My Email Looks Different These Days

The subtitle of this post is “How to Grow to Hate Everyone Who Sends You an Email Simply Because They Are Not One of the Nine Literary Agents and Sixty-Five Literary Journals You’ve Queried Recently.” 

By way of background, and in case you’ve not heard (how that could be I don’t know, because it is  my current obsession),  I’ve sent off email queries to agents and a whole slew of stories to literary journals.  You’d think I’d just be able to stop thinking about it now that I’ve got that stuff out there and get back to writing novel number two and maybe a short story, but nooooo. Instead, I’ve obsessed about these letters and email queries to the point that my relationship with my email inbox has changed. All day today, as I’ve waited for people to tell me that yes they’d love to represent my novel or take my story, other people — people I know and even love — have emailed me to tell me about spring soccer, or a girls’ weekend in San Francisco, or the most recent wonderful play at the Berkeley Rep.  And when I’ve heard the little ping that announces an email I’ve thought to myself, YESSS.  HERE IT IS.  THE ONE!  But it’s not the one (unless you count Subtropics Magazine who told me no thanks, but submit again, which my son wrongly took as a personal invitation to have at it on some other occasion, when it is obviously their way of preventing lunatic writers from killing themselves).   Other than that, not a word — at least not from these strangers I’ve submitted my work to.  And the sum total of my day is that I’ve taken no pleasure in the many lovely emails I received today from people I actually know.  

The whole waiting thing is doing me in.   It’s turning me into an antisocial weirdo.  I’ve got to stop.  Good thing I’m going to be spending the weekend at Dodge Ridge, where Charlie is racing and I am gatekeeping and there is no internet.  No cell phone reception either, come to think of it.  Nevermind that my friend Carrie and I have recently agreed that the definition of bleak should be:  gatekeeping at ski race in blizzard.  (A gatekeeper, in case you are wondering, is a person who stands on a hillside in a blizzard during a ski race and makes sure that the racers go through the gates rather than around them.  You have to write things down, which means that your hands will become numb in a nanosecond.)  Anyway, next time she emails me, I’m just going to be glad I have a friend like her:  witty, kind, and not in any way connected to the weird thing that is sending your work into the world.    

Have a wonderful weekend, okay?  And email me.  I need to return to the world of the normal.


16 thoughts on “My Email Looks Different These Days

  1. oh no you don’t! i ain’t pinging any ol’ email. nope not me. much safer to leave a byte trail here i think…(you DIDN’t give them this address did you?) JOKING.

    you have to use the other brain…mail submissions like paying the bills, write with the other mind.

    i know that redirecting the mind can be a full time job…my current and very welcome (finally ready) mantra “get out of my head, get out of my head, get out of my head” albeit this arises from divorce, not yet finished, but VERY HIGH on all planes of my current being.

  2. This whole sending things out to publishers and agents really sucks. And archiearchive is right–they are ungrateful wretches who would not recognize a good story if it walked up and spit in their face, which is exactly what I would like to do to a couple of them.

  3. It could be a good thing you haven’t heard from them (says the optimist). In the days when I used to receive lots of unsolicited manuscripts, I always sent out rejections first, because I didn’t want poor people sitting around with the hope that I was going to publish them. That being said, both Archiearchive AND Hobgoblin are right. The world of publishing is absolutely brutal (which is why I don’t try to publish).

  4. I am certain the world of publishing is brutal because the ratio of readers/writers is unbalanced. As I once wrote, for each line I write, I should be reading a thousand. If all six billion earthlings had the read/write ratio of litbloggers like you, haggard publishers would be besieging your front porch, with a cardboard sign on their chest reading: “a manewskrip 4 me plz?”.

    PS: for your own good, turn off the email notification sound. Email is intended to be an asynchronous mode of communication. It is not supposed to be a written version of the telephone (that one is called instant messaging).

