Friday, June 14, 2019

Rejection letters for the great novels

I was raised on classic, great literature.  Which is wonderful, but the trouble is, you can't actually write like that today -- or you can, but you'll never get published that way.  Standards have changed.  Novels today compete with television, with social media, with video games.  They have to be pretty punchy.

In some ways, I think the standards are higher.  So many people are writing; publishers can afford to be picky.  But in some ways it's just different.  Unpublishable doesn't always mean bad.  There are surely many truly great novels under people's beds right now that just don't meet modern standards.  Maybe their day will come someday.

Anyway, I'm going to just reassure myself right now by writing the rejection letters I think they would get from modern literary agents.  Because, heck, I'm becoming an expert on rejection letters by now!

Dear Mr. Melville,

Thanks for the opportunity to look at MOBY-DICK!  I loved your sample pages-- "Call me Ishmael," that's great!  However, I can't request the full because you tell me it's 206,000 words.  I wouldn't even be able to finish reading through it once, let alone dozens of times over the publishing process.  I'd be very interested in reading an edited version if you can cut it down by at least half. I suggest some of the knot-tying bits.

Agent McLiterary

Dear Ms. Austen,

Thanks for your interest in Classics Literary Agency!  I can see you followed my advice after my last rejection and jumped right into the action instead of spending an entire chapter on background.  However, I couldn't relate to Lizzie, because she doesn't seem very emotional.   How does she feel?  Why are she and Jane quietly and passively putting up with these terrible men?  They should be crying and eating ice cream, at least.

Also, I feel there should be a sex scene in a romance novel of this genre.  Or at the very least, some kissing.

So I regretfully have to pass this time.  Remember that the publishing industry is very subjective, so please don't give up!

Yours sincerely,

Literary von Agentz

Dear Mr. Tolkien,

I'm honored that you thought of me for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  The premise is certainly exciting!  Though, I do have to say, I have a number of books on my list that are exactly the same.  Have you considered creating a world that isn't based on medieval Europe?  We get so many medieval-Europe fantasies these days.

If I did represent this, you'd need to make some major cuts.  The whole Tom Bombadil thing, for instance.  And the scouring of the Shire in vol. 3.  Some additions are due, also. For instance, where are the female main characters? Would you consider gender-swapping, say, Gimli or some of the hobbits?

I also think your style, which is smooth and readable at first, gets increasingly ornate by the end until it's barely readable.  I'd be happy to read a future draft, provided it was a substantial revision.

Best wishes,

Agent LaLiteraire

Dear Mr. Alighieri,

Thank you for the chance to look at your DIVINA COMMEDIA.  Certainly your style is excellent and you have a boundless imagination.  However, this story doesn't really have a plot arc.  Does the narrator have any goals or make any decisions?  The third part, where I would expect to see major conflict coming to a head, has no actual conflict at all.  The narrator doesn't even end up with Beatrice!  What is the point of this story?

Please don't give up on your work; I hope the agent that will be able to commit fully to your story is out there.

All best,

Rejectrix Agentia

Dear Mr. Conrad,

I had a chance to get into your MS, HEART OF DARKNESS, today and was completely sucked in.  So fascinating, and in a setting we don't often see.  I think you meant to bring people's attention to the horrors inflicted on the people of the Congo.  However, you really should have centered the African perspective here.  Why is the narrator a white savior when you could have told the story from a POC POV?

I will regretfully have to pass, but feel free to send along future work if it's, you know, woker.

Best wishes,

P. C. Publisher

Who else could we add?

Friday, June 7, 2019

33 things to be thankful for

It was a tradition in boarding school to have to come up with one thing you're thankful for for every year of your age.  It was about half as difficult then as now, but let's give it a shot.

1.  A healthy body.  I have no major illnesses.  I can even do about two pull-ups!

2.  It's not winter anymore.  It's summer by my calendar, if not the official one.  I love wearing short sleeves.

3.  My garden.  I've got pea pods, green beans, basil, and cilantro coming in!  Tomatoes and cucumbers are blooming most promisingly too.

4.  Marko.  He's so smart and the things he's into are so interesting.  And just when you think he can't be affectionate, he draws you a sweet picture and gives you a hug.  I remember I was sad when he didn't say "I love you" for such a long time.  Till, like, five.  You know what, though?  I found out the other day that other boys his age won't hug their moms or say "I love you" in public anymore.  Whereas Marko isn't the least bit embarrassed about it.  Who's missing out here, really?

5.  Michael.  His smile is so joyful and infectious.  He loves hugs and kisses.  He's really good to animals.  And he actually enjoys being helpful.

6.  Miriam.  She is so full of love for everyone.  When I told her your "true love" is someone you love a lot, she started telling everyone she knows they're her true love.  She loves to wear beautiful clothes, to sing, to dance, to be a princess, and to make bouquets.

