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I wrote a memoir manuscript once. It wasn’t very good. I could tell when one of the teen readers I work-shopped it with scrunched up her nose and said she just didn’t connect with the voice. Years later I finally understand what it was lacking.

It’s the same thing that makes ‘evil-doing’ characters into ones that I like and in doing so, add an amazing depth to the stories they live in: vulnerability. And according to Brene Brown, it can do a lot more than enrich my latest novel–they can enrich my life.

In her TED Talk on human connection, Brown states that being emotionally vulnerable—saying I love you first, initiating sex with your partner—is the sole determiner between feeling loved, connected, and confident in yourself and well…not.

While I may be quick with professions of adoration, I definitely hesitation to be vulnerable in many other ways. Saying I don’t agree with something. Saying I don’t want to do something. Critique.

In the end, holding emotions in only leads to not liking myself for it, so like my old manuscript, I think I’m going to have to open myself a little wider from now on—and let a little of the that stuff in. I may just become a better person for it.

Seth Godin

I finally figured out why writing query letters sucks (and I mean aside from the repeated stick-in-my-chest rejections): boredom.

I have sent out twenty slightly-modified versions of the same query letter as of last week and frankly I’m tired of it. In fact, I think I may have a brown on my hands.

According to Seth Godin in Purple Cow,

Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow — the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows — is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible (source).

In other words, if my pitch doesn’t inspire and invigorate me every time I read it—then how can I expect it do the same an agent—someone who sees a heck of a lot of cows everyday?

I have been pretty fixated on trying to contact as many agents as possible over the last couple of months but I think I it’s time to  take a break from the ‘send’ button. Instead, I’m going to play a little. Have some fun. Think outside the bag. And in doing so, write a query that makes me fall in love with my manuscript all over again.

model

I received several notices about webinars offering ‘exclusive’ access to literary agents in my email this week. I’m not sure whether to be excited—or irritated.

When I was fourteen my mother made me an appointment to see a modeling agent. The agent’s name was Dyan and after taking my photo and measurements she apparently decided that my body and face fit into the fashion industry’s beauty standards and offered me a contract.

It seemed like a pretty straightforward entry point at the time—only after being in it for several years did I learn about modeling courses  and camps that charged exorbitant fees to ‘train’ girls in said profession so that they could show off their skills to an exclusive audience of industry agents. Considering that the primary determiner of a girls ability to land contracts in the modeling world–face, dimensions, height–are not things that can be learned, these girls were essentially paying $1000 to do something they could have done for free: see an agent. Of course, people do crazy things when they want something bad enough–I know I did.

Now, so many years later I can’t help but wonder if the same thing is happening in the context of a different kind of dream: publication. Sure, the literary agent webinars offer valuable query letter critique, but frankly, there are discussion boards that offer that kind of service–and for free. I’m sure I’m not alone when I confess that the primary reason I have been contemplating dropping a couple hundred bucks for one of these sessions is to be able to access an agent.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these webinars are a valuable opportunity that I should be grateful for—or maybe once again, our dreams are being exploited.

If anyone has accessed one of this events I would love to hear your thoughts.

once upon a balloon

I was recently rejected by a literary agency.

It went something like this:

“The pages you sent are well-written and enjoyable, but unfortunately, J did not connect to the story as much as she was hoping to, and so she will not be offering representation”

Of course, this happens a lot these days but this time was particularly painful as my hopes of publication had risen to runaway-helium-balloon like heights at the time due to said agent having earlier requested my complete manuscript. I’m pretty sure that at least two cardiac veins withered and congealed beyond repair.

Still, I do try to learn from these things—its one of my coping mechanisms. So, I was pretty happy to come across this bit of wisdom in Miss. Snark’s First Victim this morning.

Let your rejections be stepping stones to your success.  Pay attention to them, because they are markers of where you are on your journey. .. Are your requests for fulls ending in rejections that are all saying similar things?  LISTEN to those similar things.  They might be pointing to exactly what is broken, so that you can fix it.

