After struggling with my trilogy, "The 7 Lives of the Punk Poofy Cat", for thirty-plus years, writing, rewriting, researching, reviewing, discussing it with friends, on and on, I've finally pulled my finger out and published it. In all those years I asked everyone I met if they could help me, hoping they would maybe have some idea or connection to a publisher. All of them mumbled, turned their heads away, kept their cards close to their chest, and said no, as if afraid I might outdo them or filch five bucks from their pocket.
Then this year I met a lovely chap named Coco at the Gay Mardi Gras parade who, after my asking him for advice, recommended an online service that helped with desktop publishing. You put your job on a worldwide bulletin board and people apply for your job, in my case asking for someone to help me format my book for Amazon Kindle, a complicated process that I tried once and it did my head in.
I found a guy in America who needed work and seemed experienced at Kindle books and he did a great job at a cheap rate and now, after all these years and toil, I have my hard-won book in existence, up for sale, to be read by the world. Now I want to tell you the story of how this writing came about.
I've been writing since the age of 7, movie reviews, diaries of my daily experiences, short stories my teachers fussed over and read out to the class, precocious for my age. I also read every children's book I could get my hands on, "Noddy and Big Ears", "Famous Five", "Secret Seven", "Finn Family Moomintroll", "Treasure Island", and all the comic books from Marvel, DC and Disney. I should've tried to get published in my twenties but I was busy traveling, learning and laying about; as a late flowering achiever I knew I would get there in good time.
I enrolled in the Communications Course at the University of Technology, Sydney in 1983 with the goal of majoring in Writing and Text Studies and, doing it part-time, I achieved my B.A. in 1990. In that same year of 1983 I answered an add in a gay newspaper for short stories to be in an anthology, "Edge City", and I submitted my tale of growing up as a proto-sissy, until the age of 13, in working social housing. It was called "Welcome to the Men's" and in it I described how my father nearly killed my mother by bashing her into the kitchen floor so that blood pooled around her on the linoleum. The editor raved how impressed he was by the image of the blood, and the next book of his short stories was called "Blood on the Lino", yet he never offered me a job again to submit any story for whatever he was putting together, par for the course in competitive, rat-race Australia.
That was my first iteration of my tale. The second happened two years later when a gay historian from Sydney University, Gary, approached me and told me how much he liked my story in "Edge City" and was thinking of putting together a similar anthology, of six gay men from different eras and different cities, telling what it was like to grow up gay: their family's response, their religion, the books they read, their schooling, their first loves etc etc, just as I'd written in my story.
I readily agreed and wrote an expanded version, taking my life up to 18 and calling it "Alec Farthing". The book, "Being Different", came out to much acclaim in 1985, except I was pissed off as the editor couldn't resist slipping his story in, taking the number of entries to 7 rather than the original 6, only he put his story before mine, pre-empting me, attempting to copy my style, especially my conclusion, of calling for equality in marriage, encouraging gays to settle down with a partner, accepted by their families, and relieving gays from the lonely, desperate life of wandering dark parks and lurking in toilets. The trouble was Gary grew up in a comfortable middle-class household and his story was boring.
When the S & M Herald reviewed the book the astute critic wrote that most of the stories were dreary and badly written, except for Toby Zoates, whose tale was poignant and humorous, so I kind of got the last laugh. I got $50 for my life's story and when it went into a second reprint I got nothing. Gary the editor has dined out on his fame ever since and would simply excuse his ripping me off by saying he couldn't find me, but I'd say he didn't try very hard as he wanted all the glory, and he got it.
I can't help thinking Australia is a very hard place for anyone, much less an artist, to succeed in. The small population means there's a tiny audience for anything, especially anything daring and radical; there's little money to go around and everyone is made to fight over the scraps; and media moguls/billionaires, Turdoc in the lead, control Auz society with an iron fist, in league with the State which is put in place by those same oligarchies: everything has to be "State Sanctioned".
Out of every seven people I met along the way I was lucky if one was willing to help me, mostly I was stabbed in the back, cheated, bad-mouthed, wiped from the record. I never did the same, I've tried to be a true civil libertarian, cooperative, caring, helping where I could, getting others employment. But this was rarely reciprocated, only deadbeats, flakes, conniving Machiavellians getting a leg-up, as if they're the ones that truly need it and I'm strong enough, brainy enough, to do it for myself. And thus I did, indeed, publish myself.
I've long leapfrogged the small, muddy pond that is Australia and got my work out into the wider world, as with my films and this Blog. As I said, I wrote and rewrote the volumes of "The 7 Lives of the Punk Poofy Cat" since 1983 and here in 2017 have at last got the first book, "Vagabond Freak" up onto the world stage. My punchline for it is "Deadbeat Realism in the Queer Underworld." The other two are already written, the next is called "Punk Outsider" and tells of my misadventures in rock'n roll Sydney in the late '70s and '80s. Much of this writing was done in India, high in the Himalayas, from 1997 onward. There was no TV, movie-houses or night clubs to distract me, even books were scarce, all I could do to occupy myself was write, write, write into the night, every night, and the 3 books got done.
I am now going to go over every story on this Blog that is in "Vagabond Freak", (up to story number 34 = "Surviving Pan the Grand Seducer"), and delete most of them, just keeping the introductory paragraphs as a TeaZer and the pictures to lure you, dear reader, on. I will place the cover of my book, which is now on www.amazon.com/author/tobyzoates in each of those deleted spaces to encourage you to go there and buy my book, read the tale from beginning to end in one place, and hopefully share the knowledge with your friends as it's a fucking good read.