Category Archives: queries

When Looking at the Calendar . . .

I pulled down my 2010 calendar today. I know it’s pathetic–I’m always behind on hanging my new year’s calendar. For unknown reasons (I guess I really wanted to torture myself), I flipped through last year’s months and stopped to focus on February and March. I had filled in so many squares. Aside from chiropractor and hair appointments, I had penciled in birthday parties and dinner parties and “lunch with friends at the Albuquerque hotel” and the date my dear friend would travel by train into the Abq train station–all the way from San Francisco! And when he arrived he had a beard (from being on the train so long)! I had marked dates when I sent off queries, penciled in when and to whom I had sent my manuscript. One particular square haunts me a little because I remember the day so well. It was Valentine’s Day last year when my husband and I hid from the children in our bedroom, and he prayed over and blessed one particular query before I hit send. I had such high hopes for this one, such high hopes . . .

This year’s calendar is blank. It’s covered in blank squares with meaningless numbers. But they aren’t meaningless–not really. I have plans, even if they aren’t as exciting as lunch at hotels and picking up friends from the train station. And I might get around to sending off a few more queries and, thus, fill my life with a little more hope. Until then, I have another Valentine’s Day to spend with the people I love–my husband, my children, my parents–all right, even my cat.

Blessings to all of you out there who read my blog. Love to you and yours. Have a great weekend.

p.s. Yes, the picture is of my husband and me, not my grandparents. We’d dressed up in 1940s clothing we bought or borrowed from a vintage clothing shop. My friend Sallie McAnn Vandagrift took the photos in Ashland’s Lithia Park. My husband superimposed this one on a yellow rose because I like yellow roses. And I guess that’s all there is to say!

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No More Excuses

Every week I fabricate more excuses for not sending out queries. Last week, I decided that, since Nathan Brandsford was deluged with queries, other agents would be as well. So I didn’t send anything off. Before that, I skipped the holiday rush, then decided it was best to wait until agents were caught up with their holiday rush. I’ve been, probably foolishly, waiting for the perfect moment–the problem being that there is no perfect moment, at least not that I can ascertain. Agents are swamped; there are simply too many writers out there, and the number of would-be writers seem to grow monumentally every year.

I could bemoan my fate of being one drop in an ocean-full of writers, or I could simply move past it, accept my fate, and query. You see, I’m in my mid thirties, and I’ve always claimed to be a writer, ever since I can remember, anyway. In my twenties, I wrote several books, and I learned about marketing and publishing–and it was difficult enough back then. I decided those weren’t the books, that they weren’t good enough, etc, and I had a few children, went back to school to study for a creative writing degree, and then, finally, finally, wrote The Book. And now I discover that, though the publishing world was daunting in the nineties, it’s much worse now. Everybody, these days, has to write a book. Writers are, apparently, a dime a dozen. And I’m an insignificant little drop of water mixed in the ocean.

However, I’ve written (I hope) an eye-catching query, a good working synopsis, and I’ve edited and polished and refined my novel, especially the tricky first thirty pages, and all this based on feedback from others, especially by an agent who judged a contest that I entered. I am, sadly, not a clever person, and therein you’ll find my weaknesses. The winners of this particular contest were based on a point system. Much to my chagrin, my points were in the top range for my writing, setting, characters, style, etc, and were at the extreme opposite end for my hook and plot. I already knew that there wasn’t anything wrong with my plot; it fit neatly on a typical plot curve of rising action, climax, and resolution. It was the way I described my plot in the synopsis that knocked me out of the running for first place, along with the lack of hook in my synopsis and in the first page of my novel. In case you’re wondering, I still won a hundred bucks, which I won’t say ‘no’ to any day, but I wasn’t numero uno.

Although the review was direct and without commentary, it told me all I needed to know: Essentially, I had to rework the first pages and rewrite the synopsis (not to mention actually writing a workable query), and, at some point in there, develop cleverness. If you knew me, you’d know how difficult this was. I’ve never been clever, not ever, and I don’t like hooks, and I don’t particularly like beginning a novel in medias res. I’m a big fan of Ian McEwan, for example, whose novel beginning are, to put it bluntly, slow. If you’ve read Saturday, you know what I’m talking about. Basically, this book begins with a guy waking up in the early morning, staring out of his window, and ruminating for the next fifteen pages. I loved it, though I must admit the author lost me a little in the extremely long and slow racquetball scene that comes later. My point, though, is that, although I will read any kind of book, I prefer the ones that bring me into the action slowly. Of course, I don’t expect that much action in stories, anyway. Like I said, I’ll read anything. If it’s an action-packed book, so be it, but, if not, it doesn’t really matter to me at all.

Regardless of my slow, ruminative nature, I coldly axed the first fifteen pages of my book. And I learned how to do hooks in my own style. I also, after many drafts, wrote a query that had my critics saying things like, “I’m actually really surprised at how good this is!” I didn’t take it personally. I just accepted the compliment for what it was. Next week, then, I’ll be sending off some queries. Wish me luck, pray for me, and send your positive thoughts my way (I don’t really believe in luck, just God and the serendipity that he sometimes brings my way).

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The Necessity of Aloneness

I’ve finally done it. I’ve sent off my first query letter. It was a test of my bravery, and now we shall see. Soon, I’ll compile a list of agents and send out about 25 more queries, but I’ve conquered my fears and sent off the first.

And now I want a vacation. Don’t I deserve one? I have this great lonely feeling inside that’s telling me that I need to be alone. It’s a little ironic; I understand that. I can’t help what my nagging loneliness does to me. Then, of course, I can’t really help that I feel lonely when I’m surrounded by people all the time. I am, too: children, husband, parents, dogs, cat, friends.

I need a potted meat getaway. This is an impossibility right now due to economic factors, which I’m certain won’t surprise anyone. So I’ll dream–and plan. I’ll make a packing list for my trip.

-netbook
-full-sized keyboard
-1, no make that 2 bottles of Merlot
-3 cans Libby’s corned beef
-3 tart apples
-3 potatoes for baking
-1 container hummus
-1 package brown rice crackers (due to wheat allergy)
-1 box Earl Grey tea
-1 book of Yeats’s poetry in case I get stuck
The Rape of the Lock for inspiration
(must get back from friend who stole it)
-box of Emergen-C to prevent carpal tunnel
-cod liver oil (in caps) for same as above
-1 light jacket for walks in any weather
-sandals
-corduroy pants
-favorite t-shirt with image of Tejano acordionista
-toothbrush and tooth powder (aka baking soda)
-cold cream

It has occurred to me that I would like to be lonely on my potted meat getaway–at the loneliest place on earth–the Oregon coast. Why is it lonely there? It rains 64 in. a year. Can you imagine? I used to live there–though I grew up in Portland, where it rains over 40 in. a year. Despite what people say, it rains more often in Portland than in Seattle. It rains more in Portland than in London, Cardiff, or Dublin. The Oregon coast, Coos County specifically, is wetter by double than London.

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