Sunday Archive III: Adventures with Craig’s List

The gmail cleanout continues.

This made it onto the front page in 2004, I think.  I don’t remember writing any of this…

From December 2004:

Adventures with Craig’s List

A buddy of mine bought a baby buggy from Craig’s List.  Say that ten times fast.  I was about three bottles of wine, five beers and one scotch in and flirting with his very pregnant wife when he drunkenly lurched away from the dining room table and said he had to check his email.  He returned five minutes later and shouted, “I got the baby buggy!”

His wife squealed in delight and I turned, Johnny Walker in hand, and slurred something to which he replied, in a hushed whisper, “Craig’s List.”

I was ignorant of what my friend called America’s greatest grassroots movement since All Your Base, so, when the booze wore off, I crawled from my bed to my Writer’s Studio, which is a 1970’s card table with a spider plant, a laptop and 17 empty beer bottles precariously balanced on it.    My laptop was on, which is always suspicious, so I glanced at what I had been writing in my sleep — she is thinking of me I am thinking of her she is there blue letters following eyes darkfall night with tits and sex — and then went to Craig’s List.

I’ve since learned that everybody in the world knows about Craig’s List and, somehow, I’ve been left out of the loop.  There’s everything from horny midgets looking for a hookup at the corner Starbucks to IT companies seeking reasonably intelligent tech heads.  My first action immediately became clear – take out a personal ad.  It’s a sort of compulsion these days.  Wherever I can, I take out personal ads, then I neglect to check my email because all women online are fat and hideous.

Now, now, I don’t mean to be rude.  There’s nothing wrong with fat girls and it’s a real challenge for them to blah blah blah.  See?  I’m politically correct.  The girls aren’t fat, they’re attractive-challenged.

Actually, I do know one internet girl who isn’t fat.  She sent me pictures and she’s pretty hot, as a matter of fact, and very pink, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

No one responded to my personal, which is a shame.  I thought it was one of my better attempts.  It’s odd, too, because there are a dozen lonely women posts at the DC Craig’s List every day.  If they’re so desperate, why aren’t they scanning the men looking for women personals?  Women are selfish.

Well, after striking out at love, again, I made Craig’s List one of my daily stops so I could price competitive baby buggy’s and show up my friend.  Then, in my ongoing attempt to bring traffic to Great Society, I figured I’d write up a random ad in the “Writing Gigs” spot.  I was drunk, so I threw out the usual stuff – Great Society is owned by Random House and everyone who writes for us will get a contract for a million dollars and they’ll have three years to finish their novel, of any length. All are accepted.

In two days, I got about 120 replies.  Only one of those folks showed any signs of intelligence.  That gets me to my point.  I’m sort of writing this on the commuter train right now, so stick with me if I wander.  There’s a six foot girl in the seat facing me with long black hair and the most exotic face this side of a Fellini movie.  She’s been painting on her eyebrows for about 25 minutes now and I can’t decide if she’s frightening or insanely beautiful.

Writing is about selling yourself.  Whether you’re responding to something from Houghton Mifflin or an obviously drunken ad on Craig’s List for some back-country internet zine, you don’t send one word emails that say “interested” or “Pay?”  You don’t send stuff like “Tell me what you pay and I’ll write.” Or “You need me, but you gotta hook me up with an agent.”

You certainly don’t fucking send me four pages of rambling shit that basically asks “Do U NoW How to Get ME Publisshed?~?!?”

When I’m not at the Greatsociety office, here at the penthouse suite of the World Building, I work for an organization that deals with real writers all day.  Now, I’m laid back.  I look for quality writing and I don’t care about jumping hoops and well-worded cover letters and proper outlines or proposals or shit like that.  I’m not like other publishers. I work with writers I like.  But there are rules.  First of all, if you start out talking about money, you ruin my high.  I don’t respond to ultimatums.  I’m not going to publish you if you’re a retard – and you are!  I don’t need you.  There are 300 million people in America and 450 million of them are wannabe writers.  Why are you special?  The burden’s on you.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that writers send some hoity-toity proposal every time they contact some jack off lit zine, but there are some important points to remember.  The person taking your writing wants to know a little bit about you – are you a 14 year old runaway who can’t string two sentences together or are you a 33 year old single mother who wants a sexual relationship with me, no strings attached?  Do I like your writing?  Maybe send some samples.  You can link to a page, if you like, but don’t send attachments.  Nobody accepts attachments because all writers are dangerously unbalanced and are responsible for every virus in existence, which they send to publishers who reject them.  I know how it works.

Part of selling yourself as a writer is to be both confident and humble.  It’s the great test of your life, moving the stuff you write, because you begin on the bottom.  The publisher is looking for someone capable of doing the work and who doesn’t have to be mothered.  Don’t think there are any good graces there.  Sure the publisher needs you, but you’re easily replaced.  I mean, you have been in a bookstore, right?  There are more than nine writers on those shelves.  In fact, one million titles are published each year.  That’s just books.  How many magazines and journals and webzines are out there, do you think?  Oh, and don’t forget that only about 10% of submitted manuscripts are published each year.

The one guy who wrote me and caught my eye did it right.  He gave me a brief introduction, used a curse word or two, sounded crazy, and provided a couple of stunning samples pasted right in the email.  I knew he was in before I read the samples.  You get a feel for these things.  The author Kate Horsley had a question she asked her creative writing students – “Are you a writer, or do you write?”  A trained eye can tell the difference right out the gate.  What I find disheartening is that I’m sure some of the other folks who sent me a retarded email are capable, as well.  But they don’t know how to communicate, they don’t understand the trade.  90% of writers don’t strike out because they’re bad.  They strike out because they can’t cope with the business aspect of writing.  They can do the work, but they can’t deal with what happens next.

So if you’re interested in writing for someone, you should be able to write more than one word.  If you want to know how much we pay, you might want to let us know what you can do.  I’m not going to pussyfoot around with some fuckhead writer just to find out that they can’t write shit.   If your response to that is, hey, payment details are part of the whole thing, well, you’re right.  Except you still want to tell me a bit more because an email that just says  “Pay?”  is junk mail.  Hell, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.  What if we do pay and some intern is checking the emails and, like at my real writing job, we got 300 emails a day from people?    What’s going to happen to your “Pay?” and “interested” and one line crap questions?  They’ll be erased, and that’s one more shot you missed.

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