Courage to Click.

I’ve been thinking about this process, the querying process.  I realize that many writers find this task utterly daunting because of the many (and basically guaranteed) opportunities for “rejection”.  Yes, rejection in quotes.

I decided to look at the query as a kind of reverse interview.  Let’s say you are a manager at a restaurant for example.  You post a sign in the window or a link on the website: “Now Hiring”.  People come to you, applications filled out, requesting interviews.  You grant them.  You talk to several people, assessing their qualities, gauging whether or not they can be an asset to your company, your team.  If yes, then you hire, if not, then you don’t.  Rather simple.  Not personal.  You hire the person you think will be the best fit, not because you didn’t like the others, but they weren’t exactly what you are looking for in an employee.

In the query process, the writer with the manuscript is the manager with the opening, not the hopeful person looking for a job.  The query is the author’s “Now Hiring” sign.  Granted, the author has to send out individual queries, which is about the equivalent of the manager going door to door with a job description, asking potential employees one by one if they would like the job.  When the person you query says no, it isn’t a rejection.  It is an employee saying, “I’m not right for this job.”  It is an agent looking at the job description, and telling you they are not the right fit.

The goal is not just to find an agent/publisher/employee, but the right one, the one that fits.  If you’ve done the work as a writer, you’ve got an opening for a job that’s solid, a job that someone out there wants.  And once someone wants it, you still are the one who decides whether or not to hire.

Thinking about the process this way is what gives me the courage to close my eyes and click “send”.  If an agent doesn’t want the job, it is not personal.  It’s not about the job, it’s about the fit.

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Starting the process.

So I wrote a query letter.  The first query letter I had ever written actually.  I’ve read a few things (read tons) about writing the query, finding an agent, publishing contracts, etc. maybe a month ago, lying on the sofa scrolling through Chuck Sambuchino’s blog.  So I thought I was ready.  I was not ready.  The first draft was so terrible that it could not have been edited enough to make it good, so when I hit the X to close the document and Word informed me that I had not saved, and asked me if I would like to do so before closing the file, I clicked “no”.

I’m not sure why after spending months elbow deep in this story that I could not come up with a synopsis.  Do I not know what my own book is about?  I asked my beta reader to help me come up with a synopsis.  I actually asked him to write it.  He did neither of those things.  So I went back to the internet and found a tidy little template for writing a query: a hook, a synopsis, a bio and done.  I read successful queries, then attempted to write one as clever and conversational as the book is, you know, to reflect my style.  This second attempt was savable.

Now to send it.  Several days have been spent looking at agent bios, publishing companies, and taking notes.  I found this nice little group of agents that might be a good fit and decided to send off my query and a portion of my manuscript.  The prospect fills me with something like dread, in that it makes me want to vomit, but also something else which makes me want to cry.  It could be joy, fear, or hope.  Maybe a mixture of all three.

Here goes nothing!

Philosophy; use caution.

Nothing is real.

I’ve been haunted by this thought for more years than I can remember. But I could not quite put my finger on how it could be possible that none of this was real.

When I was 16, I started listening to VNV Nation. When they came out with their song “Rubicon”, I was floored. The line, “I can’t prevent the thought that nothing’s real,” echoes in my mind still, after all these years.

Then I read Kant.

Nearly a year ago, I took a philosophy class at CSUSB. The last third of the class, we focused on Kant’s empirical realism.

Empirical realism says that nothing is objectively real, objects that we perceive can only be empirically real or subjectively real. Because we are subjects, we are permanently and irrevocably only able to derive subjective truth from any experience.

I wish that I could explain how beautiful that is to me, and how it fundamentally changed the way that I view the world and my place in it.

What we perceive is empirically real; reality exists only to the extent that we can sense it. What lies beyond what we can sense, what exists beyond the subjective, is a mystery. Thinking this way has brought the mysterious, the magical, the miraculous, back to me.

Sometimes I get too jaded for my own good.

Against all odds.

I have decided that “against all odds” is something I’m going to add to statements about goals I’ve accomplished. In the same way that when you read a fortune cookie, you add the phrase “in bed” to make it more humorous, I’m adding that phase to make the statement more accurate.

From what I have read, it seems that all writers could do this. Personally, it gives me a sense of fortitude that I didn’t think I possessed.

