Archive | rejection

The Avocado Sushi Dilemma

Some time ago, Dar and I tried a new sushi restaurant in town. Our sushi requirements vary considerably: Dar prefers rolls made out of strange sea life: clams, sea snails, and octopus, while I gravitate to faceless land life, such as cucumber, carrots, and avocado. In this case, while we were adventurous in trying a new restaurant, we stuck to our usual ordering routine. Dar ordered a tako sunomono salad, while I ordered an avocado sushi roll. What we got, however, was far from the safe choices we thought we made. Dar’s tako sunomono had disappointingly-little tako and a whole giant pile of sliced cucumber. My avocado sushi had so much avocado dripping from it, that it could more accurately be described as sliced avocado than a sushi roll.

Sushi takes finesse, balance, delicacy. Even the simplest roll could become inedible by a heavy-handed, inexperienced, or overzealous chef. No wonder becoming a chef is such an arduous process of schooling and on-the-job training. Whether it’s too much avocado, too little avocado, a rotten, stinky avocado, or whatever quality of rice, a sushi chef must tread a fine line in making his or her creations.

In contrast to sushi chefs (who at least get paid for their efforts and who will, in fact, receive compliments when they make an especially yummy roll), parents must walk the fine line of how much avocado to put in a roll without job-specific training or schooling and certainly without ever receiving any positive feedback (except, perhaps, after the children turn the ripe age of forty-five). I am referring, of course, not to making sushi for our kids, but to our efforts to bring them up in the way least damaging to their self-esteem, capabilities, potential, well-being and more. We cook for them, drive them around, help them with their homework, encourage them, pick them up when they fall, and stay up late at night if they have the stomach flu and are throwing up all over the floor. And yet somehow, no matter how much we try, the fine line of how much avocado to put in the sushi roll eludes us. Making the perfect son-or-daughter roll seem as far away as one of Pluto’s moons. Or more.

Raising children, we could argue, is much more complicated than making sushi. For one thing, those darn kids keep changing on us in ways that avocado does not. Things that worked well when they were three are useless by the time they’re seventeen, or arguably, even by the time they turn five. Learning the skills needed to deal with the issues they bring home, whether it be limit-setting, bedtime, homework, interest in boys, getting the first period, drinking alcohol, or learning how to drive, is a constant race against the clock. Before we’re experts in one thing, the kids have already “been there, done that,” and are on to something completely new which we couldn’t have imagined if we tried. We never become experts, instead constantly finding ourselves face-to-face with the limitations of our own knowledge and experience.

Being parents is the hardest job in the world. Sure, there’s moments of gratitude, joy, and satisfaction, but if anyone tells you they never experience the humbling sensation of truly not knowing what to do, well, they’re probably just not paying enough attention… or else, they’re using the well-known and oft-used tool of bluffing their way through it all. We have to bluff once in a while as parents, you know, because just imagine if the kids knew how little we know.

I’ve been thinking about this avocado-sushi dilemma lately, noticing my see-sawing attempts between too much, too little, overripe, and raw to parent my teenagers who are growing (and surprising me constantly) by leaps and bounds. This morning, for example, a grumpy teen rejected the waffle breakfast which she requested specifically last night. Dar has been telling me for weeks now to stop making them breakfast, and yet my desire to please the kids is nearly impossible to overcome. Waffle breakfast turned out to be too much avocado. In contrast, my son who just turned seventeen, told me he did not want to celebrate his birthday this year. I therefore did not put up decorations in the house. No decorations turned out to be too little avocado. But without hardly ever receiving compliments when I do a good job, and always heaps of complaining, how do I even know when I’ve made the perfect roll?

Are we back where we started, with an inedible roll, with an imbalanced, guilt-or-resentment-induced parenting style, or just worried that we’re messing up our kids so badly that we need to start saving for that psychiatrist fund?

