Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2: Years Ago, Still the Past

This is part two. Check out Monday for part one.

You start writing another book. It’s about your brother, but you don’t realize that until the end.

In the spring of your first year teaching, you go to a conference. There’s a pitch session at the conference. You practice for the whole month before that, in front of the mirror, while driving to work, in your head during your planning period. You make huge packets of samples, copies of the whole book on CD, business cards, signed bookmarks, and all kinds of things.

At the conference, no one wants the stuff. Not even the tiny business cards.

You’re nervous when you pitch. You’ve memorized it, but you forget it all when faced with the gods of publishing. You make rookie mistakes—mentioning the books you’ve shelved, mistaking common terms in the business. Some agents are interested anyway. They give you their cards, and you will query them in the coming weeks, and not a single one of them will ever reply, even with a form rejection.


There’s an editor. From one of the Big Six publishing house. She’s interested. She’s funny. She wants the partial. When you send it, she quickly asks for a full. When you send that, she returns with a 12 page edit letter. Make the revisions, she says, and we’ll talk contracts.

You’re on cloud nine. You worry about doing the job quickly. You take time off work. You finish in a few weeks. You think it’s perfect. You rush to the mailbox and send it off.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

You email her after months, asking for an update.

You pace in front of the school by the bushes before a basketball game.

You’re rejected.

For the first time, you start to think you’re not good enough.

You’re angry, as well as sad. So you try to figure out what went wrong.

You realize that you didn’t go far enough in the edits. You did a halfway job in your rush, and you regret it. But it’s too late now.

You join critique groups. You post samples on online forums designed to critique.

One person says your story is the worst he’s ever read. He questions whether you should ever write. He suggests you destroy the manuscript, never send it out, and quit writing. He says there is nothing of value in anything on the page you sent.

You enter contests. You never win any of them.

After entering—and losing—the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, you hook up with people on the forum who also lost, and start a critique group.

You start to realize where you went wrong.

You regret your past mistakes.

You rewrite and rewrite, then put some of the stories to bed.

You start to blog. No one cares. No one comments. You blog for months before you get a comment. You blog for over half a year before you have what could be called regular readers. Other people, who seem to have been doing half as much for half as long, get agents and contracts and deals. You get so jealous, you’re sick to your stomach.

You tell yourself: you can be a teacher and a writer at the same time, and you pray for nights on end that is the truth.
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