One Of These Days, I’ll Be A Publisher: My Mission Statement

One of these days, I’ll be a publisher.

To publish my book(s), sure (if need be), so that when I write them they’ll be assured a place to go, a shelf to sit on, that hands, bags, buses, trains, and planes will carry them far beyond my four walls.

But also so that I may find and bring to the world other people whose words sing to me. In this endeavor, I shall endeavor to work by a mission statement, which reads as follows:

Mission Statement:

  1.  I will work with friendly people, and only friendly people, because the world doesn’t provide enough antacids not to. If I lose out on a book because someone is unfriendly, I’ve gained a year of life by never having to hassle with them.
  2.  A good writer knows pain and does not wish to inflict it, though they may wish to illuminate it.
  3. A writer is appreciative of good reviews but never loses sight of their humanity, which allows them to tell stories. Writers are imperfect people who know how to communicate to others this imperfection so that readers may see it in themselves or someone they know and be made stronger, smarter, or any number of adjectives by the experience of reading and discovering.
  4.  Writers need to write, genre be damned. If a book is good, who cares where it fits? All that matters is that it fits somewhere on a shelf so that it may later be taken down from there and enjoyed.
  5.  Make sure each book speaks to your soul. Your soul is a reader’s soul and will know more about what feels right than any focus group.
  6. But hone in on those readers you know to be your audience. They are your most important focus group, whether they know it or not, and they will steer you right; readers want to read good books and rid themselves of the opposite.
  7. Remind every author you work with to trust themselves while editing. They’ve got the blueprint for a great book. Editing will make it greater… if they trust the process.
  8. Fight for the books you believe in.
  9. If a book doesn’t reach the audience you intended, trust that it reached those it was meant to and move on proudly.
  10. Last but not least, never forget that reading–however or whyever one may read; for escape, for love, for thrills, for chills, to learn, to turn the page in your life–reading is there to befriend, soothe, and bolster. It increases confidence, critical thinking, and encourages emotional honesty. If you can find books that will do this, you will have found the right books.
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The Blank Page…

“I love to read thrillers,” many readers say.

“Or maybe I’ll dip into a horror story on this dreary, rain-soaked day.”

For writers, horror does not need to be written to be experienced. A writer experiences a heart-stopping horror story every time they sit down to compose a new piece.

The blank page. The menacing blank page.

It strikes fear into the hearts of even the most experienced authors.

“What if I can’t come up with anything new?”

“What if what I’ve written so far is all I’ll ever write?”

Writing is fear. If you haven’t experienced fear as a writer, you’ve clearly never edited anything.

Writing is bearing your soul with the hope that someone will gaze upon it with compassion, understanding, care. And then putting all your hope in a business that wants to sell your soul in amongst the sci-fi or the mysteries.

Every day, I wake up hopeful of two things.

Maybe I’ll write something good today.

Maybe I’ll read something good today.

I love what I do. Sure, I love to write, though it is quite a lonely pursuit. And it requires other people to do for me what I love doing for anyone I can. When I read a truly good new story in my position as an intern for the wonderful agent I work with, I immediately think, This needs to be on shelves everywhere. In the hands of readers. Being read and enjoyed. And, to whatever extent I can make that happen, I then champion the book. I’ll work with the author to smooth the rough edges. I’ll suggest fixes here, deletions there. I am personally on the lookout to remove every that or just or had which does not serve a story. “Tighten the prose, people!” When I say this, I imagine I’m the captain of a ship in a storm, securing its hatches as we get pummeled in the waves.

In that sense, if not any others, I end each day closer to publication. Be it for me or someone I know. So while I wake up each day–as do any authors who are being honest–afraid of the blank page, at the conclusion of a day I’m always thinking, Publication is possible. It’s one day closer. And, though I can’t write without this trusty computer, I imagine writing myself a note and keeping it permanently on my nightstand to glance at when I need the idea reinforced.

