As I walked to the bus one morning this week, I passed under a tree with leaves falling and swirling around me. They were coming down rather heavily, apparently having heard the metaphor of rain to describe themselves pouring from the tree. What caught my attention about this tree was that there was no wind at the time, not even a breeze, and no other tree around was dropping leaves. It was as though this one tree had said, “It’s time” and began to release the leaves.
Seeing the tree, which followed a conversation I had had regarding my father, who has Alzheimers, gave me an idea for a poem. That was days ago, however, and I haven’t so much as made a note or put down a word toward writing the poem. Walking home from the bus stop yesterday, I wondered why I haven’t written a poem in months. The first answer, of course, is that I’m not a poet. A real poet would be writing poetry.
The second answer, I decided, is that I just haven’t had the extra time I would need to get to a poem. Maybe this coming week I will write one. My job ended yesterday, so now I will be off for a while until I find something else. I ended up working with the American Pharmacists Association for three full months, more than I expected when I started, and it was a pretty good experience.
I also made a friend there, who has invited me over for Thanksgiving. As for finding a job this coming week, in the few days before Thanksgiving, I hardly think it’s worth the effort, but even if it were, I had already decided that I would have a short break when the pharmacy editing reached the final comma. So maybe I’ll go to the Corcoran Art Gallery or the Renwick Gallery, or who knows? I think some rest and relaxation are in order. It ain’t like I take vacations.
And maybe I’ll sit in a cafe somewhere down in Washington and try to write a poem about my father.
I’ve also been contacting literary agents for the novel Benedict and Miramar. When you send a letter or an email asking an agent to pay attention to you, the technical term for agent begging is “query”. I have a list I made years ago with names, addresses, how to apply, and so on, but for each agency I don’t do anything until I check for updated information. In most cases that’s easy, just by going to their website.
It can be time consuming in some cases, reading the biographical information on a list of agents, to see who is interested in what. Someone who talks quite a bit about children’s literature is probably not going to want what I have, so I look for an agent who seems interested in finding what they call “literary fiction”. I think that phrase is a little bit pretentious if I use it to describe my own work, but that’s more or less an industry technical term, to describe a certain kind of writing.
Once I find a potential agent, I look to see what they want. Most want a synopsis, or summary, of the book, some want to see part of the book, ranging generally from five pages to fifty pages, some do not want to see part of the book. As to what exactly the synopsis should be, man, just shoot me. My own synopsis is one page, which seems to be fairly standard, but I have a friend here in DC who is an agent, and she said my synopsis needs to be two paragraphs. I just found an agency website this week that called for a synopsis of five pages. Five pages? Most agents of course want a synopsis, to see what the book is about (their websites say, in effect, if you don’t send us a synopsis, you have no clue what you’re doing), but I found one agent who said “Do not send me a synopsis, I hate reading them.”
Sheesh. Give me a drink before you shoot me.
And some agents have no website, so you try to find out about them by googling their name to see what turns up. There are a number of sites out there that might be helpful: Absolute Write Water Cooler (a chatroom in which writers discuss agents), 1000 Literary Agents (a list of agents with information), Query Tracker, WritersCafe.org, and still others. When an agent has no website you go to several of these sites to see what you can find out. It’s a problem, however, that the information on many of these sites is not dated, so you could be reading something from ten years ago.
Give me two drinks and I’ll shoot myself.
That’s how this business works. Ahh, literature! Sitting on the heights of Parnassus spinning rainbows of verbality. Uh huh. Unless you’re lucky and know somebody, this is how it’s done, so I will keep doing it. In the best case, the agent or agency has a website and you can contact them by email, which is actually common. In most cases, however, they will not reply unless they want you, so no news gradually means no.
But this blog entry needs to find an ending so that I can get on down to the farmers market to see my cheesemaker, who comes here from Pennsylvania and sells a variety of kinds of goat cheese. It’s a fabulous fall day out there, with bright blue sky, and I want to get on into this weekend. I’ve got relaxing to do, and a haircut to arrange, and a friend to meet tonight for a movie. It’s time.