“..we just aren’t wholeheartedly connecting with your work, despite its many charms. So, we should step aside.” An agent sent me this rejection of my memoir recently. To be fair to my manuscript, all the person received was my query. But I won’t quibble. A compliment is a compliment however feeble.
Most of the letters I’ve sent are still in play, meaning they haven’t passed the two-month pocket rejection which comes with silence rather than a letter. Nonetheless, I’m not sanguine that those I sent in mid-April haven’t already been deleted. Even so, until the clock runs out, I’m obliged to hope.
Frankly, hope is becoming a nuisance and makes me want to rethink my comments about rejection in my blog, Perchance To Dream 4. Maybe it’s better not to expect answers to my queries. So far, compliments tossed into the end of a refusal leaves me wistful, as if I almost made it. They also tell me why I didn’t. My writing is passable but the market doesn’t care for memoirs written by nobodies. Frank McCourt managed it with Angela’s Ashes, of course. So I continue to hope, in spite of myself.
The hurdle of anonymity is one I expected. And now that my suspicion has been confirmed, receiving replies is like the constant pricking of my thumb: a moment of surprise followed by pain.
As to the compliments I receive, I’ve earned them, having honed my craft and subjected my manuscript to the surgical opinion of an editor. But charm and skill appear to be inadequate tools with which to breach the walls of commerce. John Updike managed it. He won two Pulitzer Prizes. Even so, I fail to see merit in his scribblings about a character like Henry Bech, a man who rises to fame on the Icarus wings of ego and sexual obsession.
Chance, I suspect, is as much a player in the game of success as skill. But how does a writer court chance? Offering my 83-year-old body to an agent seems pointless. My one remaining gambit seems to be that of beating the odds. Like an unrepentant gambler, I must convince myself that somewhere in New York or California, an agent exists who will glance at my work and see in it something original or heartwarming. The search for that person may be as daunting as finding an ostrich that sings Verdi. Yet, if these are the odds, I must take them. Happily, I have In my possession a list of 500 agents who specialize in memoirs. How long it will take to query each and every one of them, I don’t know. It little matters. I’m going to try. Let the silence and the rejections be damned.