“Dear Derek,

You are a writer. This means you must write. You must be involved with the written word. somehow It also means you wake each day with an old fear burgeoning anew. A fear of the blank page. A fear that you can’t do what you were put on earth to do. Try to think of the blank page as that friend you envy; even though you’re trapped in a palsied body, Blank Page can be anyone he wants to be, can go anywhere he wants to go. You just have to tell him who and where.”

 

 

My Heart Is In Everything I Do!

Maybe you’re like me.

My heart is in everything I do. Whether that means being a sibling, a son, a boyfriend. A baseball fan, a football fan, a lover of great theater and art. As a writer, my heart is in everything I write. If it’s not–or if I find out in mid-composition it’s not–I won’t write it.

Why continue something whose only end is sure doom?

Doom, in what sense? you may be asking. For a writer, doom is incompletion.

Writers write to be read. We work every passage so that everything we want to communicate is there on the page to read and comprehend. Most of the time, after I’ve finished drafting something new, it’s still not all there yet, what I wanted to say, and I need an editor or a compassionate reader to tell me so.

“I meant to say this!” I’ll scream. “That’s how it reads in my head.”

“Well,” says the reader, in a tone much softer than my own, “that’s not how it reads on the page.” And, as a writer, how it reads on the page is all that matters.

 

Why am I going on about this today? The answer, like most answers beyond the most elementary, is simple yet complicated.

Simple in that I have done the complicated part. I have written the novel that speaks my truth better than any memoir ever could. Through drafting, it now speaks louder and clearer than ever. My heart is in every page, paragraph, passage, punctuation mark.

Complicated in that, in order to reach readers in the way I want, I must convince someone who doesn’t know me and who–as yet–has no vested interest in my success to take a chance on me, to give themselves over to the possibility that this relative unknown might actually know what he’s doing.

My novel would sit firmly and happily on the shelf next to the books of  Richard Paul Evans (his Christmas Box was an inspiration for a kid in the fifth grade) and Mitch Albom. His first best-seller, Tuesdays With Morrie, is a book I treasure, and Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven showed me that Heaven could be discussed without its having to be “religious”.

Also on this shelf would be the beautiful memoir When Breath Becomes Air. Or the newest of this crop, The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. (That being said, my book’s genre has always been something of a quandary. Is it inspirational? I hope so. Is it the kind of book you’d want to read in your book club? I deeply believe so.)

No, I don’t know what it’s like to die as the previous two authors do. Because, thankfully, I haven’t had to experience that eventuality yet. But I’d like to think that being born with the cerebral palsy I have, living with it, and experiencing life in the “I want to do everything but know that some things are off-limits to me, and that’s just the way it is” way I must has given me a perspective with which readers will identify.

My main character, Terrence McDonald, must learn two lessons in the afterlife, those lessons gleaned from the life he’s just left. What are these lessons, and why is his learning them a must?

I hope you’re intrigued and want to find out more, whether you’re a reader, an agent, a publisher. I love what I do. My heart is in it fully. And I’d love to find a team of people who want to be in it with me!

And, dear reader, know that such a team begins and ends with you. Without you, writers would just be weirdos who wander the streets aimlessly with something to say and no one to hear them.

 

 

 

Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

Another poem. I love this one!

Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

We’re told when we’re kids

To Remember,

For sure,

How time is our most precious resource,

Call it our resource de jour.

More precious than water,

More precious than food.

More precious than everything else that is good.

 

Some may call time an affliction,

Those who can hear

The ticking beat of time

Creeping closer each year.

But, If it is,

There is no cure.

Time will outlive us all.

 

If you can’t beat time, what can you do?

Connect with others

Doomed to the same fate

As you.

Find the people who love you

And spend

As much time as you can

With them.

For, once time is up,

It cannot be spent again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Future: A Poem

I love poetry. Somehow, it allows you to say just what you want to say and nothing more.

The Future

Would that you could see the future,

What would it be that you’d see?

A bright winter day half a year away,

Your unborn child,

Aged ten,

Up in a tree?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would you cheer it or would it cause groans?

