Monday, May 31, 2010

Letter From Jacob Appel

Dear W,R:

As promised, I wanted to let you know that I have heard back from Betsy Lerner. She went above and beyond the call of duty for a complete stranger, and even sought input from other agents on my behalf, but at the end of the day, a collection of unrelated short stories by an unknown writer is just not a good risk at the moment. That being said, if I ever manage to churn out a novel or a collection of interwoven short stories, I am assured that she would take a serious look at it and would likley help me find the right representation. Ms. Lerner was extremely kind to me, and generous with her time and energy. I'd urge your readers to consider her for a future Golden Kindness Award.

In any case, I am grateful to LROD for all of its efforts on my behalf. And to you, W,R, for your advocacy. If I ever do manage to place a collection, and you reveal your secret identity, you will certainly be thanked profusely in the acknowledgements.

I'll keep you all posted....

Jacob M. Appel

Friday, May 28, 2010

We Are Always A Nation At War It Seems

Happy Memorial Day, Rosemary Ahern, Jacob Appel, Bill Shapiro, and all you crazy writing mice out there! How about we all say a little prayer for an end to war? In the meantime, stay tuned for a special feature on Tuesday with a guest writer. Have a great long weekend, and happy summer to you and yours. Peace out for now.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Update: Rewrite Accomplished

I love it when a rewrite pulls everything together and suddenly makes sense of a manuscript.  It usually happens after 89 previous revisions, but still. It leaves you feeling like, "Wow, how did that just happen?"  (Funny how the hard work falls away when it's going smoothly.)  So, I got the rewrite off to the agent and his assistant, who were waiting for it. They even sent back a nice reply confirming their eagerness to finish reading it. It's weird how sometimes things are easy after you've banged your head against a wall for say, 12 years, or so. I guess it wasn't my time before. I hope it's my time now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And, And, And...

This rejection form letter is in love with the complex sentence, and it's kind of weirdly written. (And) robotic sounding to this ear: "We assure you that your submission was given full consideration, and we thank you for considering SxSW when you decided on festivals in which to submit."  Yikes.  Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Clueless Invention Rejection

Oopsy...dude forgot about section 3.3.5. You don't want to do that. Apparently, Tunji didn't know that Safari had already been invented. That's a rejection well deserved, I guess. Anyway, I do enjoy a good non-literary rejection once in a while.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Read It A Hundred Times? Make it 101.

Dear Author,
    Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to read your submission. I appreciate you considering me for representation of your project.
    Unfortunately, after careful review, I have decided that I might not be the right agent for your work. This industry is incredibly subjective, and there are many agencies out there with many different tastes. It is for this reason that I strongly encourage you to keep submitting elsewhere, in the hopes of finding an agent who will be an enthusiastic champion for you and your work.
    I apologize for the form letter reply, but the volume of submissions I receive has finally made it impossible for me to personalize responses as I have for many years. I hope you will understand and forgive me this necessary efficiency. In addition, I do not feel it is appropriate for me to provide detailed editorial feedback on projects I have decided not to represent.
    I wish you all the very best of luck and success with your writing. 
    Sincerely, Laura Bradford
    Bradford Literary Agency

(D- for originality)

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Classic With Added Sugar

The thing about a traditional New Yorker slip is that while it always stands the test of time, there's always something new to admire.  For instance, I never noticed before that plea at the bottom in pretty parentheses.  But, oh, how it endures, barely a tiny change or miniscule adjustment. Brings back sick memories, very sick. Anyway, have a good weekend, mice.

Too Gay For TV

Here's a funny, nonliterary rejection (for a change). This one is from WKLO Louisville, Great Trails Broadcasting Corp.  "Your tape is too straight, Mr. Lake, but keep working at it; you've got the basics down." Sounds like code and subtext to me!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Easier Than Ever

According to GalleyCat, an announcement from Barnes & Nobles, illustrates how easy it soon will be to get distribution for your self-published books. Introducing PUBIT!. (The exclamation point is apparently part of the name, which is awfully close to pubic, no?) I think I hear the publishing industry creeping a little closer to collapse.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Feel Free to Move About The Cabin Again

So, as per yesterday's surprise email from an interested agent, and despite my response to keep reading, I got this nice note back from the assistant:
I spoke with [first name of agent] and in light of the changes you’re making, he’s going to stop reading and wait for the revision. Please do send as soon as it’s ready – we can’t wait to read more!
On the one hand, I really didn't want the agent and assistant to lose momentum. On the other hand, who wants to read something even the author thinks can be improved?  It certainly is motivation for an INCREDIBLE rewrite, the rewrite of my life. Thanks for sitting still and praying. You guys are the best.  Feel free to move about your lives again as I sit here writing.  Otherwise, I will keep you eternally posted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Please Don't Move