7.  Jackie.  She is such a delight right now.  It's so easy to make her giggle.  She's at that stage where literally everything they say is hilarious because of the voice they say it in.  I remember waiting a lot longer than I would have to for her to initiate hugs and kisses, but she does both very enthusiastically now.  She also loves to sing, basically all the time, and is surprisingly good at it for two.

8.  John.  For my birthday he got me a red teakettle, a Harry Potter t-shirt, and a photo collage of all the kids.  I feel seen.

9.  Kitty-kitty, aka Pandora, aka the Basement Cat.  She is lying along my leg right now purring like a jet engine.  There's something nice about being the special person of a cat who doesn't like anybody but you.

10.  Tiger.  As different from Kitty-kitty as night from day, she loves everybody, even strangers.  That means the kids get to enjoy cat snuggles too.  And she lets you rub her tum.

11.  Cats in general.  I MEAN, CATS.  They are so wonderful.  I joined THIS CAT IS C H O N K Y on Facebook and it's the best.  Daily fat cat pictures.  This is the way to maximize happiness on social media.

12.  Social media!  People say it makes you unhappy, but it makes me feel very happy.  I've never had so many friends or kept in better touch.  Could I, theoretically, have emailed all my friends all the time, or written letters, or called?  Yeah, but it's a lot more work and I'm busy and tired all the time.  This way I can get a little smile from a friend any time of day.

13.  My family of origin.  I'm visiting them this summer and I am SO EXCITED OH MY GOSH.  It's been a long time.  I gotta brush up on my Princess Bride quotes and Star Trek references.

14.  Star Trek.  It's just such a thought-provoking and also fun show.  Deep Space Nine is the best and you are welcome to fight me on that.

15.  Science fiction in general.  It's good stuff, man!  I love to imagine possible futures. I'm reading C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series and it's really got the imagination chugging along.

16.  Discworld.  To me, the Discworld books rise almost to the level of holy texts.  There is so much that's good in them, including hilarity which is always good for the soul.

17.  Tolkien, for similar reasons.

18.  Writing.  I am thankful that I have time to write (if not as much as I want) and that my family supports me in it.  Even if I never get published, I'll be glad I have created these stories, which seem to have life beyond me when I've finished them.

19.  The publishing industry.  Isn't it great that you can just write stuff, and send it in, and it's possible for a total amateur with no credentials to become a best-seller?  You can complain about how small the odds are, but really, it's a lot harder and comes with more entry fees to do almost any other kind of art.

20.  Colors.  I love them all.  I love them when they shade together.  Sunset colors.  Forest colors.  Night colors.  Earth tones.  Ocean colors.

21. Fiber arts.  I haven't done much of those lately, but last night I picked up a hat I started last winter and started clickety-clacking.  It's nice.  So meditative.

22.  The Shenandoah River.  I love how it winds around everywhere and is so lazy and smooth.  I love the ridges rising up all around it.  I'm thankful to live in a place that is beautiful.

23.  The Pacific Northwest.  I don't get to go there very often, but I love even thinking about it.  I love the mountains, the forest, and the ocean.  Where else do you not have to pick one?

24.  Public schools.  It's been a little bit life-changing having the kids in school.  They learn so much.  I find my life manageable again.  I don't know how people homeschool while having a baby and/or a toddler, but I know I couldn't.

25.  Millennials and Gen-Z.  The Tumblr memes!  So relatable!

26.  Neighbors.  This year we have two, count 'em, TWO families with kids across the street.  The kids are in bliss.

27.  M.S., who chats with me on messenger almost every day.  We share kid-related woes and send each other stuff we write.  I love her work.  But I selfishly keep a special fondness for her rave reviews of mine.

28.  J.S., who hangs out with me every chance she gets and is incredibly selfless about offering to help.  She's also got very interesting things to say and her style is flawless.  She reminds me to stand up for myself.

29.  J.O., who I admired all through college because she just seemed to radiate happiness and love to everyone.  She's still like that.  She's amazing.

30.  S.C., who was the first person to help break me out of the shell I was in after boarding school.  We explored Middle-earth together and she got me into dancing.  I wish I could see her more often.

31.  M.M., who I first spotted across a field, standing on a stump, playing violin with her long hair fluttering in the breeze.  She's just . . . like that, all the time!  She lets me recite Hopkins poems to her and sends me beautiful things she writes.

32.  Oops, another M.M., this initials thing is hard.  (It's just, this is public and I want my friends to recognize themselves without the whole world catching on.)  I hope she'll recognize herself, though: she's very glamorous and loves Victorian dresses and sends people flowers out of the blue.  She's so supportive, you have to remember to ask her how she's doing because she's so busy asking after you, she won't say.

33.  Oh no, I'm out.  Let's just say: all my other many friends, loved ones, aunties, grandparents, fans, all those people who make me smile just by being their unique selves.  The good news is, in twenty years I'll have more slots to fit in all the things I'm thankful for.
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