There have been times in my life where I have let my fear lead me in my decision making, not something that I am proud of and I have spent time trying to change by leading with some semblance of confidence and optimism. Cowardice has been on my mind these past few days because in the back of my mind I keep wondering why all of the literary agents that I sent my manuscript have yet to answer me back, I know that it hasn’t been the six months, but still and I dread checking my spam box for fear of what I may find. I do force myself to do it every other day, but my stomach churns with butterflies. On top of that, if that isn’t pathetic enough, two weeks ago I left a copy of the first part of my baby, my novel “The Chic Bootlegger” with my mother. I still haven’t asked her if she had read it, I am terrified to hear her opinion and the fact that she hasn’t said anything about it, tells me volumes. She must hate it and doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, which means I will never ask her about it, because I can tear myself down for her in my own imagination, hearing the words first hand from her lips will hurt too much. Why did I leave her the manuscript? Why didn’t I listen to my instincts, I had promised myself to never show her and in a burst of misguided optimism, I relented and left it with her the time before I was at her house. She had seen my red pen with my draft copy, asked if she could read it and I didn’t know how to craft an excuse giving me cover to refuse her request. That was at least 3 weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything, so my imagination is running amok. I can just hear her words in my head; “I don’t want to criticize you BUT ……..” The power of rejection is crazy.
It is so frustrating dealing with this waiting/rejection game. Intellectually I know that everyone who is a renown author has had to deal with the same challenges, but when you are in the midst of it, it offers cold comfort. I realize that I am one amongst millions who truly, fundamentally want to be published, to share with the world what they have written, to have that moment of pride “I am a published author!” to have the feeling of validation. Knowing that still doesn’t make it easier.
Last night while at dinner, we were talking about me perhaps getting published and I was getting the pep talk about J.K Rowlings receiving over 200 rejection letters before finally getting signed and that does keep me going. My newest gripe is with the 50 or so literary agents who have yet to answer back in any form. What is that all about? It has been only 3 months, but still it isn’t as if I had sent the entire book, just a cover letter and twenty odd pages of text, how long does it take to read that?
I hate waiting, but on the other hand in the waiting there still resides hope. Answers are definitive, the waiting game allows me to fantasize about a hard cover book with my name in bold letters, my first televison appearance on the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, my second appearance on “Good Morning America” and my third appearance on “Live with Kelly and Michael”. Fantasies are fun.
When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?
It has truly been over a quarter of a century since I have felt really, truly lonely. Before then, I remember a few times where I felt devastatingly lonely and it hurt to the core. When loneliness hits, it really gets you to the foundation of your being; I remember questioning the universe as to why it was so difficult for others to love me for me and why was I so defective in their eyes. I remember not understanding what others had that I didn’t; these questions, doubts and self-recriminations happened mostly during adolescence, but my first year at college away from home was really brutal. My suitemates all turned on me because I had inadvertently hurt one suitemate’s feelings; her name was Elise and the others since day one, could barely tolerate her; when the school year had started, her boyfriend broke up with her and eventually she had stopped crying and moping. Fast forward to April and her ex-boyfriend asked me if I would share a round trip bus ride to N.Y because coincidentally we were both going to the same place at the same time. I said yes, thinking nothing of it, everything was amicable but on the way back up a few kisses were shared and that was it. For some reason the suitemates decided that I had broken a sacred rule of girlhood and I was tossed to the wolves. I was basically shunned until the end of the school year in my suite and that pushed me back home, back to civilization and the safety of my home. The minute that I came back home, my loneliness lifted and all was right in the world; for the most part.
Throughout these experiences, what I had found helpful were books. Books saved my life, my mind and my heart. I found knowledge, new worlds, other perspectives and non-judgemental, dependable friends. I can’t imagine a world without books.
I have been looking for the mail every day, hoping for a response from the other publishing houses and I have been scanning my email as well. I have to confess that the thoughts that have been rattling around my head when I open my mailbox and my inbox haven’t been very charitable when I experience disappointment. “How long does it take to read a few political essays” “Why won’t they answer back?” “How bad can it be?” “How far under the pile am I?” These aren’t productive thoughts and I squash them as soon as they pop up, but they do pop up nevertheless.
Then there are the few moments where I allow myself a tiny fantasy of opening up the mailbox and seeing a big envelope from Harvard Press. I open it and there is a contract with my name on it alongside the title of my book. I think that if that actually happened I would faint dead away in a heap outside right next to our mailbox and the ambulance would be called. That could be mortifying, but who would care I was published!
I am getting ahead of myself. Anyway it is a nice daydream and puts a smile on my face; it also keeps me hoping and positive, which is very important.
