Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don Rearden: Surviving Rejection and Writing Alaska's Literary History



The following is an abridged version of a speech given by author Don Rearden during Alaska Book Week.

Those of you who know me, also know that I claim to be a rejection expert. I am. I actually have an advanced degree in manuscript rejection survival. It's the real MFA really, which stands for: Manuscript Failure, Advanced.

Today I'm going to tell you a little about how I became so skilled at surviving rejection, and then I'm going to teach you how to prepare, should you begin to see the foreboding signs, the 4 horsemen, if you will, of a pending manuscript apocalypse.

Then I'll show you how to live through the end times of your book and perhaps salvage something and start a brave new world.

I began surviving rejection early on. As a way cool letterman wearing jacket kid in Bethel. When visiting authors came to our school I would give them copies of my short story collection of tundra horror stories, hoping they would magically help me get it published or would want to mentor me.

They didn't do either. 

My mom submitted a story of mine to the Anchorage Daily News writing contest. I won first prize, but they didn't publish an excerpt because of the mature content of the story. I was a freshman. I took this as rejection.

Then I wrote Stephen King a letter and asked if he would mentor me. 
From my most admired author on the planet at the time, I received my first official notice. An official Steve King fan rejection letter. As if I was asking for an autograph.

I didn't at all take that rejection personal.

From there I discovered the best way to avoid having my stories and characters rejected. I admit, this is the most genius way to avoid rejection. And still works to this day. 

I quit submitting my work to anyone.  

I steadfastly maintained this dogma for all of high school and college. I wrote the whole time, but submitted nothing for contests or publication.
 
My plan worked, because it was so genius in scope and execution, magnificently.

I wasn't rejected once. 

Then. For a while, I found a way to write and not get rejected. I wrote for the local Tundra Drums newspaper. They were desperate enough to let a high school punk have his own column and they even paid me a little.

Then when I became a high school English teacher in my home town of Bethel, I realized that I could be the cool teacher and show my students how to love reading and writing, but I couldn’t be inspirational and convince them they could live their dreams if I wasn’t doing the same. I was being a hypocrite. This really hit home when an author visited my class. Of course I'd pondered trying to give her some of my own work, but that would be breaking the no rejection rule, so I didn't. The author shared her work, and she talked about what it took for her to be a writer. In a round about way, while I was sitting in the back of my own class, feeling like a fraud for claiming I was a writer and not writing, that author threw the gauntlet down. 
I had to start living my own dream.

So I first taught myself how to screenwrite and at about that same time I came across an ad on a writing website. The unusual ad came from one of my favorite authors offering his services as a writing coach. I emailed him, told him I was a broke ass rural Alaskan teacher and unpublished writer, and I waited for my Stephen King level rejection.
The next morning there was an email from Danie Quinn, the author of Ishmael.

He took me under his wing, free of charge, with the single powerful caveat: I would dedicate my first novel to him.

I finished three screenplays that first year and began submitting them, okay spamming them, to anyone and everyone who had an email address and any remote link to Hollywood. I’m not lying. I mean spam and not the T-bone Steak of the north stuff in the can, I mean bulk email spam. I filled those internet tubes with pleas for someone, anyone, to read my scripts. Say you knew the guy who mowed Mel Gibson's lawns? Well, you''ve got mail!

For each hundred or so emails I would get a request or two to read one of the scripts.  (Sadly, I often I wouldn’t even follow through if they requested to read them when the request was for a printed copy --- but that is another speech on trying to survive standing in line at the post office, perhaps entitled, Writers who go Postal.).

In screenwriting, rejection is the name of the game, lies and full scale rejection, but mostly just outright rejection. I learned to survive avalanche level rejection, to thrive on it. Even become good at it. Expect it. Maybe even so much so that when I wasn’t rejected and someone wanted to see something of mine I didn’t send it because surely they were delusional in not rejecting me.

About this same time, I finished a non-fiction project about unleashing ones creativity, and I began to spam that about, looking for a publisher or agent. A couple agents and publishers requested the manuscript via mail, which I did not of course send, but one wrote back and flatly rejected it, telling me that I couldn’t be an expert on creativity if I wasn’t a recognized authority on the subject, but then he asked if I had any fiction I was working on he might look at, as he was curious about Alaska. 

