Sept. 20, 2012
Diary of some writer or other, somebody I don't even know but have seen in the mirror a few times
(I thought this was worth quoting, even if it's totally irrelevant to anyone else but me.)
It’s as if I can’t think too closely about my life because if I do, I see the emptiness. The failure. The promise not fulfilled. I know I am not the only writer facing this, or at least I hope so. I found a blog post yesterday that said due to financial necessity, literary fiction has been largely handed back to the literary presses, making it harder for writers because the literary presses must be inundated with stuff. I would imagine at least 80% of it is totally unpublishable, so if you don’t grab them immediately you’re lost.
One agent I tried to contact would only read the first 3 pages of my novel. Her response was, "It just didn't seem to be going anywhere." It killed me, but it told me something about the reality of publishing now. My hopes for my third novel are in ruins. None of it worked, nobody was interested, and I was crushed because I was *sure* this one would work, bigger than the last 2 combined, maybe even really big.
I feel like a total fool for contacting these people, but what could I do? Everyone constantly tells me to “make contacts”, then when I try to, I look stupid and/or desperate. I don’t know how to do it effectively. I’m told all sorts of conflicting things: be outlandish, wear an orange shirt with suspenders and a rainbow wig, and carry one of those honking Harpo Marx things; DON’T be outlandish, wear a three-piece suit and a Smart Phone balanced on your head. Make yourself indispensible, provide certain services, discreetly. Probably that last one would work best.
It could be I am perceived as too old and over the hill, as publishers now want sexy, smoky dust-jacket photos, young women with long hair and a sultry, pouty, “I don’t care if my book sells or not” expression. (I've seen numerous articles about this, but if *I* say it, everyone is horrified I would even think such an awful thing. Oops, there goes my last chance: no one wants to publish anyone spreading such lies just because she's bitter, and too old.) And if you're a graduate of the UBC Creative Writing program, you're practically a shoo-in. I was also told - the identity of this person is forever locked in the vault of my most useful information - that if you're a woman of colour, it really doesn't matter what you write, so long as you write.
The problem is, the more queries and manuscripts you send out and have rejected, the worse you look. After a while you’ve used up all your chances, you're perceived as a pest and a failure and a wanna-be, and - then what?
So why am I even thinking of this? To keep up my hope, which you're supposed to do, I suppose. But I get ahead of myself. I dream too much, and none of it comes true. Then my heart breaks, over and over and over again. Jesus, can I have just *one* more book out, even another failure? Can I do this, am I allowed? I can’t write another one, it’s not in me to have a big stack of unpublished work that will never see the light of day because all the presses in Canada now see my work and think, "Oh, no, not HER again." (Get out the form rejection letters.) To come crawling like that, and have the door slammed in my face for the 1000th time - it’s embarrassing, they will be embarrassed for me.
It's not as if I've never done this. If anyone calls me "aspiring", I will choke them to death. I won't quote the reviews for my first two novels, except to say about 90% of them were positive, some of them glowing. Some of them even popped up in places which had never received a review copy, such as the U. S. My second novel won a New York City Book Festival award. Big, fat, hairy deal: this meant NOTHING when I tried to get some attention for my Harold Lloyd novel, The Glass Character.
Part of the reason might be the fact that no one in Canada has ever heard of Harold Lloyd. There are thousands of small publishers in the U. S. , but that's just the trouble: thousands. . . where do I start? Taking random stabs is a very bad idea because with that many options, you can go on stabbing for years and years without getting anywhere, meanwhile spending vast amounts of time, money, and hope.
Not that I haven't tried a few stunts outside the box. I tried to contact Rich Correll, who was like a second son to Harold Lloyd and one of this closest friends. Never got a response. I sent emails to Harold Lloyd Entertainment, whose CEO is Suzanne Lloyd, Harold's granddaughter (whom Harold raised like a daughter). No dice, only a polite reply. Mostly my attempts were brushed off like dandruff or ignored altogether.
But I WILL have another, another disappointment, another heart-crush, because it seems the fates have decreed I haven’t had enough of them. I will never get over this because I do not WANT to get over my life’s work, what I was destined to do from the beginning!