Two books simultaneously. Given my choices, I likely need my head examined. I’m reading Unlikeable, Ed Stein’s latest book about Hilary Clinton, about the personality and behaviors of one impossible woman. I make no secret that her character, history, and political machinations seem to me to be the least of what this country needs. Not uplifting, unkind in the extreme, what resembles the banshee of the universe. The other book is Planet Woman, a sci fi of romance by Judith Rook. This is a complicated story with characters that grab and hold on. Circe is a planet that thinks. There’s a concept! Lewis, an envoy, and Tethyn, his escort are the main characters. Their story is worth the read, taking me along in the author’s imagination without feeling her in the background creating.
What’s on my mind, perpetually now, is the world of agents. Their theme seems to be how hard they work, how busy they are, and how hard memoir is to sell. I must be very odd. Memoir is my fave read. Each of us has a story. Some are real grabbers, with hair raising experiences, horrendous topics, seat of the pants rides. But for seasoning, I opt for slower paced, gentler stories of growing up on a farm, with parents that anchor their kids, deliver quieter messages that don’t have my hair on fire. Sprinkle some of that on my corn flakes, or park me on the deck on a lazy afternoon, a glass of soft chardonnay next to me and I can blow a whole afternoon tripping with kids discovering the countryside, no fear of stalking monsters.
Folks, today everyone works hard. Dawdling through one’s job is long gone. Hard work, often without reward, is the way we roll. Downsizing has been the dictate for some time, with not enough employees to do all the work, with everyone returning home to collapse on the sofa and hope to get into their jammies before bedtime. Get over it.
Agents reject my memoir with the preamble that those are a hard sell. They tell me across the board that they must feel passion about a story before they can sell it. Some of them ask for a query while dismissing queries as just something that says the writer can write a letter. ( I agree with that). And then reject based on the query. ‘splain that.
Some of them ask for a few chapters. So I send them faves. A wounded soldier lying in his own blood for three days among the dead, waiting to die seems to be a yawn. Because it’s WW2, a war an agent considered passe and too long ago. Her words. Or a gaggle of kids seeking daily adventure in miles of alfalfa fields. Too bucolic. Discovery of nectar within a honeysuckle flower could mean eating a whole bush, and we did, my brother and I, but there is no passion in that. Who would care?
Writing about a time past, in a setting rare now, is apparently boring. It is not told in a boring way. I’ll take you there but you must want to go. I read that agents read a proposal, which follows a query, and if you are blessed and the stars are aligned, will ask for the manuscript. (That happened for me once, and early, but was eventually rejected because it would take too much time and staff to get to market. This was a small agency, likely lacking enough contacts to do the job.
The method is this: read to find a reason to reject. When you can’t and simply must read the book, it’s a win. I actually understand that negative approach. Add to that, well I love it but the marketplace won’t. This is the up and down history of memoir.
Like buying a convertible instead of an SUV you really want, it is required that you buy into this child whose story covers a myriad of issues. In a period you want to read about. I understand that because I simply can’t get myself into stories of the 1920’s. Even the clothes of the era make me turn up my nose. A writer can’t control those things. In the end? You must want to know.