Tuesday, October 13, 2009

books that (should have) changed the world

Forgive me while I spend a moment or two on a Flowmercial . . .

FLOW is smart, funny, edgy, shocking, fascinating, eye-opening. It's impossible to read without learning something and has the power to shift people's perspectives on history, government, religion, big business, education, women's bodies, not to mention menstruation. The story fascinates, the art rivets, the book itself is stunning. FLOW should change the world.

Will it? Who knows. I would bet the vast majority of people putting stuff out there feel just as strongly as I do that their book is what people will be talking about. I'm hopeful but skeptical (which is generally the place I live my life from, optimistic with a twist of that deeply rooted Jewish jinx fear mixed in).

I've also been through this enough times—FLOW is my 10th book—to know the giddy anticipation, the fantasy of endless press, new opportunities, fame and fortune that ends up flat-lining in the end. So yes, I'm jaded. This truly is this book that should change my life. Not to say it hasn't already in many ways. I've come out of this a much better, more serious writer. I've never worked so hard, months and months of nothing but research, outlines, writing with no feedback. It was like a nightmare college term paper that never ended. I've made remarkable contacts, am getting far more comfortable with self-promotion (shockingly so at times), have established professional work boundaries, and am embracing projects with a far greater scope and depth than ones in the past. All life-changing. And hopefully, it will continue to be so.

But, this pales in comparison to the anticipation I had before my first book came out. I truly believed, with all my heart, that Chunks: A Barfology would be my ticket to the big time. Yes, I believed whole-heartedly that this vomit anthology would reverberate around the world. That it would be a must-have for every college student in the country. That the animated series my friend Kevin and I conceptualized starring Chunky and Ralph—two shape shifting aliens who, in every episode, became mundane workers to avoid capture and return to their home planet—would be picked up by Comedy Central and whose royalties we'd live on for years. We actually did send them a proposal. They wrote back saying our humor was too "low brow" for the station. Next year they aired South Park. MTV used to show animated films and they invited us to submit a finished film for consideration. We didn't actually want to spend months creating a 2 minute stop action short. We wanted a substantial financial payoff for our brilliant idea.

Didn't happen.

What did happen is that Chunks got lots and LOTS of drive-time radio interviews. Every day for months I'd receive emails and phone calls from my publicist who'd booked us on more shows. Kevin wasn't all that comfortable with these so, in the end, I'd spend my mornings chatting with DJs and their listeners from all over the country. Often starting at 6am, I'd throw on my pea soup green velour shirt (for good luck) over my pajamas and tell vomit stories. And it wasn't just my rendition of my college friend Peter losing it in that spinning centripetal ride at Rye Playland. By the end, I could tell that story, and make people laugh, in my sleep. But no, every DJ had a story to tell. And then they'd invite their audience to call in and share. By the time I'd end my 3rd or 4th interview of the day, I'd heard so many stories my anti-gag wall would be crumbling.

We were convinced, beyond a doubt, that "Son of Chunks" was inevitable, so we wrote up all the stories we heard. We had a website, Cyberchunks, where hundreds of people posted their own tales. We had enough materials to put together a 5 volume regurgitation boxed set. There was no end in site.

Only no one was interested. No one bought the book. It never caught on. Disappeared quickly from bookstores. And once our morning drive time popularity waned, I was back to square one.

I've come so far since then. And am hoping beyond hope that FLOW will be my breakout book. But, I'm tempering my enthusiasm with a healthy dose of reality.

And now my friends, day 15 of my 40 day blog challenge is complete.

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