I hope not. And in fact, I would like to suggest a different perspective, one that is possibly less concerned with results and feedback and more with faith, trust, and kindness: the mindfulness approach. In the mindfulness approach, how much avocado we put on the roll is not the main issue. Instead, we focus on what it feels like to have put too much or too little avocado (or the wrong kind of avocado altogether) on. Whenever we don’t know what to do, or feel we’re doing it all wrong, we pause and focus on what thoughts and emotions come up, and rather than push the avocado (or situation) away, yell at the waiter and the chef, and stomp back home to write an angry review, we stay with the frustration, anger, sorrow, fear or whatever comes up. The mindfulness approach is not about doing or fixing, but about being. Being with all these difficult feelings and thoughts, our wishes to be better, to do better, our love for our kids, and our desire to be good parents (or at least better than our own). The mindfulness approach isn’t mistake-centered, but kindness-centered. It acknowledges how hard it is to get it right, it stresses the intention, the effort, and what is present in, well… the Present. And it always allows you to start back again from scratch.

Every day is a new day, in the mindfulness approach.

So try this next time you’re frustrated by the kids, or yelled at them, or behaved in any of the multitude of ways that you promised yourself you would never do again:

Stop (that’s already a big step).

Take a few breaths (at least three or five).

Observe what’s happening in your body — are you contracted? overwhelmed with shame? is your belly tight? Is your mind sizzling with thoughts? Is the inner critic in the forefront? What sensations do you feel in your jaw, your eyes, your hands? And though this is really hard, try to stay with these sensations. It is difficult to be with all this, with the contraction, the shame, regret, sadness, anger. Really hard. But stay with the feelings for as long as you can, and remind yourself that you are not to blame. Parenting is objectively hard, and it is normal and natural for these feelings and thoughts to come up. You are doing your best, and you are not alone. We’re all of us doing as best as we can. All us parents are struggling to stay afloat in this parenting pool of thick mud.

When you’ve noticed your heart is back to normal, or when you’re ready to continue, proceed with your life. Make the next son-or-daughter roll again, and again, and again, a million times, even if you’ll never get it just right. And continue to be kind to yourself. This parenting stuff sure is tough.

This practice, perhaps you noticed, has the acronym STOP: Stop, Take a few breaths, Observe your body sensations, feelings and thoughts, and Proceed. And it is, in fact, a practice. We do it again and again, and not in order to get the roll perfect. That is not the point. We do this until it is easier to notice how we feel, what we sense, and what we’re thinking, and then we continue to do it. We do this practice to develop kindness for ourselves, for our children, and for other parents who are suffering like us. We do this to gain some inner (rather than outer) peace, a little bit more perspective, and perhaps, one day when we’re really really old, a wisdom to be kind to our own kids when they too struggle with this parenting stuff.

***Many thanks to Sheri, from whom I learned this practice, and to Julie, who reminded me that breathing just once before observing is not enough.

0

Mirrors

I’ve been reflecting lately on how much I let other people’s opinions of me have power over the way I see myself. Yesterday, for example, as I walked out of the kids’ school, the kids (ages 10 and 13) were pulling on my arms as though we were at a carnival and they were 4 again. Two parents came towards us, smiled, and I found myself saying apologetically: “Somebody’s really happy to be out of school.” As though I needed to apologize for the kids being happy. As though I needed to apologize for my parenting. As though I was embarrassed. Was I?

Seems to me that my feelings at that fleeting meeting are not trustworthy. They were confused, because instead of looking inside myself to check how I was feeling about being pulled in two different directions by the exhilarated kids, I looked outside. The other parents’ reaction (condescension, fear, embarrassment, joy — whatever it was) may have been a reflection of something I felt inside, but now I’ll never know, because at the moment that mattered, my focus was not inside, but on the mirror, on what other people thought.

Mirrors are useful things. I use my mirror to put on my contact lenses in the morning, to check for ticks on my back after a hike, and to make sure I floss in the right spaces. I could manage all these tasks without a mirror, but having one sure helps. I also, however, use a mirror to see I don’t have anything between my teeth, to comb the crazy waves out of my hair, and to confirm that my clothes match. When I use a mirror in this way, what I’m really doing is seeing a reflection of what my exterior look like, what other people see when they look at me. But is my exterior, this outward shell, really me?

