[Testing, testing: am trying out some new functionality - uploading video. Appreciate the technology, not the content. Tomorrow I will try to produce something more cinematically satisfying and/or relevant to the blog.]
It's not easy being an aspiring author. Here I am, one manuscript already completed (Three Peaks in Peru) and another underway and nary a book deal in sight.
OK, so I haven't exactly busted a gut putting my proposal out there - have been rather busy rowing oceans and suchlike, but it's faintly discouraging to get comments like these:
"With travel/adventure books that (unless it's Chatwin or Theroux or Bryson or whatever) or someone well-known or famous with an already-existing platform like, say, Ewan McGregor) all too often, and no offence is intended here, the book risks being a longer version of the school-days essay 'What I did on my holidays', and the book is always going
to have to fight against publishers wondering why they should care."
How many people rowed 3000 miles on their holidays, I should like to know?
Or from a freelance journalist...
"Cracknell and Fogle are writing their tome to be published by Atlantic Books on 12th October. According to my agent, the publicity is substantial and we'd have little chance of convincing a 'named' publisher to produce your version because you're not known. Apparently he's tried to flog 3 experience/adventure biogs over the last 4 months and interest has been nil. If you're not well known, it seems, forget it."
But how am I supposed to GET well-known if nobody wants to know? I thought book publishing fell within 'Creative Arts', not 'Bean-Counters Wanting a Dead Cert'. (Bitter? Moi?)
The temptation is to go for infamy and pull some ridiculous stunt to try and get noticed - Erica Roe springs to mind as somebody who gained short-lived notoriety after revealing her considerable assets to a delighted (predominantly male) crowd at Twickenham rugby ground many years ago.
But I've already streaked across an entire ocean and nobody so much as batted an eyelid.
So for now, my loyal readers, I shall have to confine my literary ambitions to this humble blog.
[For those who really need to know, here is a picture of Erica - not for the young or prudish.]
Above: a lynx
Last night at a barbeque in Baie d'Urfe, an affluent suburb of Montreal, the festivities were suddenly interrupted by a cry from one of the guests, 'Skunk!' and everybody grabbed hold of their dogs, children, etc., to prevent them chasing after the notoriously smelly critters. They release a pungent pong to deter attackers, and apparently the smell can linger on clothing, skin or fur for up to a month.
Today I went with my friend Toby and his 2-year-old daughter Anna to see some (marginally) less smelly mammals at the Ecomuseum. Coyotes, bears, lynx, wolves, owls, bald eagles, caribou, chipmunks and raccoons.
Toby is an adventure filmmaker, and we've been reviewing my Atlantic footage with a view to making a documentary and/or creating a pilot episode for a series about the Pacific bid. I've been getting some top tips on video editing techniques, and also watching Toby's videos of his adventures in Tibet, Mongolia, the Atlantic and the Sahara. I've learned a lot.
Another thing I've learned - further to last night's events, apparently the best known antidote to skunk stink is to bathe in tomato juice. I don't know who found this out, or how. If you were skunk-ed, would your first instinct be to bathe in Bloody Marys?
Sorry - no photos of skunks. Didn't want to risk contamination. It's hard enough staying vaguely fragrant in 30 degrees and high humidity anyway, without adding skunkiness into the equation.
I travel half way round the world, and then spend my days sitting the in food court of a huge shopping mall. How sad is that?!
But I have work to do, and here I have access to free internet and electrical sockets. It's also air-conditioned, and the temperature outside is in the thirties. So for the last 2 days I have sat on my perch at the long bar and tapped away at my keyboard, lining up speaking engagements, making contacts on the West Coast, and catching up on my emails.
I've also at long last become a member of the Skype community, which will be very handy whenever my nomadic lifestyle puts me somewhere with broadband. Mum rang me on my Skype connection yesterday and it was great to chat without worrying about a GDP-sized mobile phone bill.
But speaking of oversized things, the one big disadvantage of spending my days in a food court is that I have unlimited access to food of all the worst kinds. A new Montreal contact rang this morning to suggest he can probably get me on the radio, and maybe even the TV. 'Radio is better,' I said. 'TV adds 7 pounds.'
He also offered to put me in touch with some local Ironman triathletes if I wanted training partners. I nearly choked on my chocolate chip cookie. I'd be struggling to keep up with the Tin Man, let alone an Ironman...
Hayden is my ex-husband's son, and Gwenaelle is his mother. They feel like close relatives, but I don't know what the genealogical term for them would be. It's a long story.
The immigration official at the Canadian border at 3am last night asked me where I would be staying. 'With friends.' 'And how do you know these friends?'
My mind flashed back to those turbulent days of 2002-3 - the separation, my husband telling me he was to be a father, my genuine pleasure at the news, the dream I had about Hayden before he was born, the powerful connection the first time I met him just after my return from Peru, the way Gwenaelle and I had instantly got on, memories of us sitting in the back garden talking and drinking wine together while our mutual man cooked our supper...
How did I know these friends? 'They're friends of the family.'
Following on from my comment yesterday on the movie 'V for Vendetta', today I was doing some housekeeping of the files on my MacBook when by coincidence I came across a long-forgotten document (in fact, I don't even remember creating it), called 'Buddhist Anarchism'. The third paragraph reads:
'No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The "free world" has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies - Communist included - into vicious distorters of man's true potential. They create populations of "preta" hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.'
(Gary Snyder, 1961)
I don't regard myself as a political person by any means, but something is stirring here. Maybe it's my recent phenomenal weight gain that has put me in mind of consumerism and over-consumption, made me more aware of the consequences to self as well as to the global society of guzzling more than one needs.
And here I am about to embark on a tour of the global capital of consumerism - the USA.
But I do stress that I have no political drum to beat. I am fascinated by this aspect of North America, but will attempt to do no more than observe what I see, as objectively as I can. I hope that in my Atlantic dispatches I came across as someone who says what's so, and I will try to use same guiding principle on dry land.