For people who like to bet on horses, there’s something called the Future Book. Sounds sci-fi, doesn’t it. But it’s only about the Kentucky Derby. What someone can do (not me, though, since it’s a sucker bet) is bet now on who’ll win the Derby on the first Saturday in May. Why not wait until then, you ask? Because the odds this weekend are astronomical compared to Derby Day. Basically you’re bettering on potential. Most 3 yr. old colts (and pretty much only those guys run in the Derby) haven’t matured completely. Some have run only short races. But the potential is there. Maybe a blazing six furlongs. Maybe a huge, locomotive late run that mowed his opposition down. 30-1 now is way better than 2-1 on Derby Day. But that assumes he’ll stay healthy and rise quickly through the ranks. If you bet now and he stubs his toe tomorrow, kiss that money good-bye. (Brace yourself for the metaphor, kids.)
Another Metaphor I Can Hammer Into Submission
Writers are like that. When I met Tobin fifteen or so years ago, I knew he was a genius. Not everybody knew, though, so his odds, so to speak, would have been juicy. Now, everybody knows. No money to be made there for a bettor.
Also like thoroughbreds, not everybody lives up to his/her potential. We all know a story about some first book phenomenon with a $100k new contract who didn’t sell 30 thousand copies of the second book and was essentially never heard from again. The equestrian equivalent of ending up at the Big Fresno Fair.
And then there are the mid-level steeds who week in and week go out there there and do the best they can. A few aches and pains but those never trump determination and guts.
Most of us ache a little for one reason or another. But we write, anyway. Revise diligently. Send the manuscripts out regularly. Celebrate the wins, deplore the losses and the next morning or the next week or the next month, get out there and run for our equivalent of the roses again.
P.S. An Australian editor of a magazine called JACKET has a new web page and this week I’m on it with a selection of poems from the past. If you’re interested, go to my website (http://ronkoertge.com/rons-books/). The JACKET info will be up today or tomorrow.
Ron, I love that metaphor. There's a place for each of us in the horse race of the writing life, as long as we can get through the starting gate.
Eleanora Feb. 10, 2012