Buying shoes is a good example of what I mean. When I buy shoes, I put them on, pay attention to how comfortable they are by walking about for a few steps, and then I walk over to the mirror. The mirror shows me what I look like with the shoes — what other people see when I wear the shoes — not what I see when I wear them. Fshoesor that, I really only need to look down. I care about whether the shoes are comfortable, but I also care about whether the shoes look nice — to other people! Funny enough, I have a pair of shoes that is perfect for this example. They look pretty silly from above, like Minnie Mouse shoes, seriously. But from the side they look great — I know, because I checked in the mirror. Despite the fact that when I look down, the shoes look silly, I know that the people who matter (all of you, not me, right?) will think the shoes are great.

We are probably conditioned from infancy to pay attention to what the outside world thinks. We could argue that this is necessary in a society that seeks to be built on ethical and moral laws of behavior and in which many people and cultures need to coexist. Looking outside might even be inherent in us — our mirror neurons flare up and mimic the reaction of those around us. I want to believe, however, that my inner monitor is as ethical and moral as that of the rest of the world. Now that I am almost at the beautiful and invigorating age of 42, I am beginning to care about  what I look like on the inside much more than I do about what other people think. And no, I’m not going to start picking my nose in public or wear my bra above my shirt. But I hope always to remember to pause and look inside myself (whether before, during or after the reaction of the world) and see how I feel and what I think — to find out inside what is important and true to me.

0

Gift of Love

In elementary school, I was a social outcast. I was not alone, of course. I was the bespectacled, nose-dripping outcast, but there were also the fat outcast, the too-tall outcast, the too-short outcast, and a boy and a girl who were outcasts apparently only because of their race. My class was extremely hierarchical, with three class queens and three kings, and we stayed the same group for five years, with the same kings and queens and the same outcasts.

A few days ago I was listening to Tara Brach’s True Refuge. The author was telling the story of Amy, who had a difficult childhood with a mother who neglected and rejected her. In her sessions with Tara, Amy managed to experience the anger which she had kept in check for years and to express the fears beneath: of never finding love, of not being worthy of love, of being alone in the world. Tara called it experiencing soul sadness.

In that moment, for a split second, I saw myself as a bleeding, mucusy, open wound, a whole-body sore. And I realized: This is how I walk around. This is what I am hiding. In my mind’s eye, I instantly knew when it started. Elementary school.

We switched seats that day, and the teacher partnered me with Matat, one of the class queens. In front of the class, Matat said: “I don’t want to sit next to her.”  But the teacher insisted, and as Matat slid into the seat next to mine, she whispered: “Stop sneezing and wiping your nose like that.”

Other than that split-second knowledge that I was a trembling, bleeding, mucusy, open wound, I had not been able to feel any emotion about this event. It was as though I had no feelings about it at all. I knew I needed to heal the wounded body and clear the hurt from my heart by forgiving Matat, but I could feel no real hurt and no compassion for her, and without any emotions, I didn’t know if it was possible to forgive at all.

I decided to try a forgiveness meditation (also from Tara Brach’s book). I settled myself into my cushion and slipped into my body thirty years ago: thick glasses covering half of my face, light brown hair twisted into two long but messy braids, a drippy, red nose, and a skinny body. And there was Matat, refusing to sit next to me, and a heaviness choked my throat.

All I wanted was to be loved, to be appreciated. Scooting down in the chair, I held the sneezes back and tried hard not to wipe my nose before absolutely necessary. There was no room for me to exist. I could feel the weight on my back (ah, said a voice in my grown-up head, that’s when you became a turtle), in my throat, in my heart.

Holding that little girl with compassion, sending her love, I began to murmur a lovingkindness meditation. May you be happy, may you be well, may you be filled with lovingkindness and joy. Then, realizing turtlethat she is me, I started anew: may I be happy, may I be well; may I be filled with compassion for myself and others.

Matat means gift in Hebrew. As I went through the meditation, I realized that by forgiving her, I am giving myself a gift. A gift of love.

I hug to my heart the wounded little girl I was thirty years ago and begin to let go of rejection and shame. As space clears in my heart, and I allow myself to expand into it, healing all hurt. I hold myself as a child and whisper: I am here; I love you; I appreciate your wisdom and originality, your quirky sense of humor, the doodles on your notebook, and the used tissues thrown about everywhere.

