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Giving Thanks for Failure

Some time ago in a fit of writerly ambition I setup a Twitter account and a Facebook page for this blog. I added HTML widgets to its margins so the world could adore me with a single click. I methodically Tweeted and posted each new blog. This is, after all, what you are supposed to do if you have aspirations of going from blog to book: build your platform. I had read the publishing blogs, and I knew a lovingly crafted manuscript was not enough. I had to talk unique visitors and followers and likes in those query letters I sent out to literary agents.

And now, many months in, it is time to admit my failure. It’s not like it’s a secret. The two likes I have garnered on the blog are there for everyone to see. (Not that I am ungrateful to husband and my friend Bertie, who sometimes appears in my blog as R. number one, for their unfailing support.) On Twitter I have fared slightly better. There I have three followers: a friend from my old L.A. writing group, a Cotswold local and wine bar stalwart, and, my favorite, somebody named Candelaria whose last tweet was “super experience with hooking up with chix.” In social networking terms I am a nerd. A loser. A geek. It’s like high school all over again.

When it comes to querying literary agents my stats are more voluminous. My rejections positively dwarf my social network admirers, weighing in at nineteen not counting the two queries I wasted on perfectly good agents last year before my rewrite. Still I think my manuscript for Cotswoldia: A field guide to the not so simple life is good enough to be published, even if my percentage odds are about the same as the number of my Twitter followers. I think this because I read a lot, and I have put in the work, and because other people, including a handful of those nineteen literary agents, have read it and told me so. And so I query on, working my way down my ever dwindling Excel list of agents looking for memoir. I suppose I should  remove the Facebook Like button from its prominent position on my blog seeing how it practically bleats “no platform” to potential agents with its measly proclamation “2.”  But I won’t, because on today of all days I am thankful  for them both.


A Pilgrim’s Regress

To make it to my Thanksgiving table, a pilgrim need not have left Plymouth. In fact, he would have needed to head 167 miles in the opposite direction to Gloucestershire. Good thing my Thanksgiving was held on the Saturday after the holiday, giving said pilgrim an extra two days to make it. British employers are so uncooperative when it comes to celebrating American holidays on time.

Schedules were not the only challenge to my feast. Certain key ingredients proved illusive, namely the cornmeal and buttermilk called for in my corn muffin recipe. I knew I had a recipe for making buttermilk stashed in a notebook somewhere in the cupboard—a relic from my more active cooking days in Los Angeles—but I only discovered polenta was a legitimate substitute for cornmeal during some post-Thanksgiving Googling. When I found that box of Bisquick hidden away in a corner of the grocery store it seemed like a sign. I figured I could transform the recipe for scones on the side of the box into the American version of a biscuit by leaving out the sugar. Then I could pass off the result as a legitimate traditional Thanksgiving offering to my unsuspecting British guests. It was sticky work, but with the help of half the bag of powdered ingredients to flour my hands and the counter, I pulled it off with no one the wiser that biscuits were best served with sausage before 10AM.

There were a few other cheats along the way. I roasted an enormous turkey breast instead of the whole bird. I bought the pecan pie, a pecan tart really but who was going to notice? It was absurdly expensive, the pain of which was somewhat mitigated by the pronouncement of one guest that it was the best pie he had ever eaten. But when it came to the sweet potatoes, there was no room for compromise. Despite my hunch that the preparation wouldn’t suit the British palate, mine were encrusted with the requisite blanket of grilled white sugary goop, having painstakingly separated two bags of white marshmallows from their pink sisters earlier in the day. The pink ones tasted pretty much the same as the white, but the site of pale pink on the orange sweet potatoes looked just too sixties psychedelic puke for the autumnal tones of the Thanksgiving table. While my guests—doppelganger couple and R+R—seemed genuinely pleased to be trying an authentic American dish, nobody went back for seconds on this one. Of course leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving, so I counted myself lucky to be able to enjoy my turkey quesadilla with a side of sweet potatoes and a chaser of pink marshmallow straight from the bag.