The other day I was walking in the woods and passed a family (masks on, of course). The mother said, “Are you Doug Goodkin?” and I replied, “Yes, how did you know?” She pointed to her 5-year-old daughter and said, “We came to your show at the SF Jazz Center!”
And there you have it. That’s the level of my fame that allows me to walk the streets without sunglasses (this was the first time that had happened since the show three years ago) and yet, opens just enough doors that I can keep doing the work I love to do. The woman might have been one of the thousand plus local teachers who took a workshop with me during the last 45 years or an alum from my school. If this happened on the street in Rio, Istanbul, Madrid or Singapore, I would have been very surprised, but it might have been possible as I’ve taught many times in those places and some 100 other cities around the world. Perhaps the person had read one of the nine books I’ve published or less likely still, been a loyal reader of this Blog. Or been one of the 50,000 who saw my TEDx talk from 8 years ago.
The truth is that I’m a fairly big fish in a very small pond of music educators, but a pond with clear refreshing waters that’s big enough to pay for flights, hotels, meals and my teacher’s fee in places on every continent. My books, both self-published and published by others, continue to sell at their steady modest rates, I still write articles for journals and now am beginning to publish other authors. My online classes fill up enough to make them viable and I’ve been thrilled to get some famous jazz luminaries to join as guests and get a taste of the work I’m doing. On some level, it’s the perfect size of fame and fortune.
But like Rockefeller, when asked “How much money is enough?” answered, “Just a little bit more,” I’m always alert as to how to get the good news spread out a little further. Not for the ego’s need for recognition (though probably it’s a player in the game), but for my firm conviction that the work is worthy of a larger audience. In short, Oprah and Terri Gross have not called me yet, but I'm ready to answer their call.
And so as I finished the first draft of a new book about Jazz and Social Justice, a book that I could easily publish myself and distribute as I do with my other books, I decided to up the ante and pitch it to larger publishers. Make the daring (and terrifying) leap to become a very small fish in an enormous pond. And for that, I need help.
I found a school parent in the publishing world who suggested I get a literary agent and I set to work yesterday combing through Websites to begin that process. Not easy! I need to find someone particularly interested in my theme, genre and age-level audience and after combing through some 25 people, no luck yet. I went to the bookstore and looked at publishers and authors of related themes and now have to find contact information for those authors to see if they can share contact information about their literary agent. It’s a whole new world and at once daunting, overwhelming and exciting.
Why write about this here? Because announcing intentions to the world is often the first step to get things moving. Maybe one of you is a literary agent! Or has contacts with one. And would be willing to share it with me. Maybe even tomorrow?
As Goethe said,
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”
Providence, consider this my public commitment. Let’s go!