Today I wrote the first draft of my letter to the publishing world and it reminded me so much of those dreaded personal essays that I used to sweat over when I was applying to colleges and then to law schools. I never knew what to say or how to say it. Essentially the essay is your chance to sell yourself and convince a few strangers that you deserve to be accepted. I never knew quite how to do it and when I would write those essays, I could feel myself get all twisted up inside searching for the right words, the right attitude and not quite sure of what that was.
Which is exactly what I am trying to do today, trying to find the words that will intrigue and persuade some stranger to give me and my work a chance. It is probably harder than writing the actual essays themselves.
Here is a sample:
I am submitting for your consideration a compilation of political essays covering a specific time period, between January 1st 2011 until the day after the 2012 Presidential election, The reason for which this time period was selected was to illustrate how, despite the passage of close to two years, we are still arguing the same issues and the same ideological and sociological differences still divide our congress and our news media. I as the writer do not have a professional background in politics which is why I feel that my book is unique, these are essays written by someone who is passionately interested in our political process and landscape, but is writing from home as a bystander and as someone who is impacted by decisions made from a far. My politics are those of the progressive camp, I write very critically of our news media sources and especially Fox news. My essays are all derived from comments that I have posted as a registered member of the Huffington Post community and cross-posted to my political blog A Progressive’s Thoughts found on WordPress.com.
I believe that my compilation of political essays would be a useful tool in any introductory course in journalism or political science; in this day and age of blogging, self published journals, newsletters and books, my book of essays is a natural extension of the new order in information diffusion.
I am reaching out to you at New York University Press because I am an alum and my time at New York University, particularly as a political science major, was an extraordinary time of learning and discovery. Therefore your publishing house was my first thought when I started exploring publishing options.
I have enclosed my book in hard copy form and I hope that you will take the time and read it. I sincerely hope that you enjoy these essays, each not longer than 250 words; two years is a mere blip on the radar of political life in any society, but it can give great insight as to the times and trials particularly after a catastrophic economic event as the Great Recession and the resulting policies, fight and showdowns that occurred afterwards.
This would be sent to New York University Press, but I don’t know if this is too much, not enough, how to tweak it. Of course I will tailor it to other publishing houses, this is the first draft.
If any you have any thoughts or criticisms please feel free to share.
I am getting close to the finish of where I want my political essay book to be, but it is quite tiring. I had forgotten how tiring editing is from way back when I used to write term papers in school.
I do have to say that by going through all of my essays, day by day, I am really surprised as to how relevant my words still are today. It gives me hope that my book might get noticed by a publisher, but it makes me sad as a politically interested person because it shows that we haven’t made a lot of progress as of today.
I actually yelled at myself a few times today because there were a few times during the day when I was feeling tired that I said “really you had to comment five times in one day?” Instead of just 30 days of comments, it has been closer to 50 to 60 comments a month to go through, I have a lot to say and I am quite opinionated lol.
I do feel really good about my work on this book and that is what counts.
When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?
I don’t have a preference for either one because I love both. When I want to escape this world I choose fantasy/science fiction in the genre of Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Dragon Lance series and other wonderful series. One of my favorite things about science fiction is the very fact that these stories exist in serial form, making for enduring and lasting friendships between myself the reader and the characters. The Wheel of Time series gave me a group of young men and women who grew into their heroism and courage through much trial, loss and tribulation to at last emerge victorious over the ever present great evil plaguing their world; the boys who grew into men were Rand, Perrin and Matt and the girls who developed into such strong women were Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne. In a series as dense and intricate as The Wheel of Time there are hundreds of vibrant secondary actors, but each was painted as vividly as the core six, my dear friends.
However my love for science fiction doesn’t make me love non-fiction any less, sometimes I find myself juggling several books at once which can make for some confused reading at times. I love Jared Diamond as an author; he penned two fantastic books; “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse” ; both of these books will strip away any bigotry or prejudice one might have of the “other”, trust me. I also adore reading historical biographies and Edmund Morris is one of my favorite biographers. His series on Theodore Roosevelt is beyond fascinating; he brings Teddy to life in all of his assets and deficits and you can tell how much Edmund Morris admires and loves Teddy and I fell in love with Teddy as well. Then there is the other Roosevelt, Franklin, his biography “Traitor to his Class” written by H.W Brands gave me a whole new appreciation for how truly great Franklin D. Roosevelt was and that is even after knowing all about what he did for us during and after the Great Depression.
These few examples of the type of non-fiction that I gravitate to and love seems to be a continuation of my political science classes, a field that called to me from a young age. History was my favorite subject of all time and by extension political science; this isn’t a love that just goes away when schooling is over.
