JULY 26, 2016, JEAN SHEPHERD WOULD HAVE BEEN 95, AND SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I TURNED 78. I THINK WE’VE BOTH WAITED LONG ENOUGH.
My two failure-to-find-publishers for completed book manuscripts about Shepherd I’ve cannibalized and posted on this blog: Keep Your Knees Loose: More A. & E. of Jean Shepherd and Jean Shepherd Legends, Conundrums, & Gallimaufries. They detail my quests for new information about Shepherd, and include descriptions of communications I’ve received from his third wife, actress Lois Nettleton, letters written by his producer/fourth wife Leigh Brown, an interview with the delightful woman I call “The Vampire Lady,” an extensive interview with Shepherd enthusiast, lead singer/song writer of rock band Twisted Sister, Dee Snider, and an interview with the editor/publisher of one of Shepherd’s books and of Leigh Brown’s book, THE SHOW GYPSIES. I comment extensively on the similarities and contrasts between Shepherd and his best friend, Shel Silverstein. I discuss the relationship between Shepherd and Hugh Hefner, and with the Beatles. I describe how Shepherd’s creation for Sesame Street, the animated cartoon “Cowboy X” (which can be seen on YouTube), and his story about getting a fishing fly hook stuck in his ear, are both important metaphors for his entire career. The third unpublished book manuscript incorporates dozens of Shep’s travel tales, also completely posted on this site.
My picaresque travels through the land of Shep have led to many adventures and to many new and fascinating discoveries–and I continue sallying forth in all directions in search of more grails.
• • • • • •
For the last two years (yes, 2 years) I’ve been told by a publisher that my manuscript of Shepherd’s kid stories as told on the air and none of which have been published in print, seemed close to getting a contract. Another publisher reported interest in it, but was heading for a couple weeks’ vacation around Christmas and he’d get back to me soon thereafter–it’s now July and no word. In mid-March the first publisher said the book was just awaiting a contract signature from one of the biggest/best-known New York publishers! Several months later (mid-May) I asked in an email what was happening about that imminent signature–I got no reply. It’s now several months after my tickler email about that signature and still no word.
For half a century, through fiction and non-fiction, I’ve worked hard at writing, attempted publishing, awaiting publishers’ responses to me (usually at least a 3-month delay in publisher-responses for each submission–and they discourage multiple submissions), and agonized my way through the contracted-for two Shep books from signed contract to publication day (Excelsior, You Fathead! and Shep’s Army). “Agonized”? Besides the understandable hard work, let’s just leave the rest at: lost battles, insult, and injury.
I tried 10 agents, asking them to represent my Shep books, and got no positive replies.
Now I’m tired of hanging by my thumbs.
So I’m going to start posting my transcripts of Shepherd’s broadcast kid stories on this blog. At any stage, should a publisher hand me a signed contract, I’ll sign it, stop posting the kid book (if I’m forced to), and we can get going on putting those kid stories in print-on-paper, the way I–and probably Shep–would have preferred to see them.
Followers of this blog have seen the very positive forewords for the book manuscript from Twain, Fields, and Kafka. (Thanks, guys!) I’m about to start posting my introduction to this book that’s tentatively titled:
I WAS THIS KID, SEE–
JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES
JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES–
I WAS THIS KID, SEE
SHEP’S KID STORIES
or something sorta like that.
Happy birthday, Jean Parker Shepherd.