I’m going to blow my image as a reasonable, sane, comparatively mature woman here and admit, right out in front of [insert deity of your choice] and everybody that I love pirate movies, and of all of the pirate movies I love the one I love the most is Muppet Treasure Island. I love Mrs. Bluberidge’s tardy efforts at political correctness. I love Tim Rice doing Long John Silver. I love the music. I love the way the movie plays with words and pirate conventions. Most of all, I love Billy Bones’ drunken ramblings that invariably end, “Now isn’t that a story worth the hearing?”
A story worth the hearing: the words are magic to me, maybe because I love telling stories. But here’s the thing: the jury’s still out on whether the stories I tell are “stories worth the hearing.” I hope they are, of course, but the world is full of people like me–people who looked inside themselves, spotted a story lurking somewhere (possibly behind a kidney), and at the cost of considerable pain, effort, and often money, had the story removed, pickled, and put up for sale.
The idea, of course, is that others will see the story and fork over cash to make it their very own. This doesn’t often happen; the market for things removed from one’s innards and preserved–be it ever so carefully–is not great, unless you’re an oyster. Something is inevitably lost in the journey from inside to outside and up for public view.
But there are those few, though, those pure souls who, like the oyster, can take the story lurking inside, bring it out into the light of day, and reveal not a shriveled, stinking, and somehow embarrassed-looking pancreas, but a pearl, glowing and lustrous and infinitely desirable.
You’d think it would be easy to tell the difference between pancreas and pearl, but I’ve never found it so. Because they are my own, I of course consider every one of my books pearls–some perhaps are slightly irregular freshwater pearls, but others, well, others are so wonderful they defy appraisal. But that’s me. I considered each story worth the telling, and I worked years, in most cases, to tell it as well as I could.
But are they stories worth the hearing? I don’t know. My sales to date would answer, “No.” Redeeming Stanley sells–slowly–on Kindle. It’s won an award, and it’s been done by a local book club, so there’s some consensus that it’s a story worth the hearing, but Good On Paper has yet to sell anywhere except at signings. Surely that should tell me something. And it does. I cushion the blow by reminding myself that I haven’t been marketing it properly, that I don’t have an agent, that when I get all the press kits sent out, it will of course go gang busters.
There’s just enough truth to that to make it comforting. It’s true I haven’t been marketing. But why not? Could it be that, all my protestations to the contrary, I myself have doubts not about whether the story was worth telling, but about whether it’s worth hearing? I don’t like to think so, but I suspect I’m too close to it to know if I’m looking at something better left inside, or a pearl.
I need some perspective. Maybe you can help. If you’re up for it, send me an email and I’ll send you an e-book version of Good On Paper. Before you make up your mind, you might want to check out the tab at the top of this page and read the book information and excerpt. Read as much or as little of it as you like, then send me a note with your opinion. Is this a story worth the hearing? Why, or why not?