I’m sure, for a lot of people, a pseudonym makes sense. The minister who writes erotica. The high school coach who writes horror and kills off all the jocks in Chapter One. It wouldn’t make sense for me though. I’ve written environmentally themed fiction and I’m an environmental lawyer with a wide network of tree-hugger friends and colleagues who read books.
I was tempted to hide behind a pseudonym though. Writing has always been a private pursuit and suddenly my work is going public. Sure, I’ve read my writing in workshops and I’m not shy about speaking in public. I’m not shy at all. But, most of the time, I’ve spoken publicly on behalf of someone else, on behalf of a cause I believe in. Self-promotion is just plain awkward.
Apparently, to find readers, though, you have to tell people about your book.
In Drowning Cactus, Gordon, a college-drop out attempting to earn a few bucks, is caught attempting to steal a cactus from a national park. The media pegs him as an eco-activist, rather than a bumbling thief. Reluctantly, Gordon agrees to be interviewed by a T.V. reporter.
“Gordon, you picked Organ Pipe National Park, a park on the US- Mexico border to take your stance. What’s your take on US- Mexico relations?”
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The border is a tough place. I mean, obviously, it’s a desert, so that has its challenges, and even if you get past the desert and get into this country, well America’s a tough place, too. If it were up to me, we would be welcoming people who come into this country, making things easier for them. We should probably make it easier for the people who are already here. Not just the immigrants. For everyone.”
“So, was the cactus you moved into the road a symbolic welcome, a beacon for immigrants?”
“That wouldn’t be much of a welcome. People crossing the desert don’t need a cactus. They need water, right? And food. Then maybe a place to stay, a job or whatever. The same stuff the rest of us need.”
“Cut,” the reporter said to her cameraman. “Look,” she said, facing Gordon directly for the first time. “Can I give you some advice? If you want to do something with this, you’ve got to get your message straight. No one’s going to hand you a book deal just because you put a cactus in the road. Get your story straight. Then call me.”
“I don’t want a book deal,” Gordon said. “I just want to get out of here and back to my life.”
I feel a little bit like Gordon right now. I want to get back to my life. I’d rather be writing a new book instead of blogging about an old one.
But Gordon has a special place in my heart. He’s inarticulate and camera shy and prone to getting lost. He’s the last person you’d pick to champion any cause.
Gordon’s journey in Drowning Cactus from unwitting hero to national icon is funny and touching. It will make you want to trek out into the Sonoran desert. I’d love it if Gordon lived in a few more imaginations and if Organ Pipe National Monument suddenly became a vacation hot spot.
So, no pseudonym for me and no obscurity for Drowning Cactus.
Commencing social networking and blog.