Then, I am ready:

I feel the harm that has been caused, Matat, and to the extent that I am able, I forgive you.

0

Interview with Writer, Fencer and Teacher Laura Clement

Today I have writer Laura Clement interviewing with me. Laura and I met at an SCBWI conference a few years ago and have stayed in touch through facebook, of all places. SCBWI is a great place to meet new friends and learn more about writing and illustrating for children. I’m very excited to have Laura with us today.

Hi Laura, Thanks for joining me! Can you tell me about the path you followed to become a children’s books writer?


Through my process of writing, something I have been doing since grade school, starting with poetry, I struggled with the lines that are drawn between children’s literature and adult literature. When I have a chance to talk to other writers, some who have published over 300 books (children’s) and a few novels, I hear the same thing over and over again — Just write. One writer told me, “I never change my writing for kids. They are smart and love a challenge.”

I think for me the major difference is subject matter and the depth to which you might take it. One of my books for kids might be about depression, but I won’t tackle it in the same way I do in my novel. But they both have the same heavy topic. I think it is harder to write for kids. The book has to seem so simple and flow with effortless grace, this is HARD work. A great kids’ book is something everyone will enjoy, kids to adults.

That’s so true. You write picture books and middle-grade novels, is that right?

I love writing picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels. I love to try anything. I still visit poetry from time to time. I let the characters find me, and once they start chatting in my head, or images of them fill my unconscious dream world and dance into day, they get placed to the page. I like adventure stories where the reader has to set outside their world.

Do your books have a message for kids?

Yes.  Martin the Mouse (working title) is about finding your inner strength, exploring the world beyond your own eyes and taking chances. Sky and Sparrow (working title) is about the adventure between two characters and the fun they can have in the moment of a day. My polka dot adventure is about seeing the world from a different perspective and maybe incorporating it into your life.



You fence and teach kids fencing. Have you used your fencing knowledge in your books?

Laura fencing with her husband, Martin

I have!  I am currently rewriting a middle grade novel about a fabulous little mouse and her sister who learn to fence. What can I say, one night I was sitting in the salle (club), and I watched a mouse run across the floor. That got me to thinking about how mice see us and what they do when we are not there.



In between work and fencing, how do you find time to write?

I have been really lucky. Until recently I was able to work from home, set up a schedule and pound out ideas and edit… edit…edit. This summer has been very difficult. Between working all day teaching kids, and then family being in town, I haven’t had any time to write. Though I have some fabulous new ideas and new approaches for old projects spinning around in my head for when September rolls around and I can get back to a schedule. A writer needs a schedule. Even if it is only one hour a week, if that time is the same every week, you can totally get work done.



I’ve heard other writers recommend that before. You’ve been on the track to finding a home for your books for some time now sending queries. How do you handle the inevitable rejection letter?
 
I have all of my rejections filed away, mostly electronically, date stamped in a spreadsheet with any comments listed at the end. I am at the point where I am frustrated by rejection letters that don’t say anything useful. But for the most part I just turn my focus back to a current project and try to keep rolling. Sometimes if I get it late in the day I let myself have a nice cocktail or something sweet (hello cupcakes).

That’s fabulous! Which books do you remember the most when growing up?

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, The Fledgling, Lord of the Rings (my godfather read that to me), Anne of Green Gables, The Eyes of the Amaryllis….  The list could go on… Oh!  Wait, The White Dragon (well all of the books from Anne McCaffery), and of course A Wrinkle in Time.



Which author do you think influenced you most into becoming a writer?

All of them- Any writer or book that took me places.

 Do you have advice to other writers?

Advice… Write for you, for your characters, for the laughs you get when one of them says something funny. Write for your friends or family who love to read your adventures. The rest is major work and just needs to be done (research of agents/publishers). Make sure you write more than you do the “work” or as I discovered, you burn out. Keep your love of writing alive and for goodness sake, find a really good critique group (easier said than done I know).




Thank you, Laura, so much for interviewing with me! 