Would you feel the bliss of your betrothed’s impassioned  kiss

Or cry at the year’s-later scene

When  it was cancer’s choice,

Not hers,

To leave you alone?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would your family be the one you dream of,

As if they were conjured from your mind one lonely night,

Brought to life in that moment by your very sight?

Or is family something we build piece by piece,

And the most important piece is love?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your future self would say,

“Of course this is the future.

How could it have turned out any other way?”

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your wife and child smiling back.

“We’re waiting for you in the future, dear.

Confidence that you’ll get here?

Oh, honey, for such confidence we do not lack.

Timmy turns ten this Sunday.

He’s excited for the tree house you’ll build.

Meanwhile, your book just found a bestseller list.

Your publisher is absolutely thrilled.”

 

This last one is the future I see,

Beautiful yet incomplete.

The particulars and minutia have yet to set themselves.

But, as far as I’m concerned,

It can’t be beat.

 

I say that not knowing the truth

Of the future that will stand in its place;

Whether its hallmark will be

A warm southern breeze

Or an Alaskan night cold as ice.

No one can know the future.

Would that you could.

It comes down to chance and choice.

But I hope and pray that the true future day

Will somehow be

Just as nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Want For My Birthday…

Thursday will mark my 35th birthday. So now I can officially run for president! Yay! *Grin.* “I, Derek Eugene McFadden, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute…”

Everyone’s been asking me what I want for said birthday. So I thought I’d make a list. If you can make any of this happen, dear reader, whoever you are, that would be cool, and I would be forever grateful.

I would like:

-Scientists around the world to agree almost unanimously that climate change is human-made, so that we may finally go about doing something to fix it. (Wait, hasn’t that happened already? Oh, right, not the last part. The most important part.)

-For healthcare to forever and always cover those with pre-existing conditions, as I am, put bluntly, a walking pre-existing condition, and I kind of enjoy living a lot more than I’d enjoy not living. I speak for my fellow pre-existing conditioners in this belief. I was unable, after much reaearch, to find any pre-existing shampoos. *I am allowed one bad pun per blog. *

-All of my family to be happy and healthy and to be living the lives they always dreamed. That sounds simple. It. Is. Not.

-A new computer. Mine’s from 2009. It’s time for an upgrade. Just sayin’.

-To help the agent for whom I intern find that next great novel or memoir. That next great book everyone will be talking about tomorrow. And to have the author of that book know that, as far as editing and grammar and the like goes, I’ve got their back.

-To get to pet my loving Best Dog Ever again. I miss you, Scoot!

-For my Seattle Mariners to actually be relevant in the baseball world again. I don’t ask for much. I really don’t, though I fear this may be a bit too much.

-For one more phone call each with my Papa Dick and my Grandma Illene. So I can tell him about my book. He was always my first reader when I was a kid. If he thought it was good, I knew a story was good. And I can tell Grandma that it looks like her favorite show, American Idol, is on its way back! Seacrest… in? And she can tell me how she’s baking cookies in Heaven, and God Himself is a fan!

-Another trip to Disneyland. There can never be enough time spent in the Magic Kingdom. I love how invigorated I get when I walk in there. How creative I feel. How truly magical it is. Mr. Disney, I bow to you, sir. The place you dreamed of in the early 1950s is now the place of childhood joy and adult nostalgia and remembrance of childhood joy. And adult joy, too. Who are we kidding? *Grin.*

-But if there’s one thing I would love to have for my birthday, one thing above all others, it is this: My book, understood and loved by an agent and, later, a publisher in the same way that I love and understand it. They’ll want to collaborate with me on its words, its impact, its meaning. They’ll dream of possible covers the way I do. They’ll imagine that day when I’ll walk into Powell’s for the first time and… believe it or not… there’s my book, the hardcover, its dust-jacket gleaming in the mid-day light.

I will finally have the team I’ve always wanted behind my book!

Am I asking for too much? I think not. I put in the work. I am learning the business more and more each day. I try to be, for any author I work with–as an extension of both the agent I represent and myself–an integral part of the team behind the great art I believe in and a part of the team I imagine every author wishes to have behind them!

