This blog first mentioned In Comtemplation and In Conversation on February 17, 2017. It is a book featuring paintings at the Tate Britain in London – the idea, the prose and the photography is mine. The poetry Jessica’s and Chris Jackson did an incredible job photoshopping it, formatting it and arranging for the publication, The original version of the book had been put aside (and distributed to friends( because it was flawed. There was a vague plan of redemption. However, this driven individual, true to her word, did redeem it and did so with style (if I do say so myself). This time round I had help – my high school and university friend Lynne did an amazing job of editing and paring away paragraphs of the newly written Introduction. Then wonderful trusty Chris was there, he reformatted it and sent it off to be printed. I flew to London in December to meet up with the new and improved version with the aim of offering it to the Tate Britain. Approximately a month prior to my departure I had discovered who I should be talking to about the acquisition. I properly emailed Simon Armstrong telling him of my impending visit and asking for an audience. I did not receive a response.
At first things went well. Chris delivered a box full of books and they were a joy to behold. They were beautiful, the formatting improved and only one typographical error that I could detect. With a book in hand I immediately went to the Tate and tried to track down Mr. Armstrong. He was a wily one, even with the cooperation of many of his staff he managed to evade me. He emailed (finally) saying he had not one second of time in the ten remaining days to meet with me but promised he would look at the book on the Friday before my Monday departure. He did not get back to me. A few days after my return from London I did send him an email with the subject line: “Why did you not get back to me?” He did respond to this email, a rather snotty one, saying it was a busy time of year and warning me about copyright issues. Now why he waited until then to raise the issue is beyond me. He later wrote and rejected the book but did manage to give me the name of the person I should talk to about copyright issues.
I was extremely irate but wisely waited an appropriate amount of time before sending him the following email. These days I practice something called “ire abatement”. If I wait until I calm down things work out better and my aim improves. The following email was sent to Mr. Armstrong on January 10, 2018. Have I received a response? Of course not.
Dear Mr. Armstrong, I do disagree with you, that the ‘book is unlikely to generate sufficient sales to warrant being stocked.” Many people have taken the book and commented that the book enhances their enjoyment and gives an added dimension to the experience of viewing the permanent collection. It would be a unique addition to those attempting to augment their appreciation of the permanent collection
The book, as you read in the Introduction, was a “vanity” project and never intended to be sold ‘publicly” but instead an exercise in creativity. My last two paragraphs capture what it meant to me and that is enough. Pursuing a wider distribution with you did, quite frankly, put a damper on the whole project. I do not plan on selling the book (on any wide scale) publicly so the time and expense for the licensing issue is quite irrelevant. I cannot imagine that I would be pursued legally as there would be difficulty with jurisdiction. Furthermore, I am not an ideal defendant as there would be no profit motive because I do not have, as we say in USA jurisprudence, deep pockets.
But nonetheless my creative mind did come up with a brilliant idea and one that I briefly shared with Matthew Randall, the Catering Manager at the Tate Britain who is, incidentally, one of my favorite people in the whole world. The Rex Whistler Restaurant occasionally features dinners showcasing their fine wines and superb food. Often diners first enjoy special exhibits prior to dining, and then once (during my tenure in London) a learned couple lectured on the Whistler murals. I had the fine idea of introducing the new Rex chef through one of the dinners with the delightful addition of the book and myself, sort of a book end star attraction . The book would be provided as part of the price of dinner and I would be there to do a reading from one or two of the pieces from the Permanent Collection. If you would have taken a couple of minutes to meet me last December you could have seen that I can be quite charmingly charismatic and funny. It might be rather delightful.
I am copying Matthew with this email and leave it to the two of you to work on the details. You know where to find me. (providing my email and home address)
It will be interesting to blog this experience – the one shared with you. The thirty day figure (1,679 visitors making 6,500 visits) was gathered when I was visiting London. I do have followers in the ‘mother country’ as we New World folk call the UK. In your words, thanks and the best, Alexis McBride.”
The ire that I experience is not so much for the mishandling I received. Mr. Armstrong placed ‘his’ copy of the book in the library of the Tate and there are two copies in the Member’s Room and one in Mathew’s office. I have sufficient means to pay for the publication of the book and I plan to sell the remaining books at my favorite car boot sale. I will journey back to London in a couple of months and have a great day back at my second favorite place. First there is the Rex Whistler Restaurant and second is the car boot sale held on the grounds of the Pimlico Academy every Sunday. I did, of course, visit the car boot sale when I was in London in December. I was greeted enthusiastically:
She: It is you! I heard you before I saw you. I will never forget your laugh. Where have you been?
Me: I live in Canada now, I am so happy to be in that country.
But it is the empathy I feel for other embryonic writers less favorably situated that incites my rage. I fear the publishing world is over populated with the likes of Simon Armstrong whose sole function seems to be the destruction of the poor creative souls who submit their works for approval and possible publication. Then there is the creative writing programme “industry” populated by the likes of Julie Wheelwright. It is a miracle that my creative spirit was not squelched by her. (Type her name in the search engine for that story).
i do admit that I have become spoiled. I fire off a blog, Chris posts it and thousands read it. There is no Mr. or Ms. In Between. I had thoroughly intended to publish Uncle Dave’s biography as an ebook. This experience strengthened by resolve to proceed in this manner. One does not loose publication rights when the ebook option is used but the book is yours – free of interference. I just have to write it Believe me, I am working on it and making great progress with the help of many positive and wonderful people.
I end on a positive note . This conversation actually took place at the Equinox gym last Friday. I share these words, not to brag, but to illustrate that when one is positive good things happen. I am talking to a handsome young trainer who is sporting a new mustache, his nickname is Middle Name.
Me: I like your new mustache, It makes you look even more handsome!
Middle Name: I would like some mustache wax..
Me: I am not getting mustache wax for you. I can’t do everything for you, I need to be writing my book.
Middle Name: But you are everything to me!
Me: Hottie! Please write this down, I have to blog it!
So Hottie did and I did. You see Mr. Armstrong you should have met with me. Hahahahaha! A photograph of the book will be attached to this blog.