The Longest Reply

Writer waiting for an e-mail reply, biblical painting by William Blake

In My Inbox

Today, in my e-mail inbox I received another form rejection. That in itself is nothing out of the ordinary, for I get these things all the time. But what set this particular reply apart from all the other replies is that it took the agent, two years and three months to return the e-mail. I’m sure in the overall scheme of things this is no record, but for my particular literary endeavors it is definitely a major milestone, for I have never had to wait so long for a rejection.

A Glimmer of Hope

And then from all the information conveyed to me by this agent, who I will allow to remain anonymous, there was this little glimmer of hope.

“Regarding your submission, while there’s much to like, I’m afraid I’m not connecting enough emotionally to your characters, which ultimately means I’m not connecting enough with the content of your story. “

This in itself wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that it was obviously part of a form letter. A few original words would have been greatly appreciated, but I guess it just wasn’t going to happen on this day. Maybe this agent would have been better off, if he had sent no reply at all. After all that seems to be the current form of saying no.

 

Pond Skimming At Taos Ski Valley

Snow-capped Sangre de Christo Mtn.

Last Day of the Season

Today, Easter Sunday was the last day of the ski season at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. As I am an employee, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to a spot, where I could view the crazy antics of the many skiers and snowboarders, as they came flying down the slope and tried to negotiate 40 feet of open, chilly water. The competition went on for a couple of hours, as costumed skiers and snowboarders flew down the slope and tried to cross the makeshift body of water. A good time was had by all as only a few lucky individuals made it across the watery course. Losers got to soak in a hot tub that was set up right near the temporary body of water.

Late Season Snowstorm

This event would not have been possible without the cooperation of Mother Nature, who earlier this week graced the New Mexican Sangre de Christo Mountains with over a foot of the white stuff. TSV collected almost two feet, which made for some great skiing and boarding. If not for this recent snowstorm, the popular annual event would have been canceled because of the unseasonably warm temperatures that have descended on the region. Several weeks of 60 and even 70 degree days have turned much of TSV’s snow cover to a mushy meal during the daytime, only to be frozen again overnight. On this last day of the season, these conditions were returning, though some good early morning skiing was still available at higher elevations.

Pond skimming at Taos Ski Valley

There’s Always Next Year

Though thoroughly enjoyed by all, a definite sadness descended over the crowd that had gathered to watch the fun and games. For once five o’clock rolled around and the event ended, everyone had no choice to head for their vehicles and make the long drive down the mountain, knowing full well that the next skiing days were now over six months away.

Can Self-publishing Get You A Book Contract?

Cat's Eye Nebula:  Credit; J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA
Cat's Eye Nebula: Credit; J. P. Harrington (U. Maryland) & K. J. Borkowski (NCSU) HST, NASA

Walt Whitman self published his first book of poetry. So did Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. And you can add Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau to this list of self-published authors also.

And the 20th century saw many self-published writers turnout successful titles. Some of the more noteworthy are Ulysses by James Joyce, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust,  The Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Peter Beatrix Potter, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Robert’s Rules of Order and the  Joy of Cooking.

So how do things shape up for the 21st century. Ten years into the new century and it appears that self-published authors are doing well with obtaining book contracts.

“A successfully self-published book can propel you down the road to a book contract at a commercial publishing house.” At least that’s how Alan Rinzler, a consulting editor, describes the situation over at his blog, the Book Deal. On his most recent post he goes on to list two self-published authors, who have recently received book deals and then goes to list some reasons why self-publishing is a good prelude to a book contract. Reasons include proof that a writer can market the title and a signal that the author has the confidence and courage that is needed in today’s literary market.

So for all those writers who feel obligated to finding a literary agent(that includes yours truly), maybe there are other ways to go.

Mispelled Wurds and Why Your Cat Might Want To Kill You

Cat's Eye
Cat's Eye by Guylaine Brunet courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

There was a great post today over at BookEnd’s concerning ten words to stop misspelling. I even think misspelling was one of the mispelled words. But the best thing about the 10 misspelled wurds is that they were part of a poster published by the Oatmeal Company. You can see the poster here,; its very funny.

Now for those of you who constantly search the web, you might have encountered the Oatmeal Company, for many places have posted guidelines for submitting ideas to this company. I think they are looking specifically for writers, who could come up with good material for greeting cards, but they have great titles for their posters as well. I visited them today, and my favorite was one entitled, How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You. This web page is definately worth a visit.

And the really funny thing about the whole poster is that it is all absolutely true. Anyone who has either owned a cat or just lived under the same roof with one, will quickly understand that all the examples are truly based on a deep understanding of animal behavior, especially cat psychology.

So, for all your writers, especially those that can handle comedy, and have not fared so well in the slush pile, there is the greeting card market eagerly waiting with outstretched arms. Sounds like fun, think I’ll try writing some jingles tomorrow.

In the meantime godd luck and don’t despair Ground Hog’s Day is just around the corner.

E. Autumn

P.S. Here is a picture of a Galician cat from Spain and a look inside it’s diabolical mind, coutesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Gato_en_Marin
Gato en Marin (Galiza) by Beninho

NaNoWriMo Continues

sombrero galaxy
Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared, Credit: R. Kennicutt (Steward Obs.) et al., SSC, JPL, Caltech, NASA

Today I managed to find a little time to continue working    on a novel-length piece of fiction, even though the deadline that I set for myself during November, when NaNoWriMo (that stands for National Novel Writing Month) was going strong has long since past.

