The memoir, 38 years in the making, is done. At least this draft, anyway. I hate it. I cannot look at it any more. I do not want to drag my purple felt tip pen over even one more word. I have convened with a coven of memoirists to stir our work in bubbling cauldrons, hoping to make a bitter brew better. Our mentor has guided us, gently suggesting which eye of newt to take out and which toe of frog to leave in. I’ve manipulated and massaged it with the skill of a shiatsu master. So now, it’s time to see if I can set it free into the world, via an eager publisher.

Based on what said mentor shared with us in our last session about that daunting process, I’d prefer to start on a new one rather than subjecting the manuscript, and myself, to the rigor required.

I am about as excited as a high school junior facing the formidable task of selecting and applying to colleges. Only the nagging parents are missing. The way I understand it, I have three options:

1. The Big Five publishing houses. Getting one of these to even read it would be akin to applying to the Ivy League. And I have about as good a chance of doing that as I did of getting into Harvard. My credentials are not glorious enough.

2. Smaller publishers. Better odds, but still a “reach.” If I apply early, the stars align, and I sacrifice something to the writing gods, maybe I’ll get in.

3. Self-publishing. Modern parlance would call this a “likely” option. When I was actually applying to college, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we called them “safety schools.” These days there is no such thing. This is like community college. Easy access, and you can still get a good education, but the degree doesn’t carry the street cred of options one or two.

It wouldn’t hurt if I knew someone who knew someone on an admissions committee somewhere, or if I could afford to endow a building. It would help if everyone already recognized my name. But in the absence of those, or any other tangible advantages, I’m on my own. So I will have to apply myself, work hard, look to my guidance counselor for advice, send off a passel of applications, and hope for a thick envelope in return.


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