As writers leading a literary life, we have to put up with a regular stream of rejection. That's okay. We're tough. But every now and then it we are rejected in a way that feels, well, just... Wow.
There are, of course, different types of rejection. There is the non-response rejection. If they don't get back in six weeks that means no. Don't follow up.
Then there's: Yes, I'm interested send more. More is sent. This is good. Let's talk on the phone. Phone call goes well and both laugh and have substantive conversation. Then silence. Politely follow up. Silence. Wait. More silence. Polite follow up. Silence. You are done.
Then there's this one. I'm interested, but what shelf will your book be on in the bookstore?
Reasonable question, but hard to answer unless your book is clearly self-help, literary fiction, history, and so on.
However, literary nonfiction books can be a bit tough to gauge since there is a wide range of how stores handle this category. Independents may not have a general literary nonfiction section while online will have multiple categories and tag books in multiple categories so they are found by readers. Big box stores (Barnes & Noble) have general categories with a number of sub-categories that will fit your book, but which one will they choose?.
How do I know this? I spoke with representatives from these different bookstore models for a recent project.
So I try to engage in a brief conversation with the agent by explaining what I've been told by the ten or more people I'd spoken to and end it by clearly stating the category it best fits.
The response was to tell me she isn't interested, only wants the very best, fine tuned ideas, I should stop querying immediately because I don't know what my book is, and should hire a consultant. And she says write a book proposal (I have and it's good). She came up with this without reading a single word of the manuscript or proposal.
I replied to say thanks for the direction then said maybe when it is fine tuned I could query again and that there is a great team behind this book, their bios are in the proposal.
To this, I'm passing and you need to stop querying until you have fine tuned your idea.
Again, I know what category it is, but that not all bookstores (generally independents) don't often use that category.
So I was made to feel pretty crappy by someone who hadn't read a sentence of the manuscript or proposal, which lays out the business case for the book, and told to stop querying because I don't know what my idea is.
This blog is dedicated to what it means to live life as a writer and unfortunately rejection and off-behavior is something we have to deal with in our lives. We need to listen to our critics, but not let them get in our heads and under our skin. It's a balance between accepting we are imperfect, but also following out intuition.
It is hard to do, but practice and patience are the keys to getting it right.
It's always nice when something you wrote gets some positive attention. A book I ghosted titled The Painting & The Piano is doing well with critics and others, which is very gratifying.
The latest is a spotlight on the book here: http://moonangel23.blogspot.com/2016/01/spotlight-and-excerpt-painting-and-piano.html.
Is it absolutely necessary to have an Internet connection to write? Sort of no, but really yes since so many agents, publishers and publications only accept email or online submissions.
And yet, with the Internet being a necessity for writers and many others, why does it suck?
I have spent hour upon hour of the past year dealing with Comcast. The service is horrible because it comes and goes and is slow, their customer service isn't any better, and it is INCREDIBLY expensive. Additionally, I had basic TV, phone and then Internet and they were charging me $130 per month. I just found out that has jumped to $190 per month. And this is with lousy service that cuts in and out that they haven't been able to fix.
So I want to fire them. Next! Crickets. Next!! Crickets.
Fact is, there is only one other provider in my area--Fairpoint--and nobody likes them either.
This is monopoly power at play--high cost, crappy product or service that you need--something our government is supposed to regulate and protect the people from, not empower the massive, monopolistic companies.
So, I thought, what happens in other developed countries?
"Even though the Internet was invented in the United States, Americans pay the most in the world for broadband access. And it’s not exactly blazing fast.
"For an Internet connection of 25 megabits per second, New Yorkers pay about $55 — nearly double that of what residents in London, Seoul, and Bucharest, Romania, pay. And residents in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris get connections nearly eight times faster.
"So why are Americans paying more for slower service? The answer: There’s limited competition in the broadband market.
"In fact, half of American homes have only two options for Internet service providers for basic broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And for faster speeds, a majority of households have only one choice."
If the party you plan to support in the next election is responsible for and supports the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of money into politics and empowered monopolistic powers, please think again.
If you plan to support the party that vows to overturn Citizens United and regulate commerce to protect consumers, thank you.