In other words, by stepping back and gaining perspective on the overall rejection trends that I have been experiencing, I can transform heart failure into useful manuscript feedback.

Of course I am still not entirely what that feedback is just yet—one step at a time.

confession kidsuccessbaby2

Vanilla Ice said it best. “Love it or leave it you better gain weight, You better hit bull’s eye the kid don’t play.”

Okay, that actually makes a lot less sense than I remember rapping as a teenager, but the key here is that there are some things that I really hate doing and writing query letters is one of them.

Agency’s make it pretty clear. Failure to include any one of their specified submission components, inability to demonstrate extensive knowledge of the agency’s or agent’s particular publishing interests, a single misspelled word—committing any of those these mistakes is grounds for immediate refusal (and don’t even look at the ‘attach file’ button or you’ll be banned from the entire industry for life). All of that makes for the most STRESSFUL writing that I have ever undertaken.

And yet, every time I send a query letter off, a tiny bit of hope froths in my heart thinking, hoping, that this could be the one.

I’m in my thirties. I work. I do laundry. I wipe bums. Frankly, I don’t get that excited about too many things in life anymore. It’s a pretty nice feeling when I do.

So yes, as I hit my ¼ of the way there milestone, part of can’t wait till this whole hideous process is over—and part of me, will be sad.

emb

Because sending emails with missing attachments, pocket updating my Facebook status with such as gems as ‘Jackie is  slkdjfsldf’ and broken links on my LinkedIn account weren’t enough I have recently been introduced to a whole new arena of potentially damaging electronic embarrassment: the query letter.

Misspelling agency names, classifying my work in the wrong genre, or discovering (about 20 queries in) that the email account I have been sending my queries from should be some derivation of my name and NOT my favorite childhood snack. On her blog, agent Jessica Negron of Talcott Notch Literary Services explains that she addresses her correspondence according to the name indicated in the sender’s original account name and  that “[You] don’t want [her] to know you as cutieBoiLala345678).”  Or in my case, Mrs. Popcorn. Oops.

The worst part of it is that when it comes to making mistakes I have come to learn from the Border-Gaurd-like tone of most agency sites, that any such error can be a Complete and Total deal-breaker on par with enclosing a maggot-infested cat’s head with your lover’s Valentine chocolates.

Though I don’t blame myself for making mistakes–that is all part of learning how to do something new–I do blame myself for not accounting for them. So, from now on I’m going to do the Opposite of what Query experts like Chuck Sambuchino and Nathan Bransford suggest, I am going to start with the agents I think are least likely to be interested in my manuscript (but of course would make me crap happy if they proved me wrong). This way I can still get my work out there, but do it a bit slower pace so that by the time I meet The One I will have spent so much time polishing that letter it will  be fricking blinding.

Sambuchino

I used to think that, querying was like that time I went to a wedding in mom’s Fluevogs and got a matching set of oozy, cheese-grader blisters on my heels ten minutes into the ceremony: painful, but endurable (with enough complimentary champagne). I was wrong.

Apparently, a more appropriate metaphor would be if I had followed up said festivities by running to Seattle–with no pee breaks.

In his How to Land a Literary Agent OnDemand Webinar, his Chunk Sambuchino suggests that writers aim for sending out approximately 80 queries for each project. And that doesn’t mean sending the same email 80 times, it means crafting 80 unique letters carefully tailored to reflect the interests and publishing history of the agent in question, not to mention pulling together the particular proposal components said agent may be requesting.

Here I thought at a mere 18 I had exhausted all possible resources and thought I might as well give up and Never Write Again. I suppose, blisters or not, I should be relieved–particularly because of another comment Sambuchino made in the same webinar, that statistically speaking most authors gain literary agents, not through conference pitches, or contest wins or even ‘accidental’ elevator-confinements—but through queries.

Time to get back in my shoes.

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