Feb 2, 10
I took a crushing blow today.
And what really sucks is that it never even needed to happen. Here I was minding my own business, writing my heart out these last five years for no reason other than to maintain my sanity, and then … a month ago I get this email.
It’s an email address I don’t recognize but I open it anyway, and lo and behold, it is from a big time literary agent in New York City. I had never sent my work out to any agents or publishers before, but through a synchronistic series of events, she ended up with a few chapters of my book, read it, and loved it. She asked if I would send her 50 more pages.
Suddenly I was Charlie with the golden ticket. It is almost impossible to get your foot in the door of one of these agencies, but in this case it was as though all the planets aligned and the doors magically opened themselves. It was surely meant to be, right?
After I finished running around the house screaming, I got straight to work. I had to respond in just the right way. Not too familiar, not too formal. Act professional, but not too casual. Oh and choose your strongest fifty pages, edit like crazy, and get it sent over while you are still fresh on her mind.
It took me two days and sleepless nights of rewrites, hand-wringing, pacing, sending it out to friends a family and hounding them for feedback, until I finally sent it.
Then I waited. FOUR WEEKS I waited. It was torture. On the bright side, if there was one, it really gave me an opportunity to examine the depths of my neurosis and insecurity. I had extensive dialogue with my inner critic.
Inner Critic: You blew it. She’s gonna hate it.
Me: Her email said that she loved what she had read, and was compelled to write me. Compelled. That’s a strong word, right?
Inner critic: Ugh... She’ll hate it.
Me: But she said…..
Inner critic: You will die homeless and penniless as a result of your horrible writing.
You get the idea. I laid awake nights listening to that awful voice ranting. I got up in the morning and ran on the treadmill, trying to outrun that voice. It didn’t work. (I did lose a couple pounds though.)
This morning I opened my email account, and there it is, the agent’s email address bolded, shining and golden, waiting to be opened. The subject line read “Memoir”. I closed my eyes and said a prayer. Whatever happens, I accept it as being for my highest good. I took a deep breath, and clicked it open.
Thank you again for sending me your partial manuscript which I’ve read with interest.
Although there were several strong elements to the narrative (and several scenes which I thought were incredibly powerful and very poignant), I’m afraid that on balance I was not sufficiently compelled by the rest of the material to feel that I would be able to market it as effectively as you’d like to publishers.
I would be happy to take another look further down the line as I know that this is still a work in progress. Alternatively, I do hope that another agent will feel differently, and that you will soon find a good, enthusiastic champion.
This comes with all best wishes.
“Not sufficiently compelled….” It is going to take me a long time to erase those words from my memory.
I tried not to get my hopes up too high. I really did. But come on…it was impossible. You wanna know the truth? Secretly I banked my whole future on this. My music career has dwindled away to almost nothing. For the past year I have struggled inwardly with how to reinvent myself and where to invest all my creative energy. I have always written since I was a kid. This was what I was supposed to be doing all my life.
When I broke the news to my family and close friends, I did my best to keep my chin up. Everything happens for a reason, I said. But the truth is, I am heartbroken. It’s not just my manuscript that she rejected, it is my life story. It is me. Oh and that Inner critic bitch? Boy oh boy is she having a great time rubbing my face in it.
So what now? Get back on the horse. Yeah, I know, I know….But I can’t stop asking myself why this happened? Why did that agent have to drop into my Universe, open the door, and then slam it shut? And why oh why does life have to bitch-slap you in the face every time it wants to teach you something?