I have to say, I'm a bossy, liberal moron. I type one and it drives me a little crazy when people reflexively type two. People have to recognize that there are different standards for different types of writing.
So I suppose the message should be, can't we all just get along.
My morning routine to prepare to write goes like this: Coffee and breakfast, read news headlines, but no stories, read Elephant Journal (a great place for mindfulness and mindless advice, plus some on writing), write in quotes from my reading the night before that help with describing people, places, things, emotions, etc., read three or for poems, and then begin writing only to be interrupted by a text, email, phone call, or teenager just waking up.
Oh how hard I try for calm and peace.
Parallel to all of this, I am in a pitched battle with my teenage daughter over removing her iPhone (I hat Apple for many reasons, but this is one) from her room at night so she has a better chance of sleeping. I am amazed that this is as difficult as it is and is the equivalent of wrestling a bottle of vodka from an alcoholic. She becomes incredibly angry and hostile.
Her main anxiety, and one that I am learning is common to all teenagers with cellphone addiction (probably all teenagers) is the fear of disconnecting from the world of the Internet and her friends. "What if X is having a panic attack at three in the morning? She needs me," says my incomprehensibly overtired teenage daughter.
But wait, I have a fully formed amygdala (the part of the brain at the front that handles emotions, decision making and memory) and yet I'm falling prey to the same idiotic piece of technology and anxiety. Fuck me!
Then I found this lovely quote in a story on Elephant Journal:
"It’s okay to turn off your phone and recharge your own emotional batteries.
At first, turning off my phone caused me anxiety. I immediately would think of all the people who would get upset with me for taking time to process and work. However, I ended up learning that if you set your boundaries, you will end up feeling more energized and rested—which will not only benefit you, but everyone in your life. Remember what our rights are—we have the right to say “yes” when we can expand energy, and we have the right to say “no” when we need to recharge."
Yes, I and my daughter have a right to disconnect. We have a right to not be available to our friends at three in the morning or to not be available to anyone at any time. I have the right to write in peace and my daughter has the right to sleep so she can function and care for her friend properly (of course, she's probably full of crap and just wants to chat or go online and watch Phil and Dave or whoever the next YouTube thing is).
And this has got me thinking of a total technology holiday. Not just turning stuff off for a day or two at the house, but go somewhere where connecting with the outside world is impossible, where you can only connect with the people you are with and your own lovely self.
Maybe there's a business in this somewhere?
A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to stay in a cabin north of my home in Exeter, New Hampshire, that I thought was about the best, most conducive writing atmosphere I've seen in a while. It is an aged place with its share of mice, bugs and the marks of a bear claw in one of the screens, but it is a lovely place set back in the woods and not too far from a beautiful, clean lake.
It made me wonder why so many people feel the need to build gigantic modern cabins when all you really need is a bit of gumption, some footers, and the desire, as espoused by Thoreau, to simplify.
Take a look:
As a teenager, especially a young teenager, I needed ways to escape my everyday life. Not permanently, but I had to believe there was something better than what I was going through.
There were plenty of unhealthy things to escape into, but the healthiest and most fun was Bloom County. Berkeley Breathed created a world within which I wanted to exist. It was a place where people were rarely intentionally unkind and the people with deep character flaws were mostly harmless. I loved that the depth of their daily life was finding ways to have fun and be silly.
My desire to escape into this world lasted well into my twenties. Loved it. As writers, we should all hope to pull readers in so well.
And then, it disappeared. I can understand the need to stop while things feel fresh or shortly after it feels like a drudge, but I missed the regular issuing of the collected Bloom County strips and I still do.
So it's good that Breathed has found the muse yet again:
This is my son the flying nut. For full comedic effect, please turn the volume up.
A brief post to register annoyance. I cannot believe that someone, somewhere has allowed Hollywood to make a Peanuts movie with 3D CGI. A Peanuts movie on its own from Hollywood is a horror, but good grief!
I love Charlie Brown and the rest of these characters. I grew up with them and the annual TV shows at Thanksgiving and Christmas were markers that two very special times of the year are coming. I have shared these with my kids and we love them all.
But this movie is too much. I saw a trailer for it and even the music is made for a summer blockbuster, not the sublime experience of watching Charlie Brown show the spirit of love and trying even when fate is against you.
We have lost something.