Sunday, March 8, 2015

Zooilla and the Art of Non-Fiction Proposals

By Laura P. Valtorta

Some people live fortunate lives. I am extra fortunate, but not as fortunate as Zooilla, who has an agent, writes creative non-fiction, and teaches at the University of South Carolina. I call Zooilla “super lucky.” He makes a living writing about animals, and teaching the squirrels who attend USC.

Who does that? Who earns money writing about monkeys, opossums, and bees and gets free trips to India and Brazil thrown in? Maybe somebody who used to work as a shepherd but turned into a good writer.

Zooilla uses Immaculate Consumption restaurant as his office. When he’s in town, he cycles to IC and spends most of the day working on his computer. I assume he’s writing. If you ask him how to submit non-fiction proposals, he shrugs his shoulders. “Ask the publisher,” he says. Nothing about outlines, synopses, cover letters, or sample chapters.

If you ask him again, he turns into Zooilla – the Italian-Finnish-American guy who fights like a raccoon. Then he orders a coffee, packs up his computer, and cycles away. 

Zooilla is in Jersey now (the island in England), on sabbatical with his family. He says he cycles through windy days to the coffee shops and pubs with his laptop, writes his usual stuff about animals and then picks up his children from school. His wife is doing the real work – teaching. On the weekends, they all go walking on the beach.

Zooilla is a super lucky guy who wrote an excellent book entitled My Backyard Jungle. But don’t ask him how he got published.

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