You can find Laura on Facebook as Laura Clement (Seattle) and Clement Creations, on twitter as @clementcreation, and on her blog.

We love your comments! Please feel free to ask Laura (or me) any questions. If you too are a pre-published writer and would like to be interviewed on my blog, please mention it in the comments or send me an email to stzoore (at) yahoo (dot) com.

4TN898KV3Q4G

Interview with Fabulous Writer Denise Harbison

 For a while now, I’ve been playing around in my mind with the idea of interviewing writers who are still seeking to publish their first novel. It seemed to me a fun (and fine) idea. After all, hardly anyone thinks to interview those still seeking publication. Having decided to begin, I, of course, asked Denise to be my first interviewee. I’ve known Denise for seven or so years now, and we’ve been meeting again and again in the same circle of conferences, each of us lugging behind her a novel, the subject of so many hopes and dreams. Thank you so much Denise for agreeing to this interview and giving me (and the readers) your time!

You and I met for the first time at the Big Sur Conference in 2005. Can you tell me a little about the path you followed to become a writer?

I can’t say I’ve always wanted to become a professional writer. 7th grade was when I became intrigued with analyzing literature for metaphor, symbolism, etc. In high school, I had teachers praise my creative writing, which was sort of defiant because I didn’t especially like being forced to write. In 9th grade I wrote a memorable horror story about ants. The teacher wondered if I’d plagiarized it; I like to think she thought it would take a lot of writing talent for a nice girl like me to come up with something that unsettling (ha ha). In 11th grade, for the required mock-epic poem, I took the “mock” aspect to it’s full potential and wrote about the war between the Peanut Buddies and the Chocolateers. They ultimately joined forces–melting into one–playing off the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials that say, “Two great tastes in one candy bar.” In 12th grade, I got an A on a persuasive paper about the importance of lipstick. I went on to college and studied marketing and advertising, which requires a good deal of writing, creativity, and knowing your target audience. All these things eventually came together in writing for kids.

When did you know that you were writing for children rather than adults?

I never considered writing books for adults. That just doesn’t seem fun.

I remember that your novel is located in Hawaii. Can you tell me about the background to choosing to locate the novel in Hawaii?

The Hawaii novel (I’m surprised you remember it!), for middle graders, comes from my unique experiences while living there as an outsider. I wasn’t local, and I wasn’t a tourist. It gave me a certain perspective. It’s details from my backyard. It’s about adapting and overcoming.

What is your writing routine like?

My sitting-in-front-of-the-computer writing time is when my 3 kids are in school. That is total submersion time–when I focus on the story, even if I take a break from the chair. Sometimes I think I hate summer vacation because everyone is around all the time, interrupting…, but the fun and excitement of it forces ideas to the surface. I love hanging out with my kids in the summer, and it’s not like I don’t like having fun, but I start feeling the muse poking me to get back to work. Then I can sit down and write some more. It seems like there is always a story working itself out in my head.

Which books do you most remember from your childhood?

Growing up, I really loved the Boxcar Children and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I’d dream and dream about what I would do if I were on my own–all the good, adventurous things. Not scary things, like battling ants. (ha ha!)

As a young child, I loved the book The Monster at the End of This Book, Starring lovable, Furry Old Grover. That book will live on my shelf forever. It tickled me the way Grover tried and tried to stop me, and I won every time, and he was so embarrassed…it still cracks me up. Though, for the record, my high-schooler says I’m really immature.

Do you have a favorite snack while you write?

I do snack when I write. Favorite mix for success: Goldfish crackers, pretzels, and chocolate. 🙂

You told me that you had an article published with Highlights Magazine. That’s so great! The road to publication can be long and depressing. Do you have an advice to writers who are still on their way to see their words in print?

It helps to know that my work has been chosen before, that it’s been good enough for publication. But that only proves potential. I still receive rejections. And I still have a lot to learn. The only thing to do is keep working at it.

We’re going to see each other in LA in less than a week! Yay! What are your hopes for the conference?

I’m looking forward to the social gathering in L.A.–seeing you and other writer friends from all over, supporting each other, and being energized by the excitement of the crowd.

