Last Friday I accepted an offer from editor Ben Platt at Basic Books (through the incredible work of my agent, Rayhané Sanders) to publish A Higher Calling (which may or may not retain that title), and I am incredibly, button-poppingly, over-the-moon-style thrilled to finally say that I SOLD THE BOOK I SOLD THE BOOK I SOLD THE BOOK I SOLD THE BOOK.
It’s been a long time coming. It took three agents (before Rayhané, my first two agents Who Shall Not Be Named wasted approx. 1 1/2 years of my life), about eight proposal drafts, and one last week of nail biting, but the thing is SOLD. We’re still working on the exact release date, but I’m hoping for late 2017. That will allow me to incorporate the results of the 2016 election (which could change a lot, either if up to five more states legalize marijuana, or if a Republican wins, like Chris Christie, who has vowed to re-enforce the federal law), as well as to make some more contacts in the activist world today and get a better idea of what they’re doing.
I couldn’t be happier about this. I’ve been researching and writing about marijuana activists since 2012, and, even after three years, I’m still enthralled by their story. What I like most about Ben is that he recognizes how important this story is, and the windows it opens to larger ideas about American society. The story of marijuana activism in the United States is so much more than that of people who were for or against pot. Its implications are vast: Once you understand the backstory of activist involvement in federal drug policy, you begin to understand the questions of citizenship, of morality, of ignorance and idealism, and of human rights that they raised. The story is so much larger than the sum of its parts. It begs the questions, What happens when activists’ ideals founder on the shoals of actual policy? What happens when policy is then based on (ultimately false) ideals? And, perhaps most importantly, are we persistently doomed to recreate the past (as we have, over and over again, concerning drug policy), or can an understanding of the past help direct, and possibly even improve, our collective future?
Last thoughts before I get back to work: I could not be happier to be with Basic, a remarkable and respectable house. To be on their catalog is an honor, and I know that they’ll do justice to my work. (I’m more worried about giving them a manuscript worthy of their imprint.) I always wanted to go with a commercial publisher if I could. I thought about academic and university presses – I even had a really excellent meeting with an editor from UPenn Press – but I’ve always felt that the message of my book was meant for a public, and not solely an academic, audience. This may kill my chances of ever getting an academic job (since commercial books, regardless of their social value or relationship to the dissertation, mean next to nothing to hiring committees), but at the moment I don’t care.
This book is finally going to see the light of day. I’ll think about what comes next after I deliver my manuscript.