More Sex and Vampires, Please.

The road to publishing is paved with rejection. Margaret Mitchel submitted Gone With The Wind for publication only to be rejected thirty-eight times, while Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was denied for publication sixty times. Sixteen literary agencies – followed by a subsequent twelve publishing houses – told John Grisham they were not interested in A Time To Kill. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were lucky enough to land a literary agent, but were then turned down by over one hundred publishers.

Best selling author Nicholas Sparks (who received twenty four rejection letters from literary agencies for his manuscript The Notebook) put it best, “Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. When all is said and done, it comes down to dollars.” Literary agents and publishers are typically hesitant to take on first time authors – or books that aren’t considered in vogue. An extraordinary amount of manpower, time, and money goes into publishing books, and breaking even is not an option. Success and profits are a must.

I have received over a dozen rejection letters from literary agents for my manuscript. (This is only counting agencies that actually took the time to respond. If I include all the agencies I sent query letters to, it would easily exceed twenty.) As I tuck these rejection letters away, I can’t help but ponder the great literary classics. What if these now famous pieces of literature were never published, and were now trying to make it into the publishing world? What would the responses be? Let’s close our eyes and imagine …

Dear Mr. Melville,

Thank you for the submission of your work, MOBY DICK to our literary agency. Unfortunately, we can not represent you at this time. Who, exactly, is your target audience? Whaling is a thing of the past. Perhaps you should consider revising and instead of a whale, use salmon. (Wild caught. Not farm raised.)

Sincerely,

We’ll Get You Published Literary Agency

***

Dear Ms Bronte,

We regret to inform you that we are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time. If interested in JANE EYRE, we will contact you. In the meantime, perhaps you should consider revising the lengthy descriptions of the English mores, and include some sexual scenes between Mr. Rochester and Jane. Or better yet: between Jane and Mrs. Rochester.

Thank You

Books R Us Literary Group

***

Dear Mr. Shakespeare,

Thank you for your recent submission to Read Literary Agency. Due to the high volume of manuscripts we receive, we are unable to represent MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at this time. Because, honestly, it was much to do about nothing. We suggest self publishing.

Kindest Regards

Read Literary Agency

***

Dear Ms. Burnett,

Thank you for your submission of THE SECRET GARDEN. We kept waiting for zombies to enter this “secret garden” and because there were none, we regret to inform you we can not accept your manuscript for representation.

We wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors.

Sincerely,

We Represent Only The Best, LLC

***

Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

Due to the high volume of manuscripts we receive, we regret to inform you that we can not represent WAR AND PEACE at this time. We strongly urge you to consider making your manuscript less than 1,392 pages. Such a large book is intimidating to most of today’s readers. Including us.

Thank you.

The Quill and Paper Literary Agency.

***

Dear Ms Alcott,

Thank you for your submission of LITTLE WOMEN. Enclosed please find your manuscript that we are returning. A book about a New England family of girls is dreadfully boring. Have you considered adding sex scenes? Vampires are always a welcomed addition. (Perhaps instead of Beth dying, she can morph into a vampire.) Trilogies are all the rage, too. How much better would the title of “Sexy Women” sound? Followed by a sequel titled “Naughty Women”, then “Angry Women”?

Sincerely,

Success Literary Group

***

Dear Mr. Joyce,

We have decided not to represent your manuscript ULYSSES. Please accept our sincerest apologies, but we need to understand what we are reading.

Warmest Regards,

Pen and Ink, Inc

A Place For Who?

Perhaps you have seen the advertisements on television for A Place for Mom, “the nation’s largest FREE elder care referral service.” According to its website, A Place for Mom can direct you to elder care resources and living arrangements in your area. Despite its title, A Place for Mom is a service for anyone who is elderly and needs help – it’s not just for elderly moms.

It’s rather interesting that the company’s title singles out moms. Why not mention dads? Maybe they’re just cutting to the chase and saying, “Listen, we all know that mom is the most important, and no one really cares where dad goes,” so they decided to name the website solely after the matriarch of the family.

Who on earth was their marketing consultant? A place for mom. It sounds like they are trying to find a spot for chipped China dishes or old sneakers they’re not quite ready to throw away. I envision the company’s title stemming from three squabbling siblings, sitting around a computer arguing over what to do with their ailing mother.

“I’m not taking her! Hell no. I had her for the past five Christmases and you know how THAT turned out.”

“Well, she can’t live with us! I simply don’t have the room now that Jake moved back home and converted his bedroom into a studio so he and his rock band can practice.”

“Someone has to take her.  Here, hand me your laptop. Let me Google ‘where to put your mom’ and see what happens. There has to be someplace for her to go.”

