Submission for Soft Skull Press

July 20, 2021

A memoir of the imagination in three parts.

Part One: How I started a university in Honduras, or — The Promise

Statement of Intent: I am not legendary like Eileen Myles, but now that I am free, I’d like to re-emerge as an author with a loyal audience like Eileen’s.

Soft Skull press is a beautifully visceral name, it makes me think of penetration: penetrating the impenetrable, softly. Wouldn’t I love to text my ex and say, “Hey, guess what? Soft Skull press is publishing my memoir!”  But they’d go on about how it’s not really a memoir because, according to them, it’s not a true story.  Yes, there are two imaginary characters in my memoir – but, who really cares?  

Sometimes it takes an imaginary friend to reveal the hard truths.

Along with submissions of short stories to a handful of CBC writing contests and two awkward letters to literary agents, taking advantage of Soft Skull’s once a year offer to consider manuscripts is a beginning step, and I am appreciative of the chance, thank you. I am ready to reach out to a substantial social network – last time I asked for support, my one-minute video got 13.7 K hits on vimeo. I am ready to gather my audience again to follow me on a long solitary walk across Northern Spain next summer with a new website: I will walk for 66 days exploring my memories, backwards. Part two of my memoir takes place on that walk.

Women like me – born in the 50’s, liberated in the 70’s, radicalized in the 80’s, educated in the 90’s – and now so diversified beyond these generalizations, many of us no longer care to gender ourselves. So, I’ll change that to say people like me who enjoy reading memoirs and travel adventures, who have an open-ended sense of humour, a fascination for how memory works, an interest in migration, ethnography, adventure and an enduring penchant for transcendence and transformation – these are my readers.

A note on narrative style and how my work fits with Soft Skull Press. In non-linear systems the change of the output is not proportional to the change of the input (in mathematical terms that is). This seems like a fitting way to describe my writing and perhaps a metaphor for my life: sometimes over-productive and sometimes counter intuitive, always unpredictable while remaining beautifully balanced on the edge of contradictions and coincidences. I think Soft Skull’s audience will appreciate the refuge of such a fine balance and enjoy this alternative vision of lived experience.

Please enjoy the synopsis and short bio also attached with this letter of Intent.  

Again, thank you.

 Erika Paterson.

The exciting news is …

I am horrified — I am not ready. I feel like I am giving up a child for adoption.

Wow – what a lot of reading and research this week; all focused on one publishing company: Greystone Publishers in Vancouver. I began with Greystone for a few reasons: they publish one of my favorite writers: Wade Davis; I love the way he writes portraits of peoples and places and the stories both tell. Greystone also recently published a book by an acquaintance of mine from the past: Mark Leiren-Young: The Killer Whale Who Changed the World, it is a wonderful read. And, while studying Greystone’s website, I found a new writer, Candace Savage, whose memoir I read yesterday. A Geography of Blood is a captivating memoir laced with lyrical knowledge of the land she travels – that is indeed a bit like my writing style. And, finally Greystone is a good fit because they support unique Canadian voices writing literary non-fiction; that’s me.

The exciting news is that Greystone is accepting unsolicited submissions. The horrifying news is that Greystone is accepting submissions – I could send them a submission. I am not ready.  I still need to do more hunting to see if I can find an agent that works with Greystone. This is a one shot-deal. I am thinking about hiring a professional, published writer, to read my manuscript. They cost about $40 an hour, I am worried about the length of my manuscript – it is short: 4500 words; a crisp 45000 words, it moves along at a fast pace, which I like.

Doubts and more doubts.

Following the advice from my research, and the instructions from Greystone, I have created a package for submission that is tailored specifically for Greystone. I had to change the name of the manuscript, well – I didn’t have to, but I change it all the time, so. Next Post: my submission to Greystone – maybe.

The Hunt Begins

The Hunt Begins:

“When writers ask, can you find me a literary agent?” they don’t realize it’s kind of like asking me “Can you find me the right spouse?” Janet Friedman

Janet Friedman makes me think we need a kind of for authors and agents.

I read a good book, a little dated, but still — How to Find (and Keep) a Literary Agent  lays out a clear and sensible path for looking for a literary agent, and the e-book includes a free upload of How to Write a Query Letter.  I’ve been online for several hours reading Blogs and Websites for writers, agents and publishers, made a long ‘cut and paste’ list of Agents and Agencies in Canada, to begin.

This is the first step:

  • Find a friend who has a friend who is either an agent or a published author who 1) will read my manuscript and a) love It and b) knows, or has a friend who knows, an agent or published author who is a ‘good fit’ for the manuscript, and c) recommend that person to read the Synopsis
  • Research agents and create profiles that include:
    • The books they have helped to publish
    • Read reviews and find the books that are similar to THE CENTRE OF THE COMPASS
    • Read the most recently published of those books before contacting those agents

My Strategy:

  • Blog once a week and work hard at gathering followers who might find me followers who might be a friend of a friend who knows  …..
  • Read ….

Next Blog, I want to write about the genre of ‘Fictional Memoir’ – what does it even mean?



Looking for a literary agent is hard work, harder than writing a book. After reading one informative book on the subject, How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent, and a two-day goggle blitz of reading Blogs and articles about the dangers and pit falls and necessity to “do your research” before approaching an agent. Apparently, there are crooked agents that feed off novice writers hoping to publish — I hadn’t thought of that. One thing all the research agrees upon is that I need a ‘Platform’ if I want to find the agent I am looking for, and I hope is looking for me. This is the beginnings of my Platform. Please read my Synopsis.