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As many of you who have followed the Not Two/Noesta Aqui websites and Facebook page already know, this project is a unique collaboration between two like-minded souls: myself, Waldo Noesta, and a fellow pan-Perennialist who simply goes by “JP.” I am the designated wordsmith, while JP does all the behind-the-scenes work on our websites, runs the business end of ND Media, and generally lives life here in the Finger Lakes region of New York. (I was a resident of Florida when we posted the original version of this vignette on Noesta Aqui, but I have since joined JP and his family up north)
In 2014, JP worked with a small local publisher to put out his debut novel, a semi-autobiographical tale called “Birding in the Face of Terror.” Let’s just say that no part of the publishing process went as planned, and by late 2016 their relationship had ended, their contract was voided, and JP’s urge to publish was crushed.
As a friend of his and several of Birding’s other characters, I really believed in their story and was certain that it should be in print. We spent much of the 2016 holiday season discussing it. I urged him to be less hasty with the whole process, to go back to the manuscript for another round of revisions, and then take the time to search for the right publisher for his genre. JP’s response was basically, “If you love the story so much, then YOU fucking write it.”
So I did. Just before New Year’s, I emailed him a revision of the Prologue. He was gobsmacked, and I was hired. Just like that, I became Birding’s ghost writer. Except JP insisted that for legal (and probably psychological) reasons, he wanted no part of the original publication to be connected to the new version, including the title and the author credit; in a sense, he gave the book to me and ghosted himself.
But it was still HIS story, and there was a lot I needed to learn about JP and his first wife (who, sadly, I never got to meet) and the ways in which their story paralleled that of the other characters (it’s a little spooky, I gotta say, like a pair of doppelgängers). We agreed that this project would require some marinating and slow-cooking on the back burner, and that I should prioritize my own project, a short work of allegorical fiction called “The Peasant and the King,” which itself has gone through some crazy twists and incarnations but was feeling ripe for the picking.
Meanwhile, we did some “flash mob focus group” surveys on Facebook and came up with a new title for JP’s story that he seemed to like. He registered a new domain for it, designed a cover, and changed all the references to Birding on the two ND Media websites. I spent much of 2017 taking notes from conversations with JP and the other living characters, mainly Vera d’Angelo and her husband Joseph, and my housemate at the time in Florida, the lovely and estimable Betty Pickett, the earthbound goddess and unlikely guru who brought her two protégés together hoping that exactly this would happen.
I finished “Pez King” to my satisfaction in the latter half of 2018, and planned to focus on finding an agent to represent it. I just so happened to have two weeks scheduled off from my driving job to have minor surgery and some downtime to recover, a great time to research and make headway on that project.
Then, two years to the day after I sent JP my revision of the Prologue, he texted me just after midnight:
“We need to bring Birding back.”
Oh? Like the original title and all?
What about the legal shit and whatnot?
“Fuck it. That’s what the story is called. We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”
Great. I’m all for it but, why the about face?
“We’ve been marketing to the wrong audience. Pantheists don’t read fiction. They’re too busy hugging trees and bowing to Neil deGrasse Tyson memes.* Don’t worry, I know where we need to go instead.”
He sent me a link to an article. I had to agree with him. This is major.
“Do you feel ready to put the wraps on a submission draft within a month or two?”
Yes. (Ha. That was laughable in retrospect. But given all that changed in my life over the first several months of 2019, understandable. I believe it was completed in November.)
“Alright. Let’s do it then. This bird will fly again.”
So we spent the rest of my downtime retrofitting all the ND Media material back to “Birding.” It went slowly because WordPress had just introduced a new design program that JP learned on the fly (pun intended), but wow, the pages looked so much crisper and cleaner as he went. I rewrote the promotional material for “Birding” and the supplemental pages (based on sage advice from JP’s whipsmart partner, Asha) and for the e-book novelette, “The Continuing Story of Ananias and Sapphira,” which was also a little dated. By the end of my staycation, I think we had erased all trace of a period when “Birding” was called something else, and we were ready to hit the ground running when it was done.
Now it’s spring of 2020, and “Birding” is officially back in print. “Pez King” didn’t go to the back burner so much as both books were for a while on front burners with high heat, and now that one is ready for prime time too. It’s an exciting time for us. We dug out some of JP’s mothballed pages of supplemental material for “Birding” and crafted a couple others, all of which you will find here at the Birding home page. Like many works of fiction, the “making of” true story of Birding may be as interesting as the book itself, so I’m hoping you’ll indulge some of that, maybe even get almost as excited as we are to watch it take flight.
6/29/20 (adapated from an original Noesta Aqui blog entry on 1/7/19)
*Dont get me wrong, pantheists, trees, and NdGT are all fine people by and large, and there is plenty of crossover there within the target audience for all of Not Two’s project. They just aren’t the bullseye.