Thank you Denise for visiting my blog and good luck in getting more articles, novels and stories published!

We love your comments! You can ask Denise any questions you’d like. You can also find her on Facebook under her name, Denise Harbison. Look for these interviews every Monday, and please comment and let me know if you are a writer who would like to be interviewed as well.

I won’t Go Back to the Dry Cleaning Business

Every week Chip MacGregor, of MacGregor Literary Agency, answers readers’ questions on his blog. Today he answered “How Do I Get an Agent?” I expected him to say something along the lines of: research authors you love and find out who their agent is. Read blogs and agency websites. Write a query and perfect your novel. Make sure to know each agent’s submission guidelines and the correct spelling of their name. Then send your materials out with your hopes and dreams and commence waiting.

But instead of explaining how to send out materials and to whom, Mr. MacGregor tackled the question when are you ready to get an agent. Some of his tips I heard before, of course, like — you need great ideas, great writing and a great platform. But one tip made me blink fast.

When not to get an agent? Mr. MacGregor responded: “When you’re not ready for rejection. This is a tough business. Do you have any idea how many times I hear the word “NO” in a week? If you can’t take some rejection, or if you can’t take criticism, or if you can’t take direction, go back to the dry-cleaning business. You obviously aren’t tough enough for the writing biz.”

Oh dear.

If there is one thing I know for a fact, it’s that I’m not tough. I have a hard time with rejection and criticism. Certain words can leave me devastated and depressed for weeks. Should I then go back to the dry cleaning business, like Mr. MacGregor recommends? Writing is my life. It’s who I am. I’m pretty sure if you took me apart all you’d find inside are ideas and words and fluttering pieces of paper that say “Chapter 3 — in which Anna Mara learns never to trust old women with moles on their noses.”

I remember one beta reader who told me that all my characters sound the same (NO!!!). Or one reader who told me that my language was too difficult for thirteen year olds (NO!!!). Or a reader who told me that my previous draft was better and the new one bored him very much (NO!!!). I also remember one reader who told me this was the best story she ever read (thank you!). I remember the agent who told me I was a fine storyteller and another who told me she doesn’t do fairy tales but to send her anything else I might have (thank you and thank you again!).

And though it often takes me some time to get over each piece of feedback, I bounce back in the end. I love my book and my writing. Maybe I’m not tough and maybe rejection makes me want to cry, but, to quote T.S. Elliott: “Only those who risk going too far know how far they can go.” And in the words of Helen Keller, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”

And I am definitely choosing the adventure of writing.

Small Surprises

While I was busy torturing myself for not writing as much as I had before traveling to Israel, the universe had other plans in mind for me. Yesterday, after a couple months spent sending queries to agents, I suddenly and without warning received my first full manuscript request. An agent, for the first time, wanted to see my entire novel.

I’m taking a break to dance a little victory dance. Very little, because this is just one small step, and there is no guarantee that I won’t end up back on square one.

But still, I feel like this is a big deal. An agent wants to read my entire novel! She liked the query and first two chapters enough to want to read more.

But I also want to keep my perspective, because I’ve been disappointed before, and I know myself already: I take rejection hard. What am I saying? I take praise hard too. A no-win situation. You tell me my writing’s good, I get depressed thinking I won’t ever be able to duplicate it. You tell me my writing’s bad, I get depressed about that too, because you really didn’t need to confirm what I already knew.

But this time, I’m going to be nice to myself. I’ve decided to take a new road. Remember my holes in the road blog? I’m going to be happy and hopeful. I’m going to imagine the best outcome: The agent’s going to love the novel and want to represent me, and she’ll give me fantastic ideas for revisions which are going to make me feel like I’m seeing the novel through new eyes. But just in case she decides she is not interested, I also have a plan. I’m going to allow myself to feel sad, but I’m not going to take any step back (and definitely not the ten steps back which I used to take, with my hand clutching dramatically at my heart). Because a full manuscript request is a huge small step. And I’m going to take this full request as an encouragement. I already have some ideas for revision, and I know how to move ahead.

Small step forward. Keeping my eyes focused on my page.