  5. Why do we need this authentication of ourselves as writers? But it’s just as important to me.! Each rejection letter I got felt like a slap but I kept on sending them, and if I ever finish number 2, I’ll send them all out again. Mind you, some of them were a little comic – my favourite was the one that tried to sell me the agent’s book on “How to get published”…

  6. Oh Oh Oh I know this waiting and watching all too well. Isn’t it just excruciating? I try really hard to apply the principle of the bird and the sour grapes to the problem, thinking of all the reasons why it would be terrible to be accepted: loss of personal freedom by media intrusion, exhausting promotional events, humiliation of selling no copies, not being able to call my life my own until I had written the next book, etc, etc. Unfortunately what usually happens is that I STILL wait all the time, just dreading all possible outcomes….

  7. I just happened onto your blog because it was on the WordPress home page, news department. What a treat – you, missy, are going directly into my aggregator for regular reading. Nice to meet you, I’m Lori from New York.

  8. Hello Lori, and welcome. It’s a little hard to believe I’m writing anything that could be even remotely described as news, but they’re liberal and open handed here at wordpress, and that’s all to the good. Your blog is now on my to read list too.

    Litlove, The bird and the sour grapes! I love that. I can think of many, many such sour grapes. I don’t have a thing to wear for those television interviews. I can’t go Hollywood until I grow out my hair a little. I’m too busy skiing to get on the phone with Terry Gross.

    U-Dad: No! They really tried to sell you a book? That’s not nice. I admire your persistence, and think that’s exactly what it takes.

    Mandarine, Done. No more pinging. It was too much like sonar announcing an incoming missile anyway. And that insight about the reader/writer ratio? Very helpful, very distracting, and very funny.

    Emily, Just this morning my husband said the same thing. Unfortunately, it’s as likely that people are just deleting my email queries as they are saving them up for pleasure reading after they send out all the rejections. Still…. I think persistence is only possible if it is coupled with some optimism and for that I thank you.

    Dear Hob, Be careful though. They might think you’re lunging in there for one of those air kiss things and then you’d end up in a love-fest with an agent. Which is what I’m going to guess will happen to you in the coming year if you only persist. And keep writing!

    Your emails, dear Gail, are what keep me going. Without you, my novel would be full of holes and typos. Without you, I would be unaware of those cool black thesis binder things. There are many other such without yous, but I think I’ll email them to you.

    Archie, Once again, the nail’s head has been accurately hit. Thank you.

  9. Dear Nova, Having received my very first email rejection from a literary agent, I can safely say that even bad email isn’t so bad. You can tell from the care with which rejection letters are written that at least some of the people to whom you are sending your beloved manuscript are actually nice people. I think it’s hard being them, and really, honestly? I’d rather be me, a person who gets to spend a lot of time writing stories, instead of them, a person who doesn’t have a lot of time to read and ponder what they’re reading and then they have to reject people, which can’t feel all that great. Still, I’d rather be me and get good email than me and get bad email, so thank you for the good wishes! It means a lot. xo, L

  10. Ooh, I can relate to this so much. I started hyperventilating yesterday when an unfamiliar name appeared in my inbox.

    But it will happen. Just keep going. Onward and upwards…

  11. Please don’t agonize, know that when you don’t hear it has nothing to do with you, more the piles of papers on Submission Editors desks.

    And when you do receive rejection, take it just as impersonally, as 98% of the time, it has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, and everything to do with the narrow focus of a publishing house. And when you imagine narrow, fold that ten times smaller.

    Best of luck to you with your writing.

  12. Oh, but Ben, I AM as neurotic as you are. The thing is though that I like getting mail, no matter what it says. That probably says something about me that I don’t want to go any further into. But thank you for the good wishes.

    Yes, those unfamiliar names with the interesting sounding regarding lines. Unfortunately, they are all penis enlargement ads, in my case.

    Thank you for that, Dean, and welcome! I will be folding narrow, very very small.

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