Sunday, July 27, 2008

Old friends -- and old relatives

This must be the week for contact with old friends. I had lunch with Nancie, a work colleague who retired years ago to paint and create glass jewelry; I had an email from Judy, another colleague who retired and moved to La Quinta, and I had breakfast yesterday with Jackie, a fellow writer whom I haven’t seen in almost 9 years. Then today I went to the gym with Sherry – a friend I have steady contact with but don’t get to see nearly often enough. We sometimes work out together and chatter away for an hour or so while on the elliptical trainer and/or stair master, and then continue the conversation over a cup of green tea. Like I said to Jackie yesterday, it’s not about the food. The conversation is what matters. So all that is good. I’ve made it my goal this year to nurture my friendships, and that seems to be working despite of how busy I am at work and with my many outside of work projects – my blog, Facebook, Italian lessons, my memoir, and constant writing submissions.

At Jackie’s advice I submitted an excerpt of my book to Narrative Magazine – an online zine, and five of the poems that are in the book to Memoir Journal and – another online zine. I just have to keep the submissions going. The more on my bio, the better chances I’ll make for myself to get published.

And now for the old relatives -- my mother's paternal grandparents, Joseph and Frieda Siman:

It's so much fun to see what these people looked like. But why so serious?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two submissions

I sucked it up, I bit the bullet, I caved. I submitted to Sentient Publications -- the negative one -- and I also sent a query to the Levine Greenberg agency. I have a few more on my list to get out next weekend. I made up my mind that I cannot let one rejection make me do U-turn, as Cameron calls it in "The Artist's Way."

This past weekend Northrop Grumman participated in the Relay for Life. I didn't race, but I did contribute in memory of my friend and colleague, Adele Yates -- another victim of lung cancer. I can't believe she's been gone over five years already. Really, in the scheme of things what's more important? A friend or relative sick and dying or getting published? Seems like a simple answer to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another choice -- there's no end to them!

I have to decide what to do about submitting my manuscript to Alice and Richard’s publisher. I’m still inclined to pass on it. I feel like it’s already a rejection. For this publisher to air out her prejudices before even seeing one word of my manuscript I find unconscionable.

Here’s what she said:
“She can go ahead and send it to me, but there’s not a huge chance I’ll want to publish it based on this description. I’ve received lots of submissions written by mothers or spouses of deceased people, mostly written to honor the deceased it seems, and they are almost never strong enough to warrant publication. But maybe this will be the exception, so I’ll take a look.”

I don’t think I want to subject myself to a rejection in the making. Had she just left it at “have her send it to me” without any negative comments, the outcome may be the same, but at least I’d have thought I was getting a fair shot.

But, then Alice says I could be the exception, and what do I have to lose – except the postage? Well, I can think of what I’d lose – self confidence and the will to keep going with this. Rejections are hard for me to take. I don’t want to feel as bad as I felt just reading those words that really have nothing to do with me or my book.

However, if I do decide to submit, I’ll take Jackie’s advice – never again submit on an exclusive basis. I’ll send out a slew of queries while waiting to hear from this not so open minded publisher.

So, what do you think out there? Submit or not?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Query on!!

I received a very brief note from Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Inc. telling me that she is not going to represent me with my memoir manuscript. She characterized my book as “too quiet” for her. And, thus ended 11 weeks of waiting for a response that was promised happen in about six to eight weeks. She advertised on her web site that she would make exclusive submissions a priority, so I made my submission exclusive. Now, I wonder how long it would have taken if mine had not been exclusive – 6 months, a year, whatever?

I find that Jennie Dunham’s behavior was rude and self-serving. It’s as though she is only in it for how much money she can make from trying to sell a book rather than furthering the career of a writer and getting an important book out to the public. Like my friend Maree said: agents – the soul of the gnats!

I played by all of her rules, not even bugging her when she took way longer than her promised response time, and all I got back was a few lines in a letter. After all, her website also says she will read, but not critique – that's not her job, not what she does. And I’m afraid this is how I’ll have to play it with the rest of the agents I send my manuscript to.

But I’ll not let this stop me. I already have an offer from friends to contact an agent for me, and I have a list of a few others. The question now is should I submit to one at a time or to several. Perhaps I’ll send to two or three. It will still take time no matter what – exclusive or not.

Right now I haven’t let myself feel the disappointment. But I did send out an email to some folks I knew were interested, and I sure got an outpouring of don’t give up advice.

Jack Grapes, one of my writing gurus, gave me the best advice of all. While the pot is boiling – i.e., while I’m sending the manuscript out – keep busy on other writing projects – even if it’s only journaling. Well, I’m doing that and more – writing regularly on my blog and writing a poem once in a while. I think he’s absolutely right. Another person said the “quiet” bit could be a laughable topic while I’m on the talk show circuit!!!

So, instead of going into a deep funk I need to get a query letter ready to ship out again and again. Whether my manuscript is “quiet” or not, I think I have something that will resonate with a lot of people. My book needs to be out there, and I’m determined that it will be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No retirement yet!

Right now I’m so glad that I decided not to leave my job and retire like I wrote about wanting to do early on in this blog. With Kenny’s death my life needs focus all the more. It needs more filling up. Take yesterday for example. I worked out, I went to work, I went to Pilates at noon, and then after dinner I went to a tennis class. So, by the end of the day, I was tired enough to sleep and not think about what my life has been like for the past few weeks. Keeping busy has a way of masking (though never erasing) the grief and sadness and the bad memories and the tears that still seem to come with just the tiniest tweak of memory. It would have been so easy to throw in the towel at work and give up. But what would I have done instead? And how would I have been able to cope with all that awful stuff without my full-time job crutch?

I haven’t been very busy lately, but that will all change after tomorrow when I start to get involved in my new temporary assignment in Customer Relations. I’ll also have an opportunity to learn something new. That is always attractive to me. I’ll have new goals and new people to work with. Definitely a very healthy situation – or least an opportunity to be a healthy situation. No matter what, I won’t be bored, and I won’t have time to dredge up all those bad memories that make me cry.