I sent him a draft of the historic novel I was tinkering with and he kindly rejected that, but then said he liked the writing and would look at something in the future if I had anything.

Fast forward many more years of rejection. I finished my MFA at UAA, and ran straight home to begin spamming agents with my thesis project, a novella. I did a search through my old emails and hit up that one agent who rejected me first. He read the manuscript, and signed me that week. 

I was immediately suspect of him for not rejecting me.

Little did I know, that novella would put me into the big leagues of rejection. Editors at major houses read the manuscript, and actually liked it, and this was exciting rejection. They said inspiring words like “Don Rearden has the heart of a poet.” And then they flatly and openly rejected it, dozens of them adding they would be happy to see anything else I had in actual novel length. As if I could reach around and pull something novel length from my ass.

I had little choice.

I began pulling.

A few years later I had a manuscript called The Raven’s Gift – all ready for rejection. I won’t bore you with the details, as that is another long story, but I had amazing responses at many of the big houses (Harper Collins, Houghton Mifflin, Penguin)  and some of the kindest most inspirational rejection letters and emails you’ve ever seen. With heart warming and motivating  lines to my agent like “I’d be happy to see Don’s next novel.” As if I could pull one from my buttocks.

Here is where I saw the end of the world coming for yet another one of my stories. By this time I was an expert at letting those worlds I had created just whither and die a slow death in the digital hell that are the files on my computer.

Then a strange and beautiful thing happened. A major house in Canada picked up the book and suddenly the end of the world was delayed. Or at least the world had only ended in the United States. Then Australia and New Zealand came on board. The book was translated into Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi. Then French.

So there is lesson one for those thinking the world is ending with your manuscript. Rejection in the US, might not be the end. You need to start thinking about world wide rejection --- the world can not be over unless rejection worldwide has been absolute. This is something to consider if you’ve hit the wall in the US. Just like how people in other countries actually care about the health and welfare of their citizens, people in many countries still actually read.

So let’s just say that you’ve finally exhausted every possibility for your book. You’re still awaiting word from a small publisher in Tanzania, but you’ve got to at that point, have an idea that proverbial End is near.

Let us begin talking just a little about the End Times. Don’t worry, I won’t get all biblical on you.  But I think a study of the apocalypse is worth while, if anything it is a great metaphor for the world of publishing right now.
Although interpretations may differ, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are seen as Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. This fits a writer’s life nicely. You charge out with your manuscript, in conquest to get it published, you battle in war to get an agent or to get anyone on the planet to read it, you starve and endure famine along the way, and then you die, or at least your manuscript does.

Those four horsemen are the harbingers of last judgement, which you can allow to come from above, your agent, your spouse, your mom, or maybe you yourself will realize this world (you’ve created) is over.

Now Apocalypse means unveiling or revelation, and the bible itself has some great insights for writers who aren’t sure what Jesus the Publisher would do.
If you aren’t sure if your story has entered the apocalypse phase, you need only to turn to the bible. 

Daniel 12:4 ...'But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.'

Once you’ve admitted the end has come, then you steel yourself against the forces of evil that might tell you to give up. If you can survive all that rejection that led to the end, you can survive into the post-apocalypse.

Here is where you think about that world of your story and begin pondering the four horsemen or four R’s: Re-vision. Re-newal, Rebuilding, Re-surrecting, Reclaiming.

Renewal --- think about what pieces of the story you can’t bare to languish in your digital files. Is it a character? The plot? What made that world fail in the first place. Where did you go wrong?

Rebuilding --- here is where you study the story you created and begin envisioning a new chance of life for what was destroyed. Perhaps a new setting? Perhaps you look at the conflict that destroyed your world in the first place and dig into that to see what your structure was --- were your characters real, did they have internal conflicts they were struggling with outside of the plot?

Resurrection ---Then, like the god you are of your story, you choose which characters will be saved, and who will die with the rest of us. And then you make sure those characters have an internal conflict --- this makes them real. They are conflicted. They want and need things. They struggle internally. Here you resurrect those characters that are powerful enough and important enough to live again.

Reclaiming --- Finally you reclaim your story, your characters, and your confidence. A new world has been established. You’ve restored order to the world. You’ve created a new fresh world from the rubble, one that has more heart and depth and complexity than the last. One that you care about a little more, because you’ve lifted it from the devastation, and with it, hopefully lifted yourself above worry that the apocalypse of rejection for a manuscript is really the end.

It doesn’t have to be. In fact rejection is a part of this profession and a part of this art. Your name will be added to the scrolls of so many others who were rejected countless times, yet who lived on and survived the rejection apocalypse. 

Of course, you're thinking that with publication of The Raven's Gift by a major US publisher, it's all fine and dandy for me to talk about rejection, and mock it --- but you've got to understand that I'm not joking, but I'm not. 
Despite publication in other countries, my only hope to get my book here was to smuggle it in, or just write another. I did both. Thanks to Alaska, this book is here in the US. Alaska's illegal demand for the book, caught Canada's eye. They pushed for publication here. At the same time I wrote a new novel, and that was out to publishers at the same time I received word that my Raven would finally be flying home. That put my new book on hold, as publishers now would have to wait to see what happened in terms of sales. 
And here is where all that history of learning to thrive on rejection came in handy. In order for my new novel to not get rejected, I would need to face a whole new avalanche of rejections to get The Raven's Gift into the hands of readers, bloggers, and critics. In the world of modern publishing, and it doesn't matter if you're published by Random House or a University Press -- or yourself or your mom ---the publicity, sales, and marketing team is You. This is just something to accept if you want people to read your stories. You do this because you love it and you believe in it. Because it's important.

And yet ---
Newspapers aren't really reviewing books. Book stores aren't even selling books. Hell, people aren't even really reading books. Bookstores seem to be headed down the road that Blockbuster took. One depressing look at the numbers of video game revenue verses publishing and it makes you want to cry. Last year 27 billion in books to 67 billion in video games. That does not bode well for us, my friends. This is an apocalypse of reading and writing. 
And just like those four R-s I suggested earlier --- there is hope amongst the gloom. Alaska seems to be poised for something big. And folks bigger than me, if that's possible, have used words unimaginable a few years ago. Words like "Alaska Literary Renaissance." With ground breakers like Seth Kantner and Joan Kane winning Whiting awards, with Eowyn Ivey getting a p
Those of you who know me, also know that I claim to be a rejection expert. I am. I actually have an advanced degree in manuscript rejection survival. It's the real MFA really, which stands for: Manuscript Failure Advanced.

Today I'm going to tell you a little about how I became so skilled at surviving rejection, and then I'm going to teach you how to prepare, should you begin to see the foreboding signs, the 4 horsemen, if you will, of a pending manuscript apocalypse.

Then I'll show you how to live through the end times of your book and perhaps salvage something and start a brave new world.

I began surviving rejection early on. As a way cool 50 below, but still wearing a letterman jacket kid in Bethel. When visiting authors came I would give them copies of my short story collection of tundra horror stories, hoping they would magically help me get it published or would want to mentor me.

They didn't do either. 

My mom submitted a story of mine to the Anchorage Daily News writing contest. I won first prize, but they didn't publish an excerpt because of the mature content of the story. I was a freshman. I took this as rejection.

Then I wrote Stephen King a letter and asked if he would mentor me. 
From my most admired author on the planet at the time, I received my first official notice. An official Steve King fan rejection letter. As if I was asking for an autograph.

I didn't at all take that rejection personal.

From there I discovered the best way to avoid having my stories and characters rejected. I admit, this is the most genius way to avoid rejection. And still works to this day. 

I quit submitting my work to anyone.  

I steadfastly maintained this dogma for all of high school and college. I wrote the whole time, but submitted nothing for contests or publication.
 
My plan worked, because it was so genius in scope and execution, worked magnificently

I wasn't rejected once. 

Then. For a while, I found a way to write and not get rejected. I wrote for the local Tundra Drums newspaper. They were desperate enough to let a high school punk have his own column and they even paid me a little.

Then when I became a high school English teacher in my home town of Bethel I realized that I could be cool and show my students how to love reading and writing, but I couldn’t be inspirational and convince them they could live their dreams if I wasn’t doing the same. I was being a hypocrite. This really hit home when an author visited my class. Of course I'd pondered trying to give her some of my own work, but that would be breaking the no rejection rule, so I didn't.  The author shared her work, and she talked about what it took for her to be a writer. In a round about way, while I was sitting in the back of my own class, feeling like a fraud for claiming I was a writer and not writing, that write threw the gauntlet down. 
I had to start living my own dream.


So I first taught myself to screenwrite and at about that same time I came across an ad on a writing website. The unusual ad came from one of my favorite authors offering his services as a writing coach. I emailed him, told him I was a broke ass rural Alaskan teacher and unpublished writer, and I waited for my Stephen King level rejection.
The next morning there was an email from Danie Quinn, the author of Ishmael.

He took me under his wing, free of charge, with the single powerful caveat: I would dedicate my first novel to him.

I finished three screenplays that first year and began submitting them, okay spamming them, to anyone and everyone who had an email address and any remote link to Hollywood. I’m not lying. I mean Spam and not the T-bone Steak of the north stuff in the can, I mean bulk email spam. I filled those internet tubes with pleas for someone, anyone, to read my scripts. Say you knew the guy who mowed Mel Gibson's lawns? You''ve got mail!

For each hundred or so emails I would get a request or two to read one of the scripts.  (Sadly, I often I wouldn’t even follow through if they requested to read them when the request was for a printed copy --- but that is another speach on trying to survive standing in line at the post office, perhaps entitled, Writers who go Postal)

In screenwriting, rejection is the name of the game, lies and full scale rejection, but mostly just outright rejection. I learned to survive avalanche level rejection, to thrive on it. Even become good at it. Expect it. Maybe even so much so that when I wasn’t rejected and someone wanted to see something of mine I didn’t send it because surely they were delusional in not rejecting me.

About this same time, I finished a non-fiction project about unleashing ones creativity, and I began to spam that about, looking for a publisher or agent. A couple agents and publishers requested the manuscript via mail, which I did not of course send, but one wrote back and flatly rejected it, telling me that I couldn’t be an expert on creativity if I wasn’t a recognized authority on the subject, but then he asked if I had anything I was working on he might look at, as he was curious about Alaska. 

I sent him a draft of the historic novel I was tinkering with and he kindly rejected that, but then said he liked the writing and would look at something in the future if I had anything.

Fast forward many more years of rejection. I finished my MFA at UAA, and ran straight home to begin spamming agents with my thesis project, a novella. I did a search through my old emails and hit up that one agent who rejected me first. He read the manuscript, and signed me that week. 

I was immediately suspect of him for not rejecting me.

Little did I know, that novella would put me into the big leagues of rejection. Editors at major houses read the manuscript, and actually liked it, which was so exciting. They said inspiring words like “Don Rearden has the heart of a poet.” And then they flatly and openly rejected it, dozens of themadding they would be happy to see anything else I had in actual novel length. As if I could reach around and pull something novel length from my ass.

I had little choice.

I began pulling.

A few years later I had a manuscript called The Raven’s Gift – all ready for rejection. I won’t bore you with the details, as that is another long story, but I had amazing responses at many of the big houses (Harper Collins, Houghton Mifflin, Penguin)  and some of the kindest most inspirational rejection letters and emails you’ve ever seen. With heart warming and motivating  lines to my agent like “I’d be happy to see Don’s next novel.” As if I could pull one from my buttocks.

Here is where I saw the end of the world coming for yet another one of my stories. By this time I was an expert at letting those worlds I had created just whither and die a slow death in the digital hell that are the files on my computer.

Then a strange and beautiful thing happened. A major house in Canada picked up the book and suddenly the end of the world was delayed. Or at least the world had only ended in the United States. Then Australia and New Zealand came on board. The book was translated into Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi. Then came France.

So there is lesson one for those thinking the world is ending with your manuscript. Rejection in the US, might not be the end. You need to start thinking about world wide rejection --- the world can not be over unless rejection worldwide has been absolute. This is something to consider if you’ve hit the wall in the US. Just like how people in other countries actually care about the health and welfare of their citizens, people in many countries still actually read.

So let’s just say that you’ve finally exhausted every possibility for your book. You’re still awaiting word from a small publisher in Tanzania, but you’ve got to at that point, have an idea that proverbial End is near.

Let us begin talking just a little about the End Times. Don’t worry, I won’t get all biblical on you.  But I think a study of the apocalypse is worth while, if anything it is a great metaphor for the world of publishing right now.
Although interpretations may differ, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are seen as Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. This fits a writer’s life nicely. You charge out with your manuscript, in conquest to get it published, you battle in war to get an agent or to get anyone on the planet to read it, you starve and endure famine along the way, and then you die, or at least your manuscript does.

Those four horsemen are the harbingers of last judgement, which you can allow to come from above, your agent, your spouse, your mom, or maybe you yourself will realize this world (you’ve created) is over.

Now Apocalypse means unveiling or revelation, and the bible itself has some great insights for writers who aren’t sure what Jesus the Publisher would do.
If you aren’t sure if your story has entered the apocalypse phase, you need to turn to the bible. 


Daniel 12:4 ...'But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.'

Once you’ve admitted the end has come, then you steel yourself against the forces of evil that might tell you to give up. If you can survive all that rejection that led to the end, you can survive into the post-apocalypse.

Here is where you think about that world of your story and begin pondering the four horsemen or four R’s of Re-vision. Re-newal, Rebuilding, Re-surrecting, Reclaiming.

Renewal --- think about what pieces of the story you can’t bare to languish in your digital files. Is it a character? The plot? What made that world fail in the first place. Where did you go wrong?

Rebuilding --- here is where you study the story you created and begin envisioning a new chance of life for what was destroyed. Perhaps a new setting? Perhaps you look at the conflict that destroyed your world in the first place and dig into that to see what your structure was --- were your characters real, did they have internal conflicts they were struggling with outside of the plot?

Resurrection:

Then, like the god you are of your story, you choose which characters will be saved, and who will die with the rest of us. And then you make sure those characters have an internal conflict --- this makes them real. They are conflicted. They want and need things. They struggle internally. Here you resurrect those characters that are powerful enough and important enough to live again.

Finally you reclaim your story, your characters, and your confidence. A new world has been established. You’ve restored order to the world. You’ve created a new fresh world from the rubble, one that has more heart and depth and complexity than the last. One that you care about a little more, because you’ve lifted it from the devastation, and with it, hopefully lifted yourself above worry that the apocalypse of rejection for a manuscript is really the end.

It doesn’t have to be. In fact rejection is a part of this profession and a part of this art. Your name will be added to the scrolls of so many others who were rejected countless times, yet who lived on and survived the rejection apocalypse. 

Dear Madam, I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”

Sincerely Yours,
A.C. Fifield

That was a letter to Gertrude Stein….from Publisher AC Fifield. (from The Atlantic)

Dr. Seuss got rejection letters, too. Here is one:
"too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." Editor of the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling.

Jean Auel, author of "The Clan of Cave Bear" was told, "We are very impressed with the depth and scope of your research and the quality of your prose. Nevertheless ... we don't think we could distribute enough copies to satisfy you or ourselves."

Emily Dickinson's poems were ever published during her lifetime? A rejection early in her career said, "(Your poems) are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities."

Jack London heard, "(Your book is) forbidding and depressing."

William Faulkner may be a classic writer to this, as well as prior, generation, but back when he was trying to crack the publishing market, he had to read letters like this one, "If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don't think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don't have any story to tell." This was kinder than the rejection he would receive just two years later, "Good God, I can't publish this!" 


Twilight Stephanie Meyer 14 agent rejections

Orwell’s animal farm 4 rejections, 20 million copies sold

Chicken Soup for the soul---100 publishers (130 mill copies)


Of course, you're thinking that with publication of The Raven's Gift by a major US publisher, it's all fine and dandy for me to talk about rejection, and mock it --- but you've got to understand that I'm joking, but I'm not. 
Despite publication in other countries, my only hope to get my book here was to smuggle it in, or just write another. I did both. Thanks to Alaska, this book is here in the US. Alaska's illegal demand for the book, caught Canada's eye. They pushed for publication here. At the same time I wrote a new novel, and that was out to publishers at the same time I received word that Raven would finally be flying home. That put my new book on hold, as publishers now would have to wait to see what happened in terms of sales. 
And here is where all that history of learning to thrive on rejection came in handy. In order for my new novel to not get rejected, I would need to face a whole new avalanche of rejections to get The Raven's Gift into the hands of readers, bloggers, and critics. In the world of modern publishing, and it doesn't matter if you're published by Simon and Shuster or a University Press -- or yourself or your mom ---the publicity, sales, and marketing team is You. This is just something to accept if you want people to read your stories. You do this because you love it and you believe in it. Because it's important.

And yet ---
Newspapers aren't really reviewing books. Book stores aren't even selling books. Hell, people aren't even really reading books. Bookstores seem to be headed down the road that Blockbuster has drive.  One depressing look at the numbers of video game revenue verses publishing and it makes you want to cry. Last year 27 billion in books to 67 billion in video games. That does not bode well for us, my friends. This is an apocalypse of reading and writing. 
And just like those four R-s I suggested earlier --- there is hope amongst the gloom. Alaska seems to be poised for something big. And folks bigger than me, if that's possible, have used words unimaginable a few years ago. Words like "Alaska Literary Renaissance." With ground breakers like Seth Kantner and Joan Kane winning Whiting awards, with Eowyn Ivey getting a Pulitzer nod? With Tom Kizia and Heather Lende hitting the New York Times best-seller lists? With a journal like Alaska Quarterly Review --- which just had an excerpt and photos published in the New Yorker, we are suddenly on the map in a new and big way. These are exciting times, my friends. But a renaissance can't happen in a vacuum, and this would be a cold and dark vacuum!
Writers and readers aren't born over night. We need to step up and inspire and be inspired. That author who visited my class in Bethel in the late 90's was Deb Vanasse. Together, with her and Andromeda Romano-Lax, Jeremy Pataky, Karen Benning, Eric Larson, and Kirsten Dixon, myself, and countless vital volunteers we built the 49 Writers. Organizations such as this are a start ---- a start in terms of building community for writers and awareness of our work for readers, but unless we do our part as writers then this amazing possibility for creating a state that fosters and supports writers will instead just be a sad footnote in a future history of poorly written Alaskan history text book, perhaps right beside a sad photos of remnants of glaciers and polar bears carcasses. Ouch. 
What we can do is this. First we can support one another. Buy each others books, then read them, and blog and write reviews. Share the books with your friends outside. And buy them locally, support your local book stores. Don't just ask them to stock copies of your book unless you're also buying copies of other Alaskan writers. 
Second, don't reject someone who asks you to mentor them! Even more, go do what Deb Vanasse was doing that day she inspired me to make the leap ---- visit schools. Volunteer at your local school to lead a writing workshop, or even just go read to the elementary kids. If we don't get those kids who represent our future reading and inspire them to read, then they won't and we are finished. Perhaps not just as writers, but as humanity. 

Reading and writing are two simple activities that separate us from our animal cousins. You saw the recent study that said readers of literary fiction have more empathy. We can't wrap ourselves up in arguing what is literary. We need to focus on how do we get more people reading. If they aren't reading, empathy is at stake. Our humanity is at stake.
We have an amazing opportunity to shape the history of Alaska in our hands. I hope you'll step forward with me and support not just each other as writers, but support our future. Together we can be a strong voice --- this Alaska Book Week is an amazing start --- but one week a year is not enough. Our books need to be in our schools, we need to be in our schools, and perhaps some of us need to be in Juneau now and then to remind our lawmakers that the story of Alaska, is our story, and we're writing it. And we're not afraid of rejection.


4 comments:

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Well said, Don!

Don Rearden said...

Thanks, Lynn!

Rich Chiappone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich Chiappone said...


I took Don’s excellent advice to support fellow writers. This afternoon I bought TWO copies of Dominion of Bears, one of them still in a hermetically sealed plastic shrink-wrapper.

Why two? Because I’m going to read one now, but in my “living will” I’ve instructed my caregivers, twenty years from now—when my brain is REALLY gone—to hand me the other, pristine copy and tell me it’s a new book by my old friend Sherry Simpson. I won’t know the difference.

Yes, it’s possible that Sherry will have produced another book in the intervening twenty years. But I’m not taking any chances.

Ok, I bought the second copy as a gift for an Alaskan bear-loving friend in the Lower 48. Don’t tell Simpson.