Working On My “Elevator Pitch”

If you’re not a writer, you might think of an elevator pitch as a person’s thirty second attempt–while in an elevator–to sell something. Themselves, a product, a TV show. An exec (or an agent, to put this back into writer-speak) may say, “You have thirty seconds. Go.”

I have been honing my elevator pitch for just this type of moment. (Since I can’t drive, I can’t get to a ton of writer conferences, so I need to rely on queries and any sort of networking I can do.) Those of you who either know me in real life, or read this blog and so know me virtually, will probably also know that I am attempting, with all I have, to sell my book, my labor of love for the past ten years. Recently, said piece underwent a title change. It is now called “Two Lessons For Terrence McDonald.” I love and believe in it with all my heart.

If you’ll indulge me for just a moment, I will share with you my elevator pitch. Here goes.

“When a middle-aged man dies unexpectedly, he must discover the two major lessons in his life. If he fails, he will not be permitted into Heaven and will never see his family again.”

What do you think, reader? I am genuinely interested in your opinions.

There’s a lot more to this book, but if I were going to distill it down to its barest bones… there you have it!

On a slightly different note, as I sign off, today, May 3rd, marks fourteen years since the passing of my beloved grandfather, Papa Dick. To him I say, “You always encouraged me. you never told me I wasn’t good enough, and when you’d hear something like that from me, you called me out on it. I am hopeful that, somewhere up above, you’re watching, and that you’re working just as hard as I am to find my beloved book a home. I love you, Pop. Forever and always,

Your writer and your proud grandson.”

Derek

Disneyland Is Where I Feel Freest

When I was a kid, there were certain things I took as gospel, even though none of them were in The Bible. These were:

-My Papa Dick could cook anything. (Always was true, always will be true.)

-Bob Barker would host The Price Is Right forever. (Until Drew Carey comes along and turns  slightly less than a quarter of the airings into shows with themes. It’s kinda weird, but the new games are kinda cool.)

-The Mariners would be in last place forever. (This particular belief was proven wrong in my thirteenth year, 1995, when the baseball gods decided to smile on our little hamlet.)

-My dad was going to be a famous writer someday.

-I was going to be a famous writer someday. (Not because of him, or thanks to him, but one of us might ride the coattails of the other, and that was fine.)

-Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth.

 

Of those beliefs, I’d like to briefly discuss the last three, the final one in detail. First, yes, I believed then, and believe still, that my father, and myself, can be famous authors. It is one of my deepest dreams that this will become so for us. I don’t know if I desire fame so much as the security that can be found in doing something you love and being paid for it.

I didn’t turn to writing because Dad was writing. I came to it because it was always easy for me, and I love it. Then, as now, I love it. I have finally written the story for which I feel I was put on Earth. It is mine to tell, and I’ve told it. The only mystery now regarding my book: Who will read it, and what will they say when they do?

Where did I learn to believe in dreams? From my dad and my papa and the people who love me, sure. But where else was this belief reinforced?

Disneyland.

The happiest place on Earth.

In my opinion, it’s part of the Disney culture to champion dreams. And I love that.

Being handicapped, you get used to hearing what you can’t do. It is a refrain, and nowhere is it louder than at amusement parks: “You can’t do that. Sure, it looks fun, and other people are doing it. But you would be a liability.”

“Why?”

“If you got hurt, you might sue, so it’s just easier to tell you no from the outset.”

It’s like places blame the disabled for being disabled, as if it’s something we did or let happen knowingly, with full knowledge of what our disability would mean in life going forward. So many doors will be closed to you, but you know that, right?

At Disney, they take this happiest place on Earth stuff seriously. They mean it. Being handicapped is no disadvantage. For once, when I’m there, I feel as though I’m on equal footing with the able-bodied.

This is a thank-you, not just to the folks of Disneyland but to all of Disney, for always making this handicapped guy feel welcome, ever since I was a kid and first walked with Mickey down Main Street U.S.A. Having just spent the better part of last week in California with my loving girlfriend, we made memories we won’t soon forget. Thank you all for helping to make that possible. I feel at home in your midst, and I always will!