Most important, I am writing. I want to keep going with this fun romance novel I started (did you know the second most popular occupation for a romance hero is cowboy?). I want to get back to all the other ideas which have been born in my mind in all the years since I realized that writing is the only thing I want to do. Because, remember when I told you (and myself) that I’m a novelist? Well, it’s true!

In conclusion, I’d just like to say that all this came about by the help and energy of Dennis, our dog walker, who likes my three dogs so much that he recommended me to the notice of his friend, the literary agent. Thank you Dennis! I always knew there was a reason I kept those dogs around.

Can’t Handle the Truth!

I got another rejection for the query I sent to the “Yes, I can handle the truth” contest. And, as promised, I got an explanation why:

“If this is middle grade, your main character should be between the ages of 11 and 13. I personally am over fairytale esque stories or fairytale retellings. I’ve just read too many of them and they’re all starting to sound the same. What makes this one different?”

I claimed I can handle the truth, but I actually feel pretty bummed. This is my baby, my creation we are talking about. It is not a retelling of a fairy tale! I worked very hard on that query! I even got my wonderful cousin Iris (who is a writing genius) to help.

Waaah!

Okay, I’m done whining, but I’m not handling anything yet!

Handling the truth is overrated. Just imagine if Dr. Seuss handled the truth and stopped writing after eight rejections! No Green Eggs and Ham! No Cat in the Hat! What would our lives be like???

Another argument I could make (I’m warming to my subject here), is that truth for agent one is not necessarily truth for agent two (or fifty two), and even better, might not be true for my audience!

By the way, last time I presented my novel as a young adult (YA) story and received an answer from an agent, she said my novel was too sweet and happy for YA. She said I need to bring in some more teenaged angst, sex, and anger. So I have a great idea how to revise my novel.

A fifteen year old girl lives in a dystopia where the government spies on everyone using a technological gadget too sophisticated for me to understand. She gets kidnapped by a super-engineer (and I’m too innocent to imagine what he does to her).

By now, the girl is having a really bad day. She is rescued by a not-so-nice guy (I’m thinking Marquis de Sade here), and only barely manages to escape from him only to fall into the hands of rebels. The rebels wish to cut her open so they can gain possession of their fifteenth super-techie gadget, after which they could topple the government and have their own dystopia. At this point, the sun goes dark in frustration over the evilness of mankind, and the girl needs to fight everyone all at once by herself in the darkness.

The story will end with the girl returning home only to discover that the government has decided she aided and abetted the evil people. She is put away forever in an empty windowless room where she spends the rest of her days spinning straw into gold.

That made me feel a little better. As long as I have my creativity, I can never be sad.

Querying as an Exercise in Self Faith

As of today, I have sent out nine queries and received nine rejections. I’m still way ahead of the game, so to speak. Dr. Seuss received some 70 rejections before getting published. Anna Frank’s Diary had apparently been rejected by 16 publishing houses. Even Gone With the Wind did not make it on the first try (38 rejections). One of my favorite writers, William Saroyan, kept 7000 rejection slips. Now there’s an exercise in keeping faith in one’s self and one’s work!

Nevertheless, I feel quite bummed. This last rejection letter doesn’t even have a name attached to it. It makes me wonder, behind the form letter and the agency’s letterhead, did anyone even read the ten pages I’ve attached to my query?

I find a disturbing similarity between querying and the process of trying to meet someone on an internet dating site. How I present myself, the words I choose, are used to decide whether the ME behind them is worthy of meeting. In the case of a query, this ME is my novel, which just so happens is a novel about a princess. A big turn-off, apparently, in today’s vampire, fallen angel and dystopia-infested publishing world.

To end on a high note, my boyfriend Dar and I have recently moved in together. Dar and I met on match.com. In fact, Dar loved the packaging I came with. He wanted to meet the ME behind the photo and the few strangely-chosen words. So I have to believe that somewhere out there is an agent, or a publisher, who would be similarly excited to have a princess book, light and sweet and cheery and heartening. Somewhere. I’m sure.

I found the well-loved authors I mentioned above and others like them on this website:
http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/05/17/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109