped character.)

Our conversation was at first comprised of small talk. – I learned in our last go-around that James is not one to initially take things to another level – this is instead the job of the writer. So I took it to the next level by deferring to Pete, and telling James that he was currently working on a book on chainsaw use and accidents.

James may have initially thought that Pete was pitching his book to him, but I think he realized that this was not the case. Pete (really) just wanted to talk about it. And I encouraged this because I know that talking is an integral part of the writing process. It’s in articulating your ideas to others that the work takes the requisite shape.

What went unsaid was that Pete has Big Plans. He will (once he gets the dang thing written) seek out a person who has connections with a publisher who distributes books nationally. My sense, and I suspect James’ sense, is that this book will do well because there’s an audience out there for it. It’s a work of non-creative non-fiction.

I finally took the conversation to yet another level by pulling a copy of my proposal out from under my thigh (I’d stashed it there 20 minutes previously) and put it on the café table. James quickly verified that I must make the writing/living sustainably connection. As for the comments about the other theorists – I in the proposal need to elaborate upon them rather than simply say that I will elaborate upon them.

We then talked about writing in relation to the purpose of Writing Sustainably, which is to give those writers (who like me) are having a problem in dealing with competing interests. Mine is the horses and this place. Others might be similar, or also family, or work related interests. For sure, this is going to be a tall order, as is integrating the ideas of the eco-compositionists – a group of theorists whose work that I’m unfamiliar with.

Unbeknownst to me, I have jumped through yet another hoop. The Proposal has now been reviewed – the two readers did make suggestions – however, these are suggestions that I can and should work with. This is just the way the process works.

The revised proposal will next go to the University of Alaska Press board, who will then either aye or nay it. If they give it an aye, I’ll get a contract that states that I will write and present a finished draft to them at a specified time. The final draft of Writing Sustainably will then be looked at by reviewers, who themselves will aye or nay it. The value of my having a book published by an academic press is that this will give me added credibility when I resume looking for a job teaching creative non-fiction. Right now, this seems like a very distant preposition. But I’ll get it done. I just need to make sure that I sit down every day and work on it.

Next: 210. 8/ 2/14: The Writing Life: Being Biographer