A Handicapped Guy Who’s Always Loved The Fast Rides!

P.S.

If Hyperion Books (a Disney-owned publisher) ever saw fit to make my book available to the world, I would be eternally grateful. Just putting that little thought out into the universe and seeing what might come back, considering the fact that I’ve always felt a part of the Disney family!)

 

 

 

 

The Book I Love Most

Why Artists Are Artists

or

Why I Continue Searching For A Publisher For The Book I Love Most

The book I love most is homeless.

Searching for its shelf-home.

The book I love most is written,

But, like a vagabond,

It wanders and roams.

The streets of my mind are dead ends to it now.

For it is fully formed.

Nothing on these roads can aid it anymore;

Not even the bonfire of creativity that is

My newest story,

Unfinished,

Off to the side,

Can keep it warm.

It needs a place where it can be

Fulfilled,

Given autonomy

To achieve its highest and best.

Where it can parade into a reading of itself full of confidence of zest.

Its new lease on life will be courtesy  of

An agent who sees the merit,

An editor who agrees,

A publisher who puts it out

Without calling for any author-paid fees.

It will dance into the hands of readers

Who haven’t lived the story

But who have lived their stories and so,

Through lives that have seen similar fates

Can nonetheless relate.

Story, in all its forms,

Is connection.

It is: You are not alone.

Story invites you

To roam the streets of another’s mind

In search of a new thought,

A retrofitted, better home.

Where Does A Handicapped Man Fit In Donald Trump’s America?

The state of our union feels fragile today.

The five stages of grief are real. And I went through all of them yesterday when it became clear Hillary Clinton had lost her bid for the oval office and Donald Trump would be our 45th president. Mingled with my grief, in its various ebbs and flows, was a question important to me personally.

Where does a handicapped man like me fit in Donald Trump’s America?

I am frightened of what a Trump presidency will mean for me. Will he take my social security away because he doesn’t value the contributions of the segment of the population to which I belong? What I mean by that is this: Does he value us enough to see that entitlement programs like social security–entitlement being the wrong name for it, in my opinion; it truly is a social safety net–exist because they make life easier to live but are nowhere near some kind of financial windfall every month? Will he treat us like second-class citizens? I suppose I’ll have to wait to have my questions answered in full, and that has me beyond worried.

I realize campaigns are full of rhetoric. They’re full of bluster and bombast, both things Mr. Trump does well. But being president is entirely different. If he truly is going to be the president for all Americans, as he claimed in his acceptance speech, that means accepting that not everyone looks like him, walks like him, talks like him, or thinks like him, and being okay with that. I’m not sure, in my heart of hearts, that he can do this.

Just like a gay man or a black woman can’t change the qualities that make them them, nor would they want to, I will always be handicapped, no matter what I do. No matter how many books I write. No matter how many times somebody tells me I’m a brilliant editor. No matter how many people love me. No matter how many times someone says, “You’re normal to me.” I can’t imagine living in a country whose president would mock me with relish. While my disability doesn’t define me, it is a part of me. It contributes to my life-experience.  So when I saw Mr. Trump mocking a New York Times’ reporter this campaign season, it felt to me like a stab to the very heart of who I am as a man. Here’s a man in Trump who was mocking another with my same disability, and the mocker wanted to be–and now will be–the leader of the free world. I was, and remain, disgusted.

When Trump actually won the election, I was distressed. I cried. I’m crying now. I have never voted for a republican presidential candidate, admittedly, but I respect this country and the people in it. I simply want to know I won’t become the new kind of “forgotten man or woman” to whom Trump made reference in his acceptance speech. I want to know that, even though I can’t serve it, my love for this country is just as valuable as the love exhibited by someone who does.

In conclusion, whether you believe in an organized religion or not, and a fair number of people I know don’t, I thought it appropriate to end this post with:

God bless you, and God bless the United States Of America.