Michael Wolraich's picture

    Sailing

    I've been trying to write this follow-up post for some time. It's long and personal--only for those who are curious about what happened to me since April.

    Last spring, I wrote about leaving. Professionally unfulfilled and socially disconnected, I agonized over whether to flee my adopted home of New York City...

    My ship has been quietly slipping from the harbor these past two years. I can't stay out here in the open sea. Shall I tack back to port or sail on? Even the idea of leaving makes me miss the city, but I cannot even remember my last New York moment.

    In the end, I decided to leave. New York had gone cold and sour for me. I packed my few belongings into a sterile white rental van and embarked for Philadelphia to live with my brother and his family while I decided whether to settle there. It was without question the loneliest, most heartbreaking move I've ever made. As I emerged on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel, I started sobbing.

    Living with my brother was therapeutic, and I'm grateful to have had his warm support. The time spent with him, his wife, and my absurdly cute nephew helped me to reconnect with the world after my period of isolation. But my brother's house was like a cozy rest stop that has sold out all its maps. It was not my destination, and I was still lost.

    I'd left a lover in New York, so I traveled back each week to visit her. Paradoxically, the distance brought us closer. Living in the city, it was all too easy to keep the relationship at arms length. I used to take the subway uptown to stay with her a couple of nights a week, but I refused to let her sink in or interfere with my routine. But when you visit from out of town to spend days at a time in your lover's home, there is no avoiding interference. She starts to sink in. You begin to miss her whenever you're away.

    Last spring, I wrote about the solace I took in blogging: "Writing has been for me like a hot fire in a cold dark room." Deeply unhappy with my technology career, I had resolved to become a writer, though I was unsure how to go about it and cynical about the possibility of success. I had begun writing a book, The Heretic's Bible, which I'd hoped to complete in Philadelphia...until another well-established author came out with a similar book. Seeking advice, I showed what I'd written to a friend's literary agent. She felt that the idea wasn't marketable enough and recommended that I drop the project. So I did.

    I spent the spring and summer kicking around book ideas, but none felt right--I kept kicking. I applied for a couple of journalism jobs--fruitless. I kept working technology projects that I could barely stand to look at. Finally, in early August, I stumbled on something. Researching a blog post on the separation of church and state, I was struck by right-wing complaints of Christian persecution. At the same time, someone forwarded me a video of Pat Buchanan raging about Judge Sotomayor's racism against white people. A light flickered in my head. I began to research the right wing's "persecution complex." There were blog references galore and an article or two (there have been many more written since), but no one had dedicated a book to the topic.

    I scribbled the idea into an email and sent it to the agent I had spoken to before. She asked to speak to me by phone the next day. I was in New York at the time, working at a coffee shop far from my girlfriend's place. I strained to think of a quiet place to talk where we wouldn't be interrupted by the gurgle of cappuccino machines or wailing sirens from the street. Finally, I walked out to a park on the east river and called the agent from my cellphone under a drizzling rain. The conversation was brief. She offered to represent me.

    By the end of the call, it had started to pour. I took refuge under an overpass by the highway. I called my girlfriend, my parents, and my brother. Then I stood there waiting for the rain to pass, feeling a sensation that I had not felt in a long time--hope.

    I spent the next three months developing the book proposal and juggling technology projects. The process brimmed with joyful creation and agonizing uncertainty. Finally, the proposal went out to some twenty publishers. Most of them passed on the project. Weeks went by without a word from my agent. I grew despondent and began to think about what I would do if no one published the book.

    My girlfriend had to spend the month of December in Seattle for work, and I went with her. It would be the longest time that we had spent together. We stopped first in San Francisco, where I used to live and have many close friends. Two days before Thanksgiving, I gave my girlfriend a walking tour of the city. As we were walking down a pretty tree-lined street in my old neighborhood, my agent called. I had received an offer--with an advance. The publisher, my agent said, was very excited.

    Seattle is a beautiful city, ringed by snowcapped mountains and tree covered islands. My girlfriend and I rented a little house near the University of Washington. We spent evenings exploring the city and weekends exploring the countryside. I did research in the university library and began to write my book in the coffeeshops. At the end of the trip, we talked about living together.

    I'm back in New York now, writing at my favorite coffeeshop in the East Village where I once lived. I'm sitting by the window with a warm pot of tea. There is fresh snow on the ground, already gritty from traffic and soot. The sky is bright blue with translucent stripes of high white clouds. I love my work. I'm in love with a woman.

    Sometimes you have to leave in order to return.

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    Comments

    I love a story with a happy ending. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those. Someone else has just written a book on the right wing's persecution complex.


    Damn it, Nebbie!


    Bastard! Are you sure that you want to start this war again?

    Sadly, there are two books about the right wing coming out at the same time as mine: American Taliban by Markos Moulitsas (DailyKos) and Not Gonna Take It by John Amato (Crooks & Liars).


    It's your fault, you know. Your piece was so touching I couldn't avoid pissing all over it. Nice rebuttal, btw.


