Saturday, September 19, 2015
Dear Outside magazine
Dear Editor, Outside Magazine:
As I was assembling my exhaustive list of magazines for whom my work was entirely unsuited I quickly found there is not a single magazine I could omit. My work, while perfectly enchanting, clever, gracefully written, and, well, you get the picture, has a certain je ne sais quoi, a rare unpublishability, an almost magical resistance to both appropriate forms and popularity.
No, don't demur. How would you know? If you knew the sorts of things people did and didn't like to read you'd be a magazine editor.
How embarrassing, but you probably get that all the time.
But the fact that my work is equally unsuited to all existing magazines does not mean that it isn't unsuited to each magazine in its own individual way. It's like that Tolstoy quote about unhappy families that we've all quoted so many times we need merely now nod vaguely in its direction. My point is that my work is ill-suited to Glamour Magazine and Outside Magazine, but in very different, important ways.
At this point you may be asking yourself "Why am I receiving a letter from someone telling me in detail why their work is unsuited for my publication?"
I am perplexed too, but what say we follow these breadcrumbs as far as they go? After all, we've come this far already, a loaf can only produce so many crumbs, and the birds will get them soon enough, and then we'll never know.
I have taken a look at your magazine. It is full of devoted outdoor adventurers, places to go, interesting things to do, and news of the outdoor life. Fitness! Outdoor sports stars! Gear! Destinations! Fascinating people. None of these are my bailiwick. What is my bailiwick? I, myself, am my bailiwick, well, me and, apparently, using the word "bailiwick" as often as possible. Most of your articles are writers writing about other people and events, something I like to keep to an absolute minimum in my own writing.
However, sometimes someone in your magazine writes about the very interesting things they personally have done on a grand scale. This is the closest place of meeting between me and the contents of your magazine. I am not averse to the outdoors. I have gone on a lot of outdoor adventures. Unfortunately the word "grand" does not come into any of them. I prefer the phrase "faintly ridiculous".
I am not stumbling across a lot of faintly ridiculous adventures in your magazine. Sadly, for our collaborative future, faintly ridiculous is all I've got.
But it does suddenly strike me that I need not give up all hope of our working together. What if you have become exhausted by all this serious journalism, all these square jawed, jutting chin superheroes who climb mountains as warm ups and can not only cross the arctic in some unique, compelling way (amazing to me), but can also procure the funding for it (an almost godlike ability to me). What if you feel your magazine needs someone to leaven all the harsh envy and sense of jealousy and inadequacy so many of your readers must resist feeling in every issue that they get?
I could help those readers!
Here is a series of epic outdoor adventures I could share with your magazine if this is a new direction you'd like to explore:
The solo navigation of the upper St Croix/Namekagon rivers in a cheap, inflatable canoe, while pursued by swarms of ticks. (Trip cut short due to willies).
The 8000th dual descent of the Escalante river in more cheap inflatable boats that slowly split apart as we scraped downstream (cut short due to vinyl glue supplies running low).
The journey into the mosquito heartland in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area that involved me and my friend Grape mostly hiding in our tent playing Gin Rummy. (Trip not cut short because it wasn't very long to begin with, and the gin games were diverting).
My first backpacking trip, with my psychopathic older brother to The Grand Canyon, where I learned that canned oysters are not particularly good eating, I am not fit and never will be, and memorizing The Cremation of Sam McGee is my destiny and I, like the ancient mariner, must recite it to everyone I meet. Would you like to hear it now?
So, why don't you pick one of these and I'll write it up for your magazine. You can suggest a word count and I will wildly overshoot it or undershoot it.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. What fun we're going to have working together!