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

Your Memoir

If you were to write a memoir, what would it contain? First, let me define “memoir.” The Oxford Dictionary states that a memoir is, “a biography written from personal knowledge.” O“an essay on a learned subject.”

When I think of a memoir, I envision a thick book just filled with pages upon pages of life events written by someone notable. (Think Bill Clinton’s My Life or Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.) Since I haven’t turned forty yet, it seems premature to write a biographical memoir.

But an essay on a learned subject? Well! Now that is doable.

Yet, there are a multitude of learned subjects I would love to discuss in my memoir. I can’t help but feel limiting it to only one subject would be withholding crucial life lessons that could aid my readers. What if the below tidbits dramatically change your life? So, at risk of breaking all literary convention, I present you with The Underground Writer’s Memoir.

Baking powder and baking soda are two entirely different things. Ask my family. They learned this brutal truth several Sundays ago when I tried to make pancakes from scratch. The recipe called for baking powder. In my hasty, caffeine infused rush, I accidentally used baking soda. Twice. (Since I tossed the first batch after my husband and daughter said the pancakes tasted acidic … and resembled amoebas.)

Don’t be fooled by the song, “Send In The Clowns” by Judy Collins. You may think this is a peppy tune since the word “clown” is in the title. Trust me, it’s not peppy. There is no circus music, as one might expect. In fact, it just might be the most depressing song in the history of music. Whatever you do, DON’T put this song in the music queue for your child’s birthday. Unless you want to curl up into a ball and sob your eyes out, I recommend staying away from the song altogether.

Not everyone finds the surgery you had as fascinating as you do. When I was fourteen, my parents invited friends over for dinner. The man brought the video of his recent cataract surgery. He really thought we wanted to watch it. Out of kindness we did, but it was such an awkward moment: sitting in the living room, the taste of dessert still fresh on our tongues, as we watched this guy’s eyeball get stitched back together.

No one can prepare you for how insanely difficult it is to be a parent. I’m not referring to such incidents as your teenager having an attitude, or your eight your old who still refuses to eat anything green. I am talking about that deep, penetrating ache you feel when your child comes home from school and says they spent recess alone, again. Or that suffocating panic when the pediatrician calls with test results they find concerning. As Erma Bombeck so eloquently stated, “Having children is forever deciding to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

While these life lessons aren’t exactly groundbreaking or revelational, if they help a part of your day be a bit easier, then my memoir of lessons learned was an (unpublished) success .

Confessions

“My boyfriend is married,” the woman sitting next to me said.

I twisted in my seat and surveyed the room. Had I walked into the wrong workshop? I thought I was in How To Become A Published Author – not Confessors Anonymous.

“And I wrote a children’s book,” she continued.

So I was in the right room! I turned and faced the woman.

“Um … how interesting,” I said before staring straight ahead – praying she wouldn’t continue the conversation.

For whatever reason, people tend to confess to me and my husband. We’re not sure why this occurs, exactly. We don’t look like priests, or interrogators. Or therapists. Yet, there have been several incidents where complete strangers share rather personal information with us. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill too much information that we’re all accustomed to. (Coworkers sharing their recent bowel woes; a woman standing behind you at the grocery store rattling off what she is making for dinner; the man waiting for his sandwich at the deli telling you why he hates a certain political party.) No, we’re talking confessions.

“So … I got an executive massage,” the man installing our furnace told my husband when he had gone into the basement to see how the installation was progressing.

“Oh.”

“Yeah. It’s right off Exit 7. They give executive massages. Know what that is?”

“Uh … I have an idea,” my husband said, “So … can I get you anything to drink?”

“Nah, I’m fine. I brought a bottle of water. But I love going to that massage place.”

Why on earth would this complete stranger tell my husband such a thing?  (For those of you who don’t know what an Executive Massage is, let’s just say it’s illegal in most states. Including the state where Exit 7 is located.)

I wish I could say my husband and I look like really nice people who love to listen to others, and that is why random people tell us rather lurid secrets. But that’s certainly not the case. If these were supposed to be serendipitous moments, my husband and I ruined our chances of helping these people. In fact, I scooted my chair several inches away from the Home Wrecking Children’s Book Author. Likewise, my husband didn’t exactly seize the moment to provide much needed advice to this man who confessed to frequenting an underground prostitution ring. In fact, my husband didn’t venture into the basement again until the furnace installation was complete.

Could it have been fate? Well, if it were, I quote Lemony Snicket: “Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”