To qualify for Na NoWri Mo certification, one needs to complete 50,000 (hopefully coherent) words within the 30 day period, we call November. I barely managed 10,000 during last month, but it looks like I might reach 25,000 by the first of the year. Not the fastest pace in the world, but I do kind of like the way the story is developing.

This is my second attempt with this organization. Last year I sat down and cranked out 40.000 words for a manuscript that still sits in a drawer, half finished. However early last year, I did manage to forge a large group of related short stories into a workable novel, which I thoroughly shopped around this past summer to no avail. Maybe this year’s effort will go better. I hope so, for I would like to think that experience amounts to something.

For those of you, who like myself are struggling through the never-never land of novel writing, you are in luck.  “TheWriter” magazine has just published a list of its most favorite literary websites and there are several that may be of help to aspiring writers, like myself. Most obvious is a site called How To Write A Novel (you have to give them credit for honesty in advertising). There first suggestion is to write one word at a time; can’t go wrong there!

Another intriguing site is Advanced Fiction Writing, which features the snowflake method. Seeing that today is the first day of winter that might be a good idea also.

Also of importance is a place called the Fiction Factor. This is an informative site that has articles in the form of an online magazine, as well as a listing of markets and contests. Looks like another good choice!

And then last but not least is a place on the internet called “Chapter One“. This website is put up by the Washington Post and it is place where you can go to read (for free) the first chapter of recently published books that have been reviewed by the Post newspaper. Be aware that there is a lot to choose from, as the Washington Post book reviewers are a busy lot.

So there you go. No need to procrastinate, the time to write is now.

house in winter
pastel drawing of a house in winter

Have a happy solstice,  and enjoy the fact that the days will start getting longer from now on.

Best wishes,

Everett Autumn.

Adding To The Slushpile

Roadside in Halifax, England

In snowed yesterday here in northern New England, then turned to a heavy rain and left a real big mess. One big slush pile is what I would call the deposit that Mother Nature made on our fair city. Further inland, the ski resorts and mountain residents received a good hefty amount of snow, while further to the south, our good New England neighbors got nothing but rain. However, this pile of slush that we received yesterday is now frozen solid, but at least the rain followed in ample amounts to wash the streets and side walks clean.

Strange that this real-life, slush dumping would arrive almost exactly at the same time that I had finished my six month contribution to another proverbial slush pile. That is the one accumulated by editors and especially literary agents, as they wade through the weighty stacks of paper and endless lists of e-mail submissions that eager and ambitious novelists and writers, like myself, have so graciously sent their way in hopeful anticipation of that ever-so-elusive intangible object, known as the book contract.

Fortunately, by time this latest snow event had come our way, I had called it quits on my contribution to the literary slush pile. Nearly 100 queries and only two real requests for written material have left me in the same boat as sports fans everywhere, who can be heard around the country uttering the famous words, “Wait until next year!”.

pile of paper
A pile of paper

I think I have given my fair share to the ideas of literary quest during this year, but have I learned anything from my unsuccessful endeavors. The answer to that timely question is a definite yes. And here’s what I have gathered in from events.

Some writers do succeed in becoming authors via sending large numbers queries to one of the many literary agents, located around the country, but they are few and far between. I think it is fair to say that submitting unsolicited queries is a long shot, but there might be better ways to achieve the impossible. Here are a few of my suggestions.

1 – Getting to know agents at conferences and other similar gatherings will greatly improve your chance of finding an agent.

2 – Finding a referral from an established writer or other important literary person will also open doors for you.

3 – Getting an MFA in Creative Writing will not get you a book contract, but it may get you a teaching job or some other kind of similar employment.

4 – Bitching to an agent about a rejection slip is a complete waste of time and energy.

5 – Publishing short stories in well read and admired literary journals can be of great benefit.

Skiers in slush
Skiers attempting to navigate the slushpile

And for those of you who are so inclined to undertake such an endeavor, here are two links that list literary agents and provide some basic info about each one. You can find Query tracker at this address and there is also Agent Query, which can be located here. They both are very good and inclusive, and also free, but I have a slight preference for Query Tracker. This is partly due to their blog and partly due to the way they organize their site.

And finally for those of you who like to keep tabs on what literary agents are up to and how they operate, here is a partial and incomplete list of some of the more popular blogs put out by agents. Probably the post popular blog is that published by Nathan Bransford, who is an agent for Curtis and Brown in San Francisco. You can check out the blog here and find out why for yourself why he is so popular. Another interesting blog is Call My Agent, which is put out by an Australian literary agent, who goes by the name of Agent Sydney. I have also mentioned the blog put out by Query Tracker. This daily (weekdays only) posting actually involves four bloggers, who post on a rotating basis. And then there is Guide To Literary Agents put out by Chuck Sambuchino, which is always a good read. And of course, last but not least is the fabulous rant once published by a fictitious Miss Snark. She hasn’t posted since May 2007, but her fabulous and humorous comments are still worth the time and effort. Be sure to check them out as the whole blog can still be read online.

Good day and I hope you find this post helpful, Everett Autumn