    Face the fact that Moulitsas' book is going to outsell yours by a wide margin. He's got the name recognition and two books under his belt, plus a publisher who will market the book like crazy. He'll probably get to promo it on Jon Stewart.

    Never you mind. You've got an agent who believes in you, a publishing deal, a cash advance, a girlfriend -- and you're back living in New York. Way more than some of us have got. Start planning your second book now. And go for a sunny walk in the snow before it all melts.


    Don't worry about Moulitsas.

    Wolfrum says he's got some scandal card he's gonna play on him.

    (Or is that still a secret?)


    If you want to be in the inner circle with me, Quinn, you don't show my cards. Consider this a warning. As for G, screw it. Write what it is you want to write.


    Yeah, I know it, but I appreciate the reality check. I figured that there would be other books in the space timed for the election, but Moulitsas is a bigger name than I had anticipated. Have you read his other books?


    I just wanna see your name - THAT name - on the cover, dude. It's an opposition-crusher.

    GENGHIS (or GHENGIS if you prefer.)

    That alone will scare the shostakovich outta this guy.

    Besides, he's got this weird little name, and all he does all day is listen to his little people yip and yammer at him.

    So my advice is to crush him, dude. Head on. Right upfront. In the Intro. Or Foreword. Or Preface. One of those. Best way is to take him on, by name, and mock his views. Namecall a little. I find if you call people stuff like, "Hey Jewish guy!" that really catches attention. Especially since he's apparently Salvadoran-Greek or something. Whatev.

    More importantly, dude's a Catholic. Fact. So no chance he's gonna get Protestant psychoses. None. Jews? They get it. Catholics? They're all about the waxing. Tan lines. Hot cars. Hair.

    You're welcome.


    Thank you, Quinn. I will pass your recommendation on to my publisher.

    BTW, if someone has two last names, as in Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, which one should you use to refer to them in, say, a blog post. Moulitsas or Zuniga?


    I'd use the one that made me laugh hardest. Though mixing them up could work as well. You know, call him Moo Zitlaager or Klit Zoulander and stuff. Then giggle. GUARONTEED way to catch his attention. Do that, and building a nice toasty flame war is a stroll. All of which builds media interest.

    Beautiful post, G. Thanks for sharing it.


    It's great to have you back!! and congrats on all the great news - the book, and on the future mrs. genghis, of whom im a big fan (and not just because she's a fan of me!). cant wait til the weather warms up and we can go mini-golfing again.


    Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm in love, not engaged. Way to freak a guy out.


    Such a sad story.

    *sniff*

    That poor poor girl. Blind... no sense of smell... and... unbelievably... a complete lack of taste.

    *sniff*

    Otherwise though, damn fine story and congratulations all round! Laughing


    Man so you could literally get money for a "plan" to "write" a "book" when your only credential is some blog rant that might have really been written by your pet turtle (or the other way around)?

    Seriously, I've always believed you're too good to write just code. Too bad you're not gonna finish the Heretic's Bible. Or maybe your plan is like some Chinese bloggers who post some great beginning chapters online and put the rest only in a book.

    My only suggestion for your book (whichever comes first) is to put your picture here instead of a recent photo on the inside back cover unless you've cut your hair lately, since Salinger is dead and Chapman is due for parole again this August...


    Nice work, indeed, Genghis!  I can't wait to buy your book.  Congrats and good luck with the lady -- sounds like you both have a lot to look forward to!


    Did you hear they're engaged? At least that's what Deadman told me.


    Hey Paige! Good to hear you! How're you doin'?

    Did you hear about Genghis? HE'S GETTIN' MARRIED! And... not sure I should broadcast this yet, but.... oh why not... THEY'RE PREGNANT!

    Which is great, huh? Though the fiance says Genghis also has one undescended testicle. Which was also surprising news, but more like something I expected from Wolfrum. Or Nebton, come to think of it.

    Anyway. You'll be hearing all about this on Goggle Buzz soon enough I guess. Wolfrum says there are no secrets anymore. Which is a good thing I guess.

    What's that? My goiter? No... not too troublesome, thanks.


    The Soviets claim that he has one testicle. That isn't absolute proof.


    I'm always amused by what the Genghis rumor mill comes up with. And by the "Genghis rumor mill," I mean the Canadian antigenghite conspiracy.

    The truth is that I donated one of my testicles to science. From what I understand, it was purchased by an Australian scientist who implanted my chromosomes into various marsupial ovaries. He has reportedly built an army of half-Genghis werewombats somewhere in the Outback. Whether he plans to release them in the middle of the Vancouver figure skating competition in a fiendish plot to take over the northern hemisphere, I cannot say.

    PS Thanks, Paige.


    Are you gonna have more on that werewombat stuff in your book? 'Cause if it were true, or even "true," I suspect you'd be gettin' some readers.

    Mostly teenage girl readers, but if these werewombats had nice pelts and could be worn as fashion accessories, you might just have a winner on your hands.

    Oh yeah. Congrats on keeping that other testicle. I'm sure Aussie Science offered a substantial sum for the pair.


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