Last week was kinda rough.
Sometimes I feel like I only post on here as Little Miss Sunshine. Especially since I’ve had relative success with my writing in the past couple years (in terms of publication, not in terms of financial success, LOL don’t make me laugh) I’ve wondered if I’m still contending with the same difficulties this blog was meant to address in the first place.
Well, happily, this business of diving back into the agent search has dregged up a lot of the same struggles.
C, one of the agents who had enjoyed my stuff in the past, turned down my full manuscript at the beginning of last week. It wasn’t unexpected; this new manuscript is kind of an anomaly, and it’s way more literary than By Light of Hidden Candles is, and from what I knew of her, it didn’t seem like a good match. (I even said that before I shared it with her, and she asked to see it anyway.) Moreover, there was another agent who requested the full manuscript who is a better match on paper. But… I really, really, really like C. In the few interactions I’ve had with her she’s been gracious and generous and so very supportive. She turned down Disengagement wanting me to know that she is “a fan and a supporter” of mine.
She’s not the first literary agent who’s expressed herself this way. I’ve had agents express their admiration for my writing and tell me not to give up from the very early days of querying back when I was a teen and my manuscripts were really not that great to my current standards.
And yet, I still don’t have an agent.
And even though my idea of success is totally different from how it was then, and even though I feel so much more empowered, and even though I know that the “worst-case scenario” is that this book gets published by Kasva and that’s not a bad option in the slightest, and even though I know that my fantasies about what having an agent would mean were not realistic… it still hurts. So very much.
While I was waiting for a response from C, I found myself having a lot of trouble getting myself to send query letters to other agents. I just couldn’t get excited about the idea of working with someone else. They say that searching for an agent is like dating, and I started to wonder if maybe I was having trouble “seeing myself with” other agents because I was so attached to the idea of working with C. I realized that while in the past, I would have accepted an offer of rep from pretty much anyone who would have me–now I have expectations. I want an agent who is hands-on and helps me brainstorm and develop my ideas, who gives me sharp and insightful editorial advice, who is responsive and who I feel I can turn to with any question or issue, who is supportive and fun and doesn’t take herself too seriously and knows how to tolerate and calm down my self-doubt demons. (And yes, preferably a woman, just because I think I’d be more comfortable with one.) From what I could tell about C from our interactions, she met a lot of those criteria. I finally understood what other writers meant when they talked about having a “dream agent.” But I also knew that it was very unlikely she would offer me representation, at least for this manuscript.
And I realized that even though I am totally happy with publishing with Kasva, the dream of having an agent who will take care of me that way has not faded; it’s still there, just as strong as ever, and even though I’ve made peace with the idea that it may never be fulfilled–I will always have that dream. I’ll never let it go.
So I decided that I needed to let myself feel that longing in all its intensity–and let myself mourn, preemptively, for the loss I knew I was likely to face. This was different from prophylactic pessimism; it was the opposite of numbing. It was letting myself explore the pain of the unmet wants I’d had for so long.
Once I did that, I felt that the only appropriate response was to dive back into querying.
So I started sending off those query letters. I’ve been sending them almost daily ever since. As a kind of therapy. There are other fish in the sea. And when that rejection did come, it was a comfort to know that I had a bunch of queries out there.
A couple days after, I participated in yet another Twitter pitch contest, because I’m a frikkin’ masochist. I decided to try and engage more this time, retweeting and supporting other people’s pitches, and people interacted more with mine, but I didn’t get any bites from agents or editors this time. And I won’t lie to you, guys; I felt really discouraged. I wondered if there’s ever going to be a place in the mainstream market for the kind of stuff I want to write. The self-doubt demons were LOUD and I was just too emotionally and physically exhausted to argue with them.
So I started writing this post on Friday while I was still feeling down.
On Saturday night, I turned my phone back on after my weekly 25-hour hiatus for the Sabbath and checked my email.
Guess what I found there.
Another full manuscript request.
From an agent I’d cold queried during my “there are other fish in the sea” campaign.
This querying thing is such a roller coaster, you guys. It’s exhausting. I don’t think I remembered how much. It’s more intense than submitting to literary magazines and such because the dream of having an agent is one I’ve had so strongly for so long, and the stakes will always feel higher.
Will that dream ever come true?
The important thing is that I’m still dreaming.