“A place for her to go … hmm… a place for mom. You know, that kind of has a nice ring to it.”

While my stint in medical social work was fairly brief, I can tell you with full certainty that the elderly do not like moving into  assisted living facilities. It means losing their last shred of independence; it’s the final step before the big NH (nursing home). Now picture the situation being made worse by referring to a company called  A Place For Mom.

“Uncle Tom, you know it’s no longer safe for you to live home alone. Karen and I are worried about you, especially since the last kitchen fire. We really think it’s time for you to move into a facility where you will be cared for.”

“I’m not moving into any nursing home. Those are for old people.”

“Now Uncle Tom, it’s not a nursing home. Karen and I used the services of A Place For Mom and we found the best -”

“A place for Tom? It’s named after me?”

“Not a place for Tom. It was called A Place For MOM. Not TOM. MOM.”

Mom? I’m not a woman! Why are you putting me in a ladies place?”

Need I go on?

In reality, the company’s intention may not have been to exclude dads or other people. The original name could very well have been A Place for Mom, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Crotchety Neighbors and Elderly Family Friends. Or A Place for Mom, Dad, et al. I suppose they also  figured So They Don’t Have To Live With You would not only be crass, but equally wordy.  End result? The name A Place for Mom was chosen.


Nice Try

“To invent,” said Thomas Edison, “you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Many people took those words to heart when perhaps they shouldn’t have. Below are a few examples.

In 1941, a Mrs. D. M. Ackerman of Hollywood, California designed a Vacuum Beauty Helmet. Also known as the Glamour Bonnet, the Vacuum Beauty Helmet was supposed to improve your complexion by sucking air out of the helmet, resulting in decreased atmospheric pressure and thus glowing skin. (And I assume: fainting ladies.) Shockingly, the Vacuum Beauty Helmet was not a success and was quickly declared a failure. 

"You can't WHAT? I can't hear you with the vacuum running!"

“You can’t WHAT? I can’t hear you with the vacuum running!”

By 1963, people were bone tired of answering their phones. Just think – this was way before caller ID and answering machines. Whoever was on the opposite end of that ringing phone was anybody’s guess. Thus the Phone Answering Robot was invented. How lovely! Or … not really.  Would you want this thing in your home?

No thanks. I'd rather just answer the phone myself.

No thanks. I’d rather answer the phone myself.

Not only was the Phone Answering Robot rather large and downright creepy, it didn’t talk. This left its tasks to nothing more than picking up the phone, and not so much answering the phone. Thus, no one was waiting in lines on Black Friday hoping to purchase the Phone Answering Robot (that really didn’t answer the phone). Everyone had to wait until the 1980s for answering machines to be readily available.

Another dud invention was the Cigarette Umbrella, for all of those cigarette smokers who like their cigarettes dry but didn’t mind getting wet themselves. Because otherwise, wouldn’t they just use a regular umbrella? That way, they would stay dry and so would their cigarette.

I may be soaking wet, but at least my cigarette is nice and dry!

I may be sopping wet, but at least my cigarette is nice and dry.

Perhaps that is the very reason why the Cigarette Umbrella didn’t fly off the shelves and regular umbrellas did.

The last sad invention is on a personal note.  My father had some strange inventions of his own. Or rather, just really bad ideas.

His first invention was a type of chimney cleaner. My parents had recently moved into their home and the only form of heating the house possessed was a wood stove. As my father stood in the living room, surveying the home’s primitive heating system, he realized that cleaning the stovepipe would be wise before its first use. However, that was when common sense stopped. Deep within the recess of my father’s brain a voice told him that hiring a professional chimney cleaning service was unnecessary. The only thing those men would do – he reasoned – would be to clean the stovepipe with a scrub brush. A scrub brush that is similar in shape and form to a … pine tree.

Off my father went, chainsaw in hand, into the patch of woods behind the house and returned with a small pine tree. He proceeded to climb onto the roof and lower the pine tree into the stovepipe. He intended on scrubbing the pipe with the pine tree, but there is a reason professional chimney cleaners don’t use trees to clean chimneys. (Bert in Mary Poppins danced on the London rooftops with a Chimney Brush – not a Blue Spruce.) Tree branches aren’t flexible. Trunks don’t bend.

When my mother returned home from grocery shopping, she found a pine tree suspended from the stovepipe in her ceiling. The tree was stuck. Ash and soot were everywhere. The white curtains she had hung on the living room windows were now a dull gray. My mother put down the grocery bags, summoned me and my brother, and packed us in the car where she proceeded to drive to her sister’s house in Rhode Island. She said it was the only action she could think of to save their marriage.

So I would like to add to Mr. Edison’s famous quote: To invent, you need a good imagination, a pile of junk, and some common sense.

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