That is why I adore books, they open up worlds and philosophies to everyone, all it takes to enter that other world is to flip a book open and read.
Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone — from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson — to narrate your posts, who would it be?
My novel The Chic Bootlegger is still being worked on in my head; I have the last third to finish, maybe I am waiting for the kick in the pants of NANOWIRMO to get it done, I don’t know. This daily prompt is neat in that I could easily see Audrey Tatou in the role of Madeleine and her voice would be perfect for the part. Audrey has a wonderful youthful and innocent quality to her voice and that suits Madeleine I think perfectly. It is giving me an additional layer to work with while Madeleine is exploring New York circa 1925/1926.
Imagine Audrey speaking these words:
an excerpt of The Chic Bootlegger
Which brings me to my mother, I love her so much and yet she makes me so mad! I see her and I know that she is smart and she was beautiful. There should have been more for her to do than just marry, have babies and then work in the factory. But who am I kidding, just because it is the new century, it doesn’t mean that France would strip away centuries of how things are done. That phrase “how things are done” should be banished forever. In our class, that is what we do, we go to school to learn to read, write and do a little math. We are women; it wouldn’t do to know too many things, for the most part anyway. There are some really smart women but you have to be so smart and so stubborn to stay in school, that really isn’t for us Martins.
We are of the “ouvriere” class, the factory workers, we are the small parts of a big machine that makes things so that others can buy those things and make their own things and the circle just goes around and around. Everyone has their little place in the circle and no one should leave their little place because then it would upset the wheel and throw it off track. God forbid if that would happen, who knows chaos might happen and then where we would be? Who would remember their place?
I must sound like a spoiled bitter unmarried woman. Too old to be still living at home, bitter because I’m almost at the spinster stage in life, spoiled because I should be grateful for a roof over my head, a room to myself, family that loves me, food on the table, clothes on my back and a job. I know all this, I hear it quite often. I do try to be cheerful and thankful, I really do. It is just so hard sometimes when people around me annoy me like my little sister. She annoys me, I love her, you can’t help but love her. She is a sweet little thing; she brings out the protective instinct in everyone who meets her. She isn’t helpless, mind you. There is simply something about her that makes you want to take of her and that just grates on my nerves sometimes; I rebel against her magical power. Her two little girls are sweet, the oldest Georgette reminds me of me. We get along so well, she is curious and loves to read, as do I. The baby of the family Andree is still too young to be anything more than a little bundle of cuteness. For these two I am glad to be the one working full time so that Maman can get some physical rest so that she has it in her to be in charge of the two little ones, because my sister just isn’t up to raising the girls. She is still mooning over the two “loves” of her life and how miserable her life is without them. She also hasn’t been looking to well lately and we are all worried about her, hopefully the two little ones don’t notice it too much. I can’t tell for sure with Georgette because she is very clever, it is so sweet to watch her come and try to baby her own mother. I have such a special place in my heart for that one.
Madeleine has come a long way from that introduction; I need to finish her story in New York and then I can put the novel to bed.
What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?
I was lucky in school. I used to have an eidetic memory and I had a high level of focus, added to that was an avid love of reading and I did very well in school. I did very well on tests, be they multiple choice tests or essay tests. When term papers were introduced, once I learned the basics, they weren’t difficult either.
Unfortunately you can’t stay in school forever, unless you are wealthy that is, at one point you have to do instead of just learn.
The learning style that handicapped me was learning by just listening, I need to write down what I hear or else it doesn’t sink in. Without note taking, I get lost in the lecture, I don’t know why, but it is the note taking that penetrates my skull, without it, the words just wisp around my head and float away.
I want to be a writer, it took me all this time after leaving school to find out what I want to do once I was done learning. Not that we are ever done with learning, but now my learning is in a more informal classroom, my life and my world. And writing is what I want to do. It feels very nice to finally know what I want to be when I grow up. A writer.
Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?
When I was a young girl Anne of Green Gables was one of my favorites as was Nancy Drew. They both exhibited the character traits that appealed to me most, intellectual curiosity, compassion, open-heartedness, sensitivity, awkwardness at times. I spent hours reading and rereading those books. They were my friends during many difficult times in my childhood when I felt as if I didn’t have any friends after a rough day of bullying and being made fun of and feeling at risk of getting beat up.
If I had the chance to spend time with Anne of Green Gables, I wouldn’t want to bring the mood down by complaining, instead I would want to know more about her. Spending time with Nancy Drew, I definitely would have spent my time asking her how she navigated high school years and kept her sense of self and self confidence.
The other character that I would love to spend time with which will never change is Lizzie Bennet. Everything about her I can relate to and I can imagine us spending hours reading together, walking together and talking about everything under the sun.