Between the Books

Last week I was in the room of discarded books at my local library, scouring the shelves, when an interesting lady came around the corner. She was an older woman, wearing a black dress and low, black pumps. She even wore a black hat—the netted, funeral, boxlike type. I made room for her, and as she walked past me in the narrow aisle, I heard her humming to herself. I was intent on spine-scanning, but I thought the humming was nice because I hum all the time.

Old Books in the library
Old Books in the library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She picked up a book, started flipping through it, and quietly chuckled to herself. I looked up from my book to glance at her. Most people do not start laughing to themselves immediately after opening a book unless they want to get your attention. Well, she had my attention, kept her nose in the book, and went on humming. It was a cookbook.

Being the judgmental sort that I am, I thought, “She’s probably not all there,” and turned back to my spines. She placed the book back in the shelf decidedly, walked by me with a polite, “Excuse me,” and left the room. I concluded she was eccentric. That’s when this quiet little thought slipped into my head: “I bet she’s a writer.”

I told Realm about this, and he asked, “What did she do that made you think that?”

“I don’t know… the humming, the classy outfit, the little laugh to herself. I can see myself doing that when I’m older. I mean, being eccentric.”

“So, you’re saying you plan to be eccentric?” he asked with an eyebrow raised.

McReynolds, Miss Haldane, Haldane  (LOC)
I think a hat like this would make me very happy. (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

“I don’t plan to be, but I know I will be. Most people, as they get older, become more persnickety and take on odd habits. I intend to embrace it.”

He shrugged. “I guess I can see that, but how eccentric are we talking here?”

“Well,” I thought aloud, “someday I want to wear just what I want to wear—and hats are one of those things I think I’ll probably start wearing as I become more eccentric. I will dress up to go places like the library, and I will dress down when I go to formal events. Really, it ought to be that way. The formal occasions are more uncomfortable because of pinching shoes and things. I don’t mind if my shoes pinch when I’m on a short outing to look at books, though.”

We were silent for a bit, and then he said, “I still haven’t figured out how, exactly, being eccentric and being a writer go together…”

“I guess they don’t,” I admitted with a shrug. Then I added in a dramatic whisper, “Maybe she’d just buried her third husband that morning and was indulging in a quiet laugh of triumph between the books.”

He shook his head at me as I chuckled to myself and returned to my humming.

Whoo Hoo! Go, Failure!

You won’t ever succeed until you have continually failed.

This was the advice I was given about sending out my queries for Dragonfly Prince. Isn’t it encouraging? It’s no wonder I’ve been hitting disillusionment hard. I think it’s also because I’ve been reading fine print. Stuff like,

“In publishing your book, it is necessary, to the extent that any rights apply, that you waive any and all foreseeable inconveniences to Filmore Paukits Publishing, Inc., including but not limited to digital rights, moral rights, your right to any specific point of view, your right to any values you might hold dear, your right to think, your right to breathe, etc., where at all advantageous to the marketing philosophies of our company.”

I realize that the point of a Grant of Rights has to do with advertising. Specifically, it allows marketing to present my book in a way that’s considered the most appealing. Still, it has me thinking about the rights I might be asked to give up. I want to have a say in what the cover illustrates. I want to know my work retains the spirit I wrote it in. I want to have the ability to keep someone from editing out an aspect that, to me, is crucial to the story, replacing analytical content with sensational nihility that I’ll regret until my dying day. I’m not talking about editing; I am concerned about bias and censoring. It’s wrong to take an artist’s work and conform it to current views – which change – and stymie the author’s true views – which should remain the author’s prerogative to change.

I think publishers nowadays are squeamish. And they should be. It’s a tough market. No book company wants to make decisions right now that might negatively impact its reputation. That’s why a good literary agent is important. If I’m going to make the effort of catching a publishing company’s attention, I want to do it well and efficiently, while being aware of what I’m getting into.

I’ve sent out four queries. Yes, four. When I find an agent that piques my interest, I read everything I can find about her. (Yes, four ‘hers.’) I make a list of her literary interests, quirks and good qualities. I read over her book deals. I weigh in the things I don’t care for. I ask myself, “Do I think I could work with this agent? Is she too (I go through many adjectives here)?” I’m basically investing in a relationship before I’ve composed the letter! I have to stop kidding myself. This is called finding any excuse to drag my feet. I can’t become callous to rejection if I don’t make the effort to be rejected!

I think the beauty of this whole endeavor is: I’m living in a time when there isn’t any avenue of book publishing that I can’t explore on my own. I need to give this agent search my best effort and be patient. At this point the only thing that’s holding me back is me.