Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mass Rejection Email Fail (Oh you literary agents: such kidders.)

Writers are like salesmen. Actually, writers are salesmen, though not by choice. We have to churn out words and ideas and stories and then pitch them repeatedly until (hopefully) finding someone who will love and cherish the work down the aisle toward publication.

For my latest picture book I've sent out 43 queries and submissions to agents and publishers so far. With more to come.

For the previous picture book, I sent out 50.

For the first picture book, 21.

I'm getting better at it. Faster.

Being in sales means being told NO repeatedly. It's just a reality of the job.

Imagine yourself as a toddler all over again, reaching for the TV remote, or trying to climb up to the high shelf where the cookies are stored, or coveting the stuffed rabbit in the arms of your friend.

No Suzanne.

No. No no no.

All the while your two-year-old emotions shriek "But I WANT it!"

That's a bit what it's like, though I try to tell myself that my work is actually good, and that my desire to be published is more than mere Id-speak.

Rejections tend to come in three forms.

1) The generic form letter. (Thanks but no thanks.)

2) The personalized form letter. (It didn't totally suck, but still.)

3) The encouraging letter. (I liked the poignancy of the even pages but the lack of vampires in the odd ones makes it not quite publishable.)

I've mostly received the first type, which, (she proclaims adamantly) is not unusual. I've gotten a few of the 2nd and 3rd types, and they get me excited enough to post FB statuses which will probably embarrass me later.

But this week a weird thing happened.

First, a type 1 rejection email arrived in my inbox from a well respected literary agency. It was quickly followed by an automated RECALL message. Shortly after that, a third note appeared, this one reading (in all caps) "Please disregard the previous message."

Being a two year old, I started to get worked up! Maybe this was it! They'd accidentally sent me a rejection note, and then realized it was an accident! My big break had come! Maybe!

But just as the sweet taste of success was forming in my imagination, the cookie crumbled. The ugly reality set in.

I saw it in the To: field. Email addresses.

Lots of them. 238 to be exact.

We were mass rejected.

The awesome fail of it all elicited a deluge of email responses from rejectees, ranging from "Please stop hitting reply all!" to "I didn't even write to them! or did I?" to "Thank you for sharing my personal email address with so many people. As an attorney, I'm sure this issue can be resolved."

Out of this so far has come two Facebook pages, a variety of blog posts, and at least one e-zine article. Given the creativity of the group, it produced poems, banners like the one at the top of this post, and catch phrases.

It also created a strange band of brethren.

We are the 238. The many. The proud. The rejected.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Redressing a Dystopian Omission


I've been thinking about the popularity of post-apocolyptic tales, and it occurred to me that something significant is missing. It's also missing from historical fiction.

What is this missing link, you ask?

Toilet paper.

Or rather, it's historic equivalent.

Despite the irrefutable necessity of the stuff, you never hear about it. In the past and presumably in a Walmart-free, post-zombie future, we won't be able to run out and buy a 24-roll pack to stash in the linen closet.

In days gone by, the Old Farmer's Almanac and Sears Roebuck catalogs performed valuable service in the privy. In a TP-free future, would we first raid our shelves of pulp fiction, then how-to books, and eventually great works of literature?

(I fear that Bibles will once again become an extravagance only the rich can afford, filled as they are with page after page of soft onion skin.)

But let's face it. How far could the almanac and the catalog actually go? And who got to use it? Was it first come, first served? Was it reserved for the man of the family? For tender little ones? There had to be additional supplies once the last sheets were torn out, or for the low man on the totem pole who didn't get to use the paper.

In the US, corncobs were supposed to be the primary potty material. But where were the cobs stored? How were they collected? If you weren't a farmer, could you buy a bag at the general store?

No matter what was used, gathering the necessary supplies and putting them in the privy and near the chamber pots had to be a regular chore. But you never hear about it. None of the Little House books talk about it. The Hunger Games never mentions it.

If and when I write a story set in the dystopian future I'm going to address this. Someday, somewhere, some character is going to be in charge of stocking the outhouse.

Meanwhile, I'm going to lock a few of my Bibles in a safe deposit box.