In Seattle a few summers ago, we took an underground tour, a decidedly dank and touristy meandering through the history of Seattle and its boom as a result of the gold rush in Alaska.
The tour guide explained how as would-be gold miners set sail from Seattle, many others profited off their dreams. Some businesses sold necessary tools and provisions. Others played on hope and gullibility; my particular favorite was the story of people selling “gold-sniffing gophers.”
Now, I’m a writer, specifically a yet-unpublished novelist. And while I believe I possess balanced amounts of optimism and skepticism, I am trying to navigate through a landscape not unlike the one faced by dreaming gold miners. Sure, there are professionals who make a living truly helping writers; there are also “agents” who charge reading fees and vanity presses that do little more than part a writer from her money.
Writers’ conferences are another staple of this landscape. I’ve been to a few. When my confidence wanes and cynicism takes over, I see so many deluded dreamers (self included) paying to hear the expertise of agents and publishers, hoping to make that one connection that will push them out of oblivion and onto bookshelves. I texted home during a break, “It’s so many gold-sniffing gophers.”
But then I informally pitched to one of the agents. As I described my book, she smiled. “I want to read that when you’re done.” Those words were enough to get me excited again, to erase the thought that my concept is stupid and nobody would want to read it. She may not end up my agent, but her encouragement was the prod I needed to keep going. My enthusiasm is renewed for this book, the one I feel I am uniquely qualified to write, the one that continues to ferment within my imagination even when I’m not actively writing it.
All hail the gophers!