Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No, Thank You a.k.a. the rejection

Since I just wrote about queries, I might as well share my position on rejections. I really dislike that word. It’s just too negative, no matter how you look at it.

Once you write The End under your work, it’s time for business. You write an ad, you invite people to come and see your product. It’s like selling a house or car. You might have a perfectly nice house with a sound roof or a great car, rust-free, low mileage, but the people who come to see what you have to offer simply don’t fall in love with what they see. There is nothing wrong with your product. The potential buyers just don’t feel it. You wouldn’t say you’ve been rejected, would you? You wouldn’t take that personal, would you? (I hope not.)

Ever gone to a garage sale? Nothing really caught your attention, but the person next to you fell in love with some trinket and snatched it right up. Did you just reject the person having the garage sale? Selling your fiction or non-fiction works along similar lines. It’s business and it’s subjective. You haven’t been “rejected.” The agent/publisher was simply uninterested.

Having this attitude or framing the issue like that has saved me from a lot of headaches and heartaches. Am I disappointed? Sure thing. But I don’t cry over the “No, thank you.” I file it and move on. Sometimes I return a few days later, reopen the file and l look at the letter again, because I can’t remember what was actually written.

Delivery confirmation

On January 28 (Saturday) I mailed a bunch of queries to literary agents in NYC. Those were the agents at the very bottom of my dream agent list, because they required me to get my printer going, get the kids out of the house and into the car and then to the post office where I need to keep them from running amok. For reasons, which probably make perfect sense, these agents didn’t want to receive an e-mailed query. Luckily, I purchased delivery confirmation.

And today, one month later, I dropped off a lost mail complaint at the post office, because one of my queries never got to its destination. The postal clerk asked if I had called to verify that my letter hadn’t been received. No, I said. I should have done that, she said. It’s so much easier to call than go through this paperwork. Uh huh. I told her I hadn’t lost the letter so I’m not the one going to make phone calls.

Do I expect them to find my letter? No, not really. I filed the claim not to find out what happened to my letter, but to let someone know that “hey, you guys messed up here.” It’s for the same reason I fill out comment cards. It’s a great tool to let someone know how things are working out or not working out.

Could I have called the NYC agent? I guess. If this hadn’t been an unsolicited query, I might have called. I didn’t tell the postal clerk that this agent probably receives between 300 and 500 letters a week (low estimate). Would they remember my envelop from four weeks ago? NO. No way. If they would then only because my query was so awesome or so horrible that it stood out from the rest. Either way, I’d have heard from them by now.

So if you have to mail something somewhat important, spring for delivery confirmation. It’s great for peace of mind. If it’s really important, pay for UPS or FedEx.

Btw, the other letters I sent that day arrived in NYC by Feb 1 (Wednesday), which must have been a record from Hawaii. It usually takes a full week for mail to get anywhere.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why do I write? part 1

It’s not in my genes. No writers or poets in my family. Well, my great-grandfather was a somewhat famous German sci-fi writer and archeological explorer. But he was a second husband and didn’t supply genes. I did inherit my love of horses and horseback riding from my grandmother, but that’s not what this entry is about.

I’ve always been an avid storyteller and a voracious reader. Long before I started to put pen to paper, I was already fully immersed in the world of make-believe. I devoured all things published: books, dime novels, comics; you name it, I read it. I never missed an episode of those wonderful British and Eastern German teen series on TV. Only later did I learn that Enith Blyton’s five friends and their dog Timmy actually lived in books, before they became a TV show. Same with Kurt Held’s heroine, red Zora. My friends and I would become our favorite characters and reenact the episodes or create our own, based on the parameters of the show. Early fan “fiction!” By the time I was eight or nine, we’d moved on to the classics: we were musketeers for the longest time. We even held fencing contests (no holds barred, we fought to first blood). Today I can only shake my head and wonder how I survived those years. And yes, I was a tomboy.

I didn’t progress from storytelling (and fan “fiction”) to actually writing fiction easily. Nope. I was twelve when I was sent to one of those professional tutoring services because my understanding of the rules that governed the German language was atrocious. Oh, if you didn’t know: I’m German, born and bred. So I went to my assessment, and they made me write an essay: what I did last summer. I hadn’t done a thing, hadn’t gone anywhere and hadn’t accomplished anything. Summers then consisted solely of reading and playing with my friends. But I had to write this essay. So I made something up, was promptly labeled as a kid with her head in the clouds (a very bad thing if you’re German) and never looked back.

I worked my way through a variety of genres. By sixteen I had a finished young adult romance novel complete with all the trappings that make my stories mine: the male protagonist and story from his point of view, the angst and drama of being a younger son struggling to find his way. Of course, I was also sixteen, so the younger son was hopelessly in love with a nice girl. No boy on boy love for me yet.

I did submit that novel to a German literary agent. Some weeks later I received a positive reply and an offer of representation. Unfortunately, though, I was only sixteen and not living with my parents at the time (we didn’t get along, that whole head in the clouds kind of thing). Let’s just say nothing ever came of it.

So why do I write?

In the words of Tennessee Williams: "I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t write. I’d probably go mad."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Write Experience

I sat down in front of the computer with the firm intend to work on chapter four of The Ghost Crab. I had to leave it last night in the middle of an important and pivotal conversation. I was simply too tired to go on. I know it’s time to go to bed when I stare at the same three-word sentence for a while, wondering how to make it more brilliant.

I don’t usually wonder about brilliance. I did come across a sentence that was screaming for an edit, though:

Uncomfortable in his tie and suit jacket, Ben fidgeted in his chair.

That’s a classic “show don’t tell” sentence.

Anyway, I sat down this morning to finish the conversation, but I found myself setting up this blog instead. I told myself that it was important to finish setting up my website and adding this blog link, but that was just me procrastinating again.

So now I’m going back to chapter four. Mason and Ben just had a meeting with their biggest clients who are less than happy with the security they’ve been provided. This is an important chapter. It clarifies the conflict I set up in chapters two and three. What exactly is at stake here?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, because you’re new to my writing (maybe you stumbled over my blog by accident), click on over to my website and check out my writings.