Monthly Archives: February 2010

Inspiration

I read chapters from three books recently: Cherry by Mary Karr, Breathers by S.G. Browne, and Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon.  All different genres and styles of writing.  My favorite of the bunch?  Cherry.  At first, I was comparing it to Lucky because I really enjoyed that memoir but then I became present to what I want to do when I write my memoir.  This is what reading does – inspiration all around!

Why didn’t I read these before?  Granted, the demise of my IPod has me reading a lot more on the train and when I get home.  Additionally, making the conscious decision to pass on watching a movie and reading a work that shows me a little something about craft. 

Additionally, reading The New Yorker is gratifying because I can imagine having my work published in a magazine one day.  The New Yorker, not so much, but A magazine in the future.  Reading those magazines also push me to edit a piece to submit this year.  The goal this year is to submit to magazines – big and small – and see where it takes me.  I’m not going to give up but that’s what I’ll be doing after grad school anyway.  Why not start now?

Even with those letters trickling in, I have felt reinvigorated to keep going.  I’ve said this before – it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get into grad school.  There are so many published writers that don’t have graduate degrees; there’s hope for me yet.

To Be a Writer or an Agent

Upon receiving two rejection letters from reputable institutions, I wonder, do I really want to write?  I’m taking this memoir writing class, which is great, but I don’t write as often as I should. I watch moving pictures, I socialize, I putz around on the internet, I talk on the phone, I don’t even read as much as I should!  What the hell do I really want to do with my life?  I’m a writer, that’s set in stone even if I don’t write.  The question is, am I really cut out for this?

I was afraid of feeling like this – bummed out, unenrolled in the possibility of moving past getting rejected, giving up and going the other route – helping writers because I couldn’t cut it as one.

I’m on the track to become an agent if I continue with this internship. Essentially, I started the internship to have experience in publishing.  The goal was to be surrounded by words for inspiration.  I love my internship to pieces; it’s the highlight to my week every week.  I enjoy reading queries, helping out folks on the ‘net write better queries, and discovering new talent.  But I’m forgetting what’s important to me: writing!  And it’s the one thing I’m not doing enough of!  I even skipped my memoir writing class this week because I wasn’t in the right place to write.  When it was exactly the kind of environment that would have made the rejections easier to stomach.

It’s okay to feel this way; I’ll sit in the space and then the moment will pass.  I’m sure of it.

For now, brace myself for the results as they trickle in and not lose faith.

Then there were five…

Today I received a rejection email from Syracuse University.  Another fine choice for a graduate program but somehow, I’m not deflated at all.  I’m ready for the other responses.  I’m gearing up for my next step when all of the letters are in.

I will only feel disappointed if USF rejects me.  The others, not so much, but USF?  The beautiful campus and great Creative Writing department folk that I met?  The opportunity to be surrounded by those gorgeous hills, wine country, the west coast, and chilled out environment (much different from New York City)?  Yeah, I’ll be disappointed. 

For right now, I’m soaking in the good vibes I’m receiving from my friends and anticipating an awesomely awesome upcoming birthday month.  It’s gonna be wild, fun, and exhilarating – especially after I get word from my schools.

Rock on, me!

The More You Know…

Once again, I’m here to provide more tidbits for a better query letter.

With the availability of self-publishing, a large number of authors have gone this route and then look for representation afterwards.  Here’s the thing – if you are self-published looking for representation, don’t send a general letter without including synopses for your books.  The agent isn’t interested enough to ask for a synopsis in the first place without any information about your work.  Without any information about your published novels, you will surely receive a rejection letter.

Please please please refrain from including, “my novel was professionally edited” because guess what?  No one cares.  It’s good for you to know but completely irrelevant to the agent.  Make every word of your query letter count and stop wasting space with superfluous information about editing; you are a writer – it’s assumed your novel was edited!

Never Ever ever handwrite a letter.  If you don’t own a word processor/computer, go to the library or have someone type up the letter for you.  And especially don’t send a synopsis as a copy of handwritten notes. 

Exclamation points: I used it above for emphasis but when its used too much, it becomes ridiculous.  Use unless extremely necessary.

When discussing your novel, don’t explain the premise, use the synopsis for that.  It works better.

Lastly, don’t write, “In my opinion…” because guess what?  Your opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to getting an agent; the agent’s opinion does. 

Moral of this entry?  Be like Raymond Carver – make every word work in your letter.  Sometimes less is better. 

Lucky

Author: Alice Sebold

Published by Scribner (1999)

This memoir is about Alice Sebold’s rape that took place in 1981 when she was a freshman at Syracuse University.  The cover that I have has the first few lines of the book that include the title:

“In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered.  I was told this story by the police.  In comparison, they said, I was lucky.” Continue reading

And the letters begin…

I received my first rejection letter from the University of Texas at Austin.  As soon as I saw the letter, I knew it was a rejection.  Maybe its wrong of me to think back to when as a high school student, