On the Verge, Again

On the Verge, Again

I’ll start a new job later this month as a technical writer and editor for a federal government agency. I understand I’ll be editing technical and scientific reports, providing web-site content, possibly visiting Alaskan villages, and using desktop publishing tools to lay-out a very large periodic report for the Alaska branch of the Bureau.

I’m not at all sure I’ll have time to write the things I love.

By the other token, when I wrote my last completed book, I was working full time on my Masters degree, working part-time for money, and teaching two classes in order to learn that trade/stay occupied. It’s possible that I need to be overworked in order to be really productive as a writer.

I hope that is so.

I said goodbye to a very successful agent not long ago. He seems to like me, and he likes my writing, but he just doesn’t understand this whole business about zooks, ghasten, and the sort of people who will put their lives on the line to save the world, but won’t answer to a strong central authority. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked for a somewhat schizophrenic strong central authority for most of my professional life, lived with the idea that I have to follow orders without question, except for the illegal ones which I must recognize and refuse, supported bosses I didn’t trust, even when they were transparently about to get themselves fired and tar my reputation, worked cheek by jowl with the mysterious powers that be, even when it was painfully obvious that they were as warty and human as I am – but I have no trouble at all seeing that some types of people just can’t work within a controlling system, yet will still live and die to protect the civilization that puts food on the table and movies in the theaters.

The downside of losing an agent in today’s market is that my odds of successful mass market publication appear to go down significantly. The upside is that now I can write my next story without having to wade through a barrage of off-target criticism by a committee of agents who make it clear every time they put pen to paper that they just don’t understand the story and want to pigeonhole the author. I have to keep faith that eventually, I’ll find a U.S. agent that loves my stories, and not the unwritten ones in his head that mine remind him of. I’ll have to believe that, because my odds of being published through the services of an agency that was never going to actually market a story they wouldn’t understand, were actually nil. Odds can’t go down from zero.

In going to work for the Bureau, I’m most likely saying goodbye to a career in academia. I’ve enjoyed working in a university setting for the last several years far more than I ever thought I might. I’ve always been a campus junkie, always loved open lawns with kids throwing Frisbee between classes. Here in Alaska, that campus isn’t exactly a rolling garden, but a lot of people bring their dogs, who seem quite welcome, which for me is a great benefit. I’ll still teach the occasional class, I think. I seem to be a popular teacher, as long as I stay carefully in the adjunct professor box.

My family said goodbye to our last puppy this week. She’s happy in her new home in Canada, and I’m exceedingly pleased with how well she’s fitting in. Over the next several months, we’ll need to decide if we breed Danika the dog again, or look for a new female to breed Danika’s twenty-two month old son Sirocco with. Or, perhaps we’ll give up on the stress of selling rare breed dogs from Alaska. Letting a dog go after four months tears at the soul and leaves the children moping around the house.

I’m fifty this year. Looking back, it seems as though we’ve always been on the verge of something. I hope it really is the journey that’s important.