Romancing the Literary Agent

Rare breed. Not easily snagged. Often coy. Hard to catch. yoooo hoooo! Calling, calling, calling! Oh, sorry, meant Querying, querying, querying. Elusive, but when finally found, then responsive, but mostly in the negative.

I think of the fave I Love Lucy episode when she’s out to dinner with Ricky, Ethel, and Fred. By the time it’s her turn to order, she’s changed her mind four times. She just can’t decide. It would appear she’s very hungry but nothing on the menu quite hit her and so Lucy ends up without much dinner.

For the Literary Agent, everything hangs on the decision to risk. That agent must know the market and be successful in it. Their career rides on it. In my mind, Stephen King and Madeline L’Engle, two biggies who were passed by for their first works repeatedly before a someone stepped up….in Madeline’s case, a publisher, … can’t be explained in something so simple as a blog. “Dunderhead” comes to mind, but it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a highly subjective business. Based on “like”. Based on their understanding of what readers will want to purchase and read. Which seem to be based on if the agent likes it. So. Are we all just reading what agents like?

That surely is too simplistic. Agenting is a tricky business on which hangs the success or failure of writers wanting to become authors. Maybe read “anointed” here. True, an agent’s decision might mean the agent gets it in the neck if they get it wrong. Coming from the world of science, with this creative side to my nature, the science world wants nothing so nebulous as this foggy forest. Doesn’t want dependence on getting up the road to success based on the “maybe” so baked into this business. Bottom line? If a writer goes this route, best to have an experienced, capable and flexible agent. These are deep dark woods, people. What’s needed here is the guide who knows the way. And yes, that particular guide is very busy, much in demand. And still can get lost in a business that seems to be in constant flux.

No wonder self publishing beckons. Good grief. A guide is needed here, too. This is like playing bocci ball when you think it’s golf. You get my drift.

Here’s the deal for me. Unlike a novel, my life isn’t and wasn’t fiction. The memoir is complex in scope but held within the story of post WWII, when abandonment was the byword of the day. Left in an orphanage out of necessity, as a four year old with no understanding other than Mama left me with strangers, I came to understand over half a lifetime that in fact this woman did that with relative ease born out of need. But it nearly killed her to send her youngest child on his third birthday to live where I lived. He was the remnant of the husband she adored, who died when he was thirty, not of war, but of heart disease.

At war’s end she marries again, to a wounded soldier, son of an alcoholic father. That mix happened a lot when the war was over. Millions of young men went to war; many never came home. Six million women had gone to work to keep the nation whole in the absence of men. They knew financial independence for the first time and loathed surrendering it. They were no longer the girls left behind when the men left. When Johnny came marching home again, it was not necessarily hurrah, hurrah. The kitchen and the cradle were no longer the goals of women.

Mama reclaimed her kids. There we all were, new marriage, new baby, old kids no one hardly knew anymore, and new town in the midst of Amish farm country. Stir briskly with Jack Daniels and whiskey sours and lazy days with no income and you have a stew of story.

Okay. It’s written. Little did I know that was the easy part. Getting it  to where you can read it is the hard part. Self-publish? Agent? Dunno. I just know that this story needs to be told. Abandonment lies at the core of what is wrong with families, communities, nations. Walking away goes on 24/7 today. Shifting sand without warning.

Some of us abandon with, well complete abandonment, never looking back, seeing none of the damage left in its wake. Some of us do it after agonizing thought. But staying power is not a biggie in our times. It’s too easy to go. So I told this story of a child from the age of four until she’s thirteen to find some understanding of where her grit resided, how she dealt with rejection. How she survived the zero status assigned her by broken people. Oh yes. I think you want to read about that.

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