31.8.06

Richard Zimler sobre a persistência - a ler

"When I had the final manuscript in my hands, I thought that the hard part was over. I had already secured an American literary agent, who had contacted me after reading one of my short stories in the magazine Puerto del Sol and signed me on after reading a draft of my novel. He began submitting the book to U.S. publishers, one at a time. Each usually took about two months to respond. By the end of 1994, 24 of them, including all the major houses, had turned the book down. Most said that they had liked what they'd read, but that their marketing departments didn't believe the book would actually sell. Some editors said this openly; others intimated it. Lisbon in 1506 might as well have been Mars. One editor even went so far as to say that he enjoyed my novel but had already bought his "Jewish book" for the year.
So there I was with nothing to show for three years of work and two years of waiting. And though I had started another novel, I began each morning by finding myself awake far too early and filled with dread. I started doubting my writing and my pursuit of the writing life.
At that point, I very easily could have abandoned my hopes for publication. Indeed, the idea was suggested to me on more than a few occasions. What saved me, I now realize, is that I believed deeply in the book and felt that I owed it to the story, if not myself, to keep trying. And I happen to think that that particular sense of debt I felt to my work was the key to my persistence. You must envision your novel as an entity in itself, a work that you, as its author, need to promote toward publication, no matter the obstacles and knowing full well that you might not get help from anyone else.
Since American publishers obviously weren't about to take a risk on it, I decided, given that the novel was set in Portugal, to try a publisher there. I contacted Quetzal Editores, which was recommended to me by two writer acquaintances of mine. The head of the house agreed to read my manuscript in English.
Three months later, when I called to find out her reaction, the editor asked me to come to her office in Lisbon, a good two hundred miles from Porto. This was not necessarily a good sign, because the Portuguese, being a bit old-fashioned, do not like to conduct business over the phone, even if it's to give a rejection. So I took a three-hour train ride, then a taxi to her office, preparing myself for another major heartbreak. After a few pleasantries, her first words, in Portuguese of course, were, "So what would you like on the cover?"
Much to my disbelief and joy, Quetzal Editores accepted my novel, publishing the Portuguese edition in April of 1996. It was translated by José Lima, a well-known local literary translator. It received mostly wonderful reviews and shot straight to the best-seller list. One day I was watching a book program on television about the novels on the best-seller list. The host was discussing each in descending order. Mine was not number ten or nine. It wasn't eight or seven. By about number five, I figured that my book had already fallen off the list and into the Land of Lost Books, where most every novel ends up, usually sooner rather than later. The last book mentioned, however, number one on the fiction list, was mine. My reaction, along with instantly bursting into tears, was to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.