There is this great line in a song by VNV Main that says, “though the past, the unwanted memories are holding on to you, truth you find through your adversity with defend you, as all the powers in the universe conspire to carry you.”

I find this to be such a great reminder in so many ways. I’d rather not say exactly what it means to me. What does it mean to you?

Turning YA

For two years now, I have been participating in NaNoWriMo. For those of you who do not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, hence the name NaNoWriMo. The goal for the month of November is to write 50,000 words, which is generally accepted to be the length of a novel. However, if you dig a little further, that is just the word count that makes a novella too long to be a novella anymore, so then it becomes a novel. For the purposes of publishing though, 50,000 words is too damn short to be much of anything other than a book for 8th graders, which is great, if that’s what you want to write.

It’s not what I want to write.

After completion of NaNoWriMo 2013, I spent the next 6 months finishing the story, getting it nearly finished at about 75,000 words, which is still about 20,000 words shorter than I’d like. Then I put it away.

Pondering on the successes of authors I’d like to emulate (Roth, Collins, Clare, Rowling), it dawned on me that they all have one thing in common: they were writing for young adults. Then it hit me! I should make my story YA!

I am now in the process of removing all of the adult themes, situations, and words. I’ve changed my main character to a single thirty something mother of one, to a virginal 18 year old fresh out of high school. It’s surprising how well it works! I’ve killed my darlings, as they say, but at least some version of me gets to wear bedazzled jeans with a cell phone in the back pocket.

Here’s my deal.

I’m a writer who writes.  I was a repressed writer for a long time.  Self-repressed of course, and don’t you know that is the worst kind of repression?  Sometimes I write like I am from Minnesota.  I’m not.  I’m from California, born and raised, which since my rejection from UCR, I realize is not very diverse or exciting.

Let me share some back story, so that you can get an idea of what a long road it has been up to the point of “I regret to inform you…”

I was born.  Just kidding.  I mean, I WAS born, but for the purposes of this blog post, I won’t be going back quite that far.  I graduated high school in 1999 and moved to Lexington, KY, a place where being from California actually does make me interesting and exciting.

I fought with myself and my dad about being an English major and after hemming and hawing on my part, I finally just switched majors to English and Philosophy.  After five years of deplorable academic performance, my dad was through paying for school even though I was nearly done, and I moved back to CA where I was once again boring.

Then I met a guy, I got married, I had a kid, I went to school to be a massage therapist.  I put writing on the back burner.  Then I got divorced and  became a single mom.  I moved in with my mom and went back to school.  I can’t put enough emphasis on this point: I went back to school in order to complete the degree requirements for both BAs so that I could get into an MFA program.  It has taken me the last three years jumping through hoops, taking out student loans, taking classes online, taking classes at CSUSB while working and taking care of my son to finish up these last 18 or so credits.

I did all of this for the MFA.  I applied at UCR, knowing that my writing is good even though my history is not, and relying on CSUSB as my fall back.  I was not admitted into the MFA program at UCR, and the same day that I received the news, I applied to CSUSB.  A week later, I got a call from the office of Graduate Admissions to inform me that the program had closed.  She asked me if I wanted my application fee refunded.  I said no.

Balance has always been an issue in my life.  Now I am trying to find the balance between what I know I need to do for myself and my son financially, and what I need to do for myself practically.  How do I work enough to pay the bills and still have time to write?  How do a pursue a career that doesn’t completely derail my dream?

After reading the bios of the current graduate students at UCR, I felt very uninteresting and unaccomplished.  But I have a story (or two or three) worth telling, and I am going to tell it (them).

That’s my deal.

Hello world!

After being continually told by the authors of numerous articles on being a successful writer to “write a blog” and “have an internet presence”, I have decided to “write a blog”.  I will do my best to do as Veronica Roth admonishes (somewhere on her awesome blog) and not say anything stupid.

I guess if you are going to have an internet presence, it should probably be a positive one.  However, I do not promise not to vent, or to be sadmad (just saw Home today- fantastic movie!), or to word vomit from time to time.  Everyone gets sick sometimes, and apparently, I puke out of my fingers.  Okay, enough of that!

So, welcome to my blog.  I hope that you find it enjoyable and uplifting and like you have just walked through a white fluffy cloud made of kittens.  In absence of that, I hope that you have at least found it entertaining.

Also, after having read a few articles about writing for the web, I have also shortened my text blocks to make this blog easier on your eyes!  Happy reading!