Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rejected.. Again!

So after anxiously awaiting word from an agent who'd asked for revisions (i.e. a major rewrite), I have officially received her rejection. Alas. It's disappointing and, like all rejections, a little depressing - despite some positive points in her email, including the phrases "you are such a talented writer" and "I am always open to reading your work again in the future."

(Reading that over again, I can see that's good stuff.)

Still, last night I turned to the Rejection Section of my favorite book about publishing (The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published) for consolation.

Here is an excerpt that could help a lot when you're down about rejection:

"Jane Austen, J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov. Name your favorite authors and you'll find a trail of rejections scattered behind them. So if the greatest writers have been bashed. pilloried, dismissed, railed upon and savaged, what makes you think it should be anything different for you?"

Good question. Throughout the chapter, there are various examples of best-selling authors who were rejected multiple times - I'm talking 27 times, 375 times, etc. And harshly! There's also a great paragraph in this chapter about how it's so much harder for humans to hear praise than rejection. I should pay attention to that, considering my own rejection did contain those positive points.

Besides taking advice from my favorite publishing book, I like to deal with rejection by sending the rejected piece out again right away. (And I do mean immediately, as in within a few hours.) So now, I have queries out to three more agents as well as two editors.

Hey, if they all reject it, that'll be only six rejections - apparently nothing to worry about if you consider Joe Quirk's story!

Monday, January 16, 2012

First Pages Event

Here's something fun - a First Pages Event in Hyde Park in March. I know it's hyper-local, but they have these sorts of events all over. I always keep an eye out for events that meet certain criteria. For example, I like events that have:

1. a small crowd. It is next to impossible to stand out in a room full of hopeful writers trying to meet agents and editors that everyone there wants to meet, too. In some cases, I've found large conferences downright depressing. This event, on the other hand, is open only to the first 50 writers who sign up.

2. some guarantee of personal attention. As I mentioned, no one pays attention to an unknown in a crowd of hundreds of clones. But some events do guarantee you'll get some personalized feedback on your work. This event, for example, offers each writer an anonymous critique of the first page of their work.

3. a limited time frame. Personally, I'm not big on overnight trips that require tacking on the stress of a lengthy trip not to mention the cost of a hotel and several meals out. If you look around, you can find events that are somewhat close-by or even online.

4. a low price tag. I realize it's important to invest in one's career. But spending thousands of dollars (literally) to attend huge events just doesn't strike me as a particularly wise investment. There are loads of ways to spend money trying to "make it" as a writer. My advice and mantra: Spend as little as possible while earning money as a writer instead.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I'm Working On

As a writer-for-hire, I don't always love the topics I'm assigned. But the truth is, usually I do love them and even if it doesn't start out that way, I get interested once I begin researching a subject. There's more freedom than many people think in work-for-hire freelancing. While I don't choose my subjects out of thin air (or my imagination), I do get a choice of several titles each time an editor approaches me. When there's a list, I can always find something that interests me.

So this week, I happen to be working on a book I find fascinating - it's a biography about a Texas cowgirl who lived back in the 1800s.  I don't want to give away her name, just in case I'm not supposed to before publication. But this woman rocks! I love learning about historic figures like this woman, a person I don't think everyone knows much about (especially considering the conflicting reports I'm getting from my sources).  It's fun finding out about her and straightening out the facts to give her the respect she's due.

Freelancers can't just work on one project at a time, though! I also have some emails out to editors who will hopefully be making assignments soon. And most exciting to me, my book is with an agent right now. I'm really looking forward to hearing back from her, since it's a second read with revisions I made based on her comments and suggestions. Here's hoping she likes it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Makes Literature Literature?

Last week, I reread one of my favorite books in the world: Joy in the Morning. It's by Betty Smith, better known as the author of A Tree Grown in Brooklyn (and another favorite). Both books are just so rich and layered, filled with interesting characters and real emotions. 

Right after finishing Joy in the Morning, I went back to reading commercial teen fiction, which has been my focus all month (except for The Christmas Village mentioned in my previous post, which doesn't fit into that category). Anyway, up till then, I'd been enjoying commercial teen fiction, but suddenly it paled in comparison. It wasn't literature. And literature was somehow better. But I can't put my finger on what the difference is. 

I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Both literature and commercial fiction can offer interesting plots, well-rounded characters, a real understanding of the human condition, etc. I still respect commercial fiction authors immensely and I do enjoy their books. But I want to know: What is it that makes literature literature? 

Your thoughts welcome!