It’s All in the Blanks

I’ve graduated and now I’m facing the “real world.” Or at least that would be the case if I were a twenty three-year-old graduate finishing her first masters immediately following undergrad. But as it is, I’m a forty-something, having just completed my second masters in a low-residency program that required my participation in the “real world.” So let me rephrase: Now I’m facing the un-real world of publishing.

I’ve worked hard for years and written a super book. At least I think so, and so do my husband, best friend, best friend’s spouse, a couple of classmates and my proofreader. Now that I think of it, my mom and grandmother would probably really like it too. And now that it’s done, I’m ready to send it out to get the representation it, and I, so richly deserve.

I’ve talked with my classmates who already have agents for suggestions and advice. One particularly loyal and kind soul even referred me to her agent – kisses, darling, you know who you are. I have spent hours reading profile after profile of agents on and even more hours on searching through agency websites. By the time my children started wondering who the woman was in her dalmatian-spotted pajamas sitting in front of a computer at the dining room table mumbling something about membership in AAR I had compiled a preliminary list of 44 agents to query.

And so it began. I sent emails. I stuffed envelopes. Then I did something completely out of character. Something that warmed the cockles of my industrial engineering/operations research husband’s heart (yes, even engineers have hearts). I created an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of who, what and when. In addition to names, email addresses and dates contacted I also included a column for notes “This agent will only respond in two weeks if you have typed your manuscript in a sans serif font in chartreuse ink on genuine sheepskin under a waxing moon.” But for me the most important column is the last one. The one that started out blank and has been increasingly filled with a date and a lone word: rejected.

Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m in good company. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was passed on more than a hundred and thirty times, Good Night Moon – thirty three. Twilight – fourteen (though a few more rejections may have been a service to the reading public).  Do you know how many times Harry Potter was rejected? No, really, I have no clue; but it was a lot. See, there’s hope for me yet.

A hope represented by blank cells on an Excel spreadsheet. And when those cells are full, I will add new entries and hang my hopes on new blanks. That’s just my un-real world.