Friday, September 11, 2009

Flight 93

If you’ve never been to the Flight 93 temporary memorial, go. Do it today, do it tomorrow, do it next week, but get there.
The memorial is in Somerset County, near Shanksville, not too far from Pittsburgh, over a small rise on a dusty gravel road, near a long low wide field with a single American flag flying in the middle.
The memorial itself is not physically big, not grand, not fancy, artistic, or sweeping … but emotionally, it is all these things.
Even after 8 years, it still evokes a sacred hushness and respect. You talk in whispers and move about in measured slow paces through the gravel, which holds a few headstone-style marble pieces with bronze plaques. A wall stands across from a large wooden cross next to rows of homemade wooden angels – one painted with the name of each passenger and crew member. In, around and on the plaques, the cross, and the wall are thousands of personal pieces left by visitors: toy cars, buttons, flag pins, cards, guitar picks, rosaries, crosses, keys, peace symbols, necklaces, stuffed animals, flags of every size, fire fighter helmets and jackets, coins, hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, flowers, dog tags, prayers, angels, statues and license plates, each left in a fit of emotion creating a memorial, not commissioned, but sculpted by thousands of everyman-artists in honest remembrance.
In the midst of this, from one moment to the next, I was proud, I was angry, I was sad, uplifted, furious, humbled, amazed, sickened, awed, inspired and afraid; I wanted to sit down and cry, and I wanted to stand up and cheer, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to shout, I wanted to hug, and I wanted to fight; and standing in that tiny gravel makeshift memorial looking out over the long, low field at that single American flag planted on the spot where a plane crashed, I felt, for the first time in my life, the price of freedom.
You should go.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What? You What?

Well, dear faithful reader (that's you Mike) I got my first request for a partial today. That’s right. Someone, albeit a junior agent, wants to see the first 50 pages of my novel. Sweet! And double sweet, he's from Writer’s House, which represents: Neil Gaiman, James Morrow, Nora Roberts, Ken Follet, and Erica Jong, among others. I know this is still far from a sale, and light years from my being like the previous authors, but it’s one step closer to publishing a novel.
I guess that rewrite of the query worked.
When I saw the response in my inbox, I assumed it was another rejection. Then I started reading, and still thought that, because the first line was EXACTLY the same as all the rejections. “Dear Mr. Phillis, thank you for thinking of us for your query regarding BOB’S TWO HOUR DAY.” I was waiting to read the rejection next, but instead I got “I would like to consider your project.”
I’ll be sending that first 50 pages tonight for sure.
Writer’s House.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The rewritten query

That first batch of rejections, even though they were expected, prompted me to rewrite my query letter. I'm glad I did, not because it worked - I got my first rejection from that letter today - but because I think it's a better letter. It gets across the humor more and seems more conversational.
Still waiting for more replies, though.
Here's hoping it works. We'll see.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2 More

Nothing stings quite like opening the mailbox and seeing an envelope written by me, addressed to me. The good old SASE. Rarely do agents or publishers send book contracts with my own envelope. Rarely.
Which brings me to:
I got my second and third rejections. They were both form letters, but so much nicer, almost like the agent felt bad for having to reject me, although, they may have gone through the exact same process as the one that sounded crass and mean.
I'm really thinking about redoing the letter now.
Perhaps a better lead.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No news ...

... is good news
... is bad news
... is frustrating
... because it's been preempted by Michael Jackson
... like show biz-news
... leaves me wondering when I can catch Letterman
... is ever really new, is it?
... no olds, no middle-aged, extinction!
... know news, know gnus?
... Ws none
... means the beat goes on, perhaps a little a-fib, but still going.
... 'til Brooklyn!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Book List

Earlier this year, I read that Stephen King reads about 80 books a year. Christopher Moore reads 60 books a year. I read a lot of books, but I doubted I read that much. Perhaps I should. My goal was to read 50 books this year - one a week, although I am woefully behind already.

Here's the list so far:
Only Begotten Daughter: James Morrow
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: Tom Robbins
Fool: Christopher Moore
Et Tu, Babe?: Mark Leyner
The Year of Biblical Living: AJ Jacobs
Dies the Fire: SM Stirling
So This is How the World Ends: James Morrow
I Love You Beth Cooper: Larry Shayne
American Gods: Neil Gaiman
Good Omens: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Thing My Girlfriend and I have Agrued About: Mil Millington

I might have read others, but I didn't start keeping track until early April. I remember other books, like Cryptomicon (which should count as three books), and The Road, but that might have been last November or December, so I can't count them.

Still Waiting

I'm still waiting to hear back from agents.
I'm not sure if the longer wait is a good thing, like they're considering it, or if it's a bad thing, like they just don't care about it. My realistic guess is they just haven't read it yet. Agents are especially with reading submissions, contracts, keeping track of sales, and selling books, and they probably don't read queries everyday - which is why they say responds in weeks. Perhaps every few weeks they have an office wide query reading meeting, where they read each of them before rejecting them. That's what I'd do if I were an agent. And perhaps I just hit the right day with my first submission. Although it feels weird, I’d say sad, but it seems a little harsh comparing query rejection to the real life events that make me sad.
And, so far, I've only gotten the one rejection. My rational mind says it's only one. No big deal. Some people go through hundreds of them.
But another part of my mind is panicked, wondering if I should rewrite the query. I mean, Bob's Two Hour Day is a publishable book, and if I didn't get that across, then perhaps my query is faulty. Or perhaps, I am wrong about the publishiblity. More fodder for the irrational mind.
While writing this book, I read a lot about writers going through the processes of writing and submitting. They all seemed so overly dramatic, like 'pieces of them were dying' and how much doubt and self-loathing and questions about talent arose as they received rejections slips. And how the callous unfeeling 'form' rejections made them feel. I thought, get over yourselves. Now, I'm doubting my talent, doubting my story, wondering if the world hates me, feeling like a little part of me is dying and all because of one rejection. This is why writer’s start blogs bashing agents. Luckily my rational mind is winning out and ... telling myself to get over myself.