Dudes....don't say anything, don't think anything, don't even breathe. Just close your eyes and pray to the Queen of Heaven that something comes of this tiny little crumb of news I have to share with you. There was an email, mice, to me; an email from the assistant to an agent who has my novel. An email telling me to sit tight, that I'm "an absolute priority".  I wrote back and was like "Cool. Sort of glad you were busy because I'm revising at the moment; can I get you a new manuscript on Monday to replace the dusty one sitting on your desk?" And then came a second email saying that actually they (agent and assistant) have already started to read and have gotten to the first 100 pages. That's when the good parenthetical phrase was used to describe their experience with the novel so far: "(Totally engrossed, to be frank.)"
    Try not to make any sudden movements. Let's all just sit very still and wait. If you are a believer, a little prayer would be nice, but it's not entirely necessary for you to join in. Stillness is good enough.
    It's true we've been here before. We've suffered the disappointment after having gotten this close. Also true: my novel unravels slightly as it moves toward section 2 and 3, which is why I'm revising; so maybe they won't like the rest, but I did tell them I was working on those sections. It may not be an entirely lost cause if we manage to sit still. But, as always, I'm not the luckiest son of a gun, am I?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Miscellaneous Friday Thoughts

Well, believe it or not, I have found some sort of renewed energy for my novel. Yes, that's right. My novel. I had a pretty amazing revelation recently about the main character that has given me the ability to go back through page by page from start to finish (something I admit I used to love doing when finalizing a short story, but have never managed with my novel), so that's hopeful. There are a bunch of agenty people who have the previously final version and are reading it, so with any luck, I can replace their dusty old copies with the new one. (Will it never end?)
     Also: I was at a party last night and overheard someone talking about being at Mardi Gras a few years ago and seeing a woman wearing a skirt made out of literary rejections.  I love that idea.  Why haven't we thought of this before, mice?  A whole new line of clothing for sale! Rejection Dresses! LROD Skorts! Literary Culottes. Anyway, have a good weekend, everybody.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Bad Books Happen to Good Readers and Good Writers

Bad Books? 40 of them with an interesting commentary about what "bad is" (i.e., an overrated "good" book, poorly written, terrible authorial outlook). Favorite quote from the article:  "One mark of a great writer must be the willingness to write a bad book." And here's more on bad writing.  It appears to be today's theme.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2010 GAK Winner--Bill Shapiro's Book Available Today

Had a little chat with this year's GAK winner, Bill Shapiro, whose book, Other's People Rejection Letters, is available for purchase today.  Why not buy a copy as a present for your favorite reject.  Me? I already have my copy and hope to get it signed by the GAK-er soon.  Here's what Bill had to say:

1) What inspired you to take up a book on rejection?
I had done a similar collection a couple of years back called Other People’s Love Letters which was full of, among other things, very intimate, very brave moments. After that book was done, I went through it and really studied the letters that moved me the most; turns out that many of them involved rejection. But actually, I didn’t know how much I needed to do this book for myself—to really think about taking chances and risking rejection--until I was deep into it. That’s how the process works sometimes: You trust your instinct and move ahead….and figure out the “why I did this” later.

2) When did you start working on the book? About two-and-half years ago, although, like I say, some of the work and consideration came about while I was working on the love letter book, and that was published in late 2007.

3) How long did it take to get all those rejections? What was your methodology for acquiring said rejections? I started by asking my friends and then friends of friends. But what you find with rejection letters is that people don’t keep them like they keep their old love letters. No one has a shoebox of rejection letters stashed under the bed. So it took a lot of digging. I also wanted to get a mix of people and experiences into this book. So I hired reporters in different parts of the country. That worked very well. There are literary rejections in the book, yes, but I’ve taken a very broad definition of rejections—rejectors include parents, lovers, museums, the US army, presidents, DNA testing firms, the Mormon Church, Walter Cronkite, a Saudi king, Edward Abbey, and on and on.

4) Were there any rejections you didn't use? Did you reject the rejections? Was that fun, or terrible? Did you tell people that you were rejecting them, or was it not that intimate? Yeah, that was kind of a running joke: What does it mean when your rejection letters get rejected? But there were very few that I rejected flat-out because a book like this is all about the mix and juxtaposition of letters and you don’t really know what you have until the end, when you lay all of the letters across the floor of the various rooms of your apartment so you have no place to walk. This was book came together at the end; it wasn’t like I was showing dailies to anyone. But everyone had a sense of humor about it. And some of the ones that didn’t make it into the book will live on the website www.otherpeoplesrejectionletters.com

5) When did you finish a first draft? There really wasn’t a first draft. I did a sort of “confidence show” for my editor sometime around Christmas, I think—although I’m terrible with dates.

6) How many revisions did you write? 3,794. I tweaked this one letter at time until I had a good flow….and then kept changing it, changing it, changing it. There were some letters that I knew I wanted in the front, some I knew I wanted in the back, some I knew I wanted next to each other, but the rest was just playing around with the mix until it felt perfect.

7) Who read your drafts? Isn't this the kind of book you talk about at cocktail parties, making you the most interesting person in the room? No one. I trust myself with the letters themselves. I asked a friend who really gets me to read the intro. And my editor is fantastic. I trust her implicitly.

8) Did you use an agent? How did you get your agent? Yes, a friend of mine knew Brian DeFiore, the brilliant agent who represented the Post Secret books and since my idea—this was for Other People’s Love Letters—had some similarities to that, it made sense to start with him. He got it right away. And he really understood how to sell it.

9) Did you already have a publisher? What's your experience with your editor been like? Yes, the idea was sold on a proposal. My editor, Doris Cooper at Clarkson-Potter, is wonderful and we work extremely well together. I’ve been a magazine editor for more than 20 years so I know what makes editors happy and what makes them really fucking nervous. Doris has great ideas and while she and I haven’t agreed on everything, I think we both know the rule about choosing your battles. Luckily, we haven’t chosen the same ones.

10) What was the worst rejection you came across? Meanest? Strangest? The one from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter was pretty, well, distilled: “What you have done to please me or make me proud is practically negligible.” I also like the one from Jimi Hendrix’s commanding officer recommending that he be immediately discharged because he “can’t carry on an intelligent conversation.”

11) What was the best rejection? Most entertaining? Most outrageous? The most surprising, perhaps, was the one from the office of the Pope. So delicate, so sweet, you barely knew you were being rejected.

12) How has reading all these rejections changed you as a person? As a writer/editor? As a published author? Well, this is sort of what I was hinting at earlier. It didn’t really strike me until about halfway through the project, when I started getting in hundreds of letters from people who had attempted all sorts of wonderful and maybe crazy things. There was a guy who tried out for the US astronaut program 15 times. And the undeterred would-be novelist who sent me the 60 rejection letters she’d received. The guy with the wacky inventions. Etc. I had all of these in front of me and it hit me: where were my rejection letters? Where was the evidence that I really stretched, really risked failure and rejection to pursue something I was passionate about? They weren’t there. And that told me something about myself….and why this book was important for me to do.

13) What words of advice would you give to LROD readers? Risk rejection… and save your rejection letters. No, no—not for me. For you! Not every writer will have the story about the 30 publishers who rejected them before landing on the best-seller list. That’s not what this is about. You’ll look back on the letters years down the line and see them as markers of your passion, your bravery.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jacob Appel Does It Again!


I got this from Sarabande, the Mary McCarthy Prize.  Look at who was a runner up! I guess he has a collection that he's sending out now.  Also, do they write the little note so you'll keep sending in your manuscript even though you're never going to win?  Probably.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ravenclaw Hufflepuff Gryffindor Slytherin

According to this newstimes.com article on children's authors and rejection, "J.K. Rowling suffered 12 rejections from publishers before she found the lucky 13 company that propelled her manuscript about young wizard Harry Potter into literary history."  Only 12?  That's nothing.  But wouldn't you be sad to be one of the editors who said no?
     I once had lunch with an editor who had passed up Junot Diaz's first short story collection Drown (a beautiful book, btw). When I noted that she must have felt regret to see it become such a big success, she frowned.  After passing a fork through her salad, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "I didn't love the book, so what's there to regret?" Defensive much? Happily dude later went on to win the Pulitzer for his first novel.  The same editor ultimately turned down my short story collection, despite the lunch and apparent interest, but I doubt that means I'm going on to have quite as lustrous a career as Diaz.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Do Your Google Research, People


Here's some good practical advice about how to query agents from author Kelly Wittmann's Five Agents and A Funeral Blog.  Her method is one I've used many times on my own because it's simply a pragmatic use of the resources available. Worth the read as a refresher course. Kelly, btw, cleverly calls herself, "a character-driven writer navigates her way through a plot-driven world."  Indeed.  

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Poet David Hernandez has provided some pretty entertaining poetry rejections.  This one is
from his swanky website. It says: "Wayne Miller & I did a page count of accepted work & have discovered we can't accept new work for awhile--until the next issue's in press in Nov.  Otherwise, we would have accepted "A Story to Tell"--it's such a good poem.  Sorry about our backlog & about disappointing you.  Best, Kevin Prufe"  Darn!  So close!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Neither One Thing Nor The Other

Leave it to Edward Gorey to offer this most charming rejection to a speaking engagement.  Also, he has a nice signature.  I hereby decree that Gorey is the only one allowed to use the word "Alas," and of course he is dead.  Agents be warned; you do not carry it off as well, so please stop your verbal sighing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Poetry Of the Impersonal Reply

After much consideration, we feel unable to use your poetry for publication.  Is "unable to use" a feeling?  My shrink would say it is not.