It is two and a half years ago and I have just met a writer on the boardwalk of Venice Beach. He is selling his first novel.
We are among the webbings of tourists and locals and cops on bikes and in squad cars. Everything is modest about the writer, from his clothing down to the cover of his book. His merchant station isn’t bedraggled by knock off sunglasses or copper jewelry or items for the hallucinating, homeless flower children that are now in their late 50s and 60s dancing to the sounds of 1970 on roller blades; either for money or for the kind of insane enjoyment I will never experience. Hopefully.
The writer’s name is Peter Joseph Gallager. He has recently published The Little White Trip and I like his getup and that he is a writer, something I call myself despite the fact I have yet to produce anything noteworthy. A few stories here and there. Hundreds of scattered journal entries. Never poetry, though. Too constrictive.
As I listen to him speak I am trying not to remind myself that Peter is young and already has a book to his name, that Truman Capote penned Other Voices, Other Rooms when he was 21.
I am 22.5 years old.
I got an A+ on a few college papers before graduating.
Around us, street dancers engage in stunts that earn them money based on how many tourists are in the crowd, and the distance at which they traveled to get to Venice. The performers know this well and each time the audience donates money the Venice con-men yell out the city or country the ignorant tourist is from with a giant megaphone, saying the performance cannot be found anywhere else, that it’s an American thing. A guy from Chicago spits out a $5. A lady from Florida gives $10. Some British dude slaps a $20 in the performer’s hand, loving the decline of the American dollar and his ability to spend twenty bucks on things that don’t matter at all. China unrolls a $50 like it’s a scroll while the performers use the megaphone to make everyone laugh and feel like they are watching a reality show in reality.
I thank Peter (and I can call him Peter and not Mr. Gallagher because the dude is selling his work on the beach and not from behind a polished desk in the spiraled buildings of corporate America) for the writing advice and leave with my family feeling inspired but not as truly inspired as the day, years later, when I will find the book in the bottom of a dresser and use it as inspiration for a blog. My dad tells me if I ever write a novel he will be more than happy to live on the boardwalk and sell my book himself. I tell him he has a deal.
The memory winks out and it is present time again. While I laughed at my dad’s comment, his genuine seriousness resonates with me now as I continue to produces posts for WordPress in the hopes of gracing their “Freshly Pressed” section. For non-bloggers, the Freshly Pressed section is like the front page of a newspaper or online publication. Stories featured get major coverage, which is something I want. Badly. And it’s not to gain an ungodly amount of followers but to make sure people are actually reading my writing, that my words are sinking in somewhere for someone.
But I can’t just set up shop outside the WordPress Headquarters like Peter Joseph Gallagher and sign autographs for people while promoting my work. Mainly because they would think I am a crazy person- which could actually help given the common tendency for complete idiots to find stardom- and because my work is on a website, electronic paper I cannot sign or initial.
So I did some research on the matter and found a facts page on WordPress itself which gives tips on how to obtain the illusive dream I am pursuing. Here are some bullet points from “Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed.”
- Write unique content that is free of bad stuff
- Make posts visually appealing
- Add relevant tags
- Cap off your post with a compelling headline
- Aim for typo free content
After reading this I am a little disappointed. It’s general journalism and marketing stuff. That’s it. Give me advice Old Man River never knew. The coal, right, not the diamonds. The real gritty stuff most people look over. Because this roulette table of chance WordPress is slinging my way is not going to cut it.
What to do, then?!
Write unique content? Yes.
Free of bad stuff? Mmmm…sorry Grandma. No.
Make posts visually appealing? If Andy has time to do some art for me.
Add relevant tags. Eh.
Compelling headline? Let me think…
Typo free content? If they are lucky.
I feel like Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber when he says, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”. Except I know full well that I am screwed. There is no way I am going to get on the Cover of WordPress. Those nice rectangles of Commenting Heaven have not been reserved for me. Alas. But based on the instructions of how to find that Freshly Pressed pot of gold I will gladly count myself out and leave it to the Leprechauns. Making bangs and booms and flashing colors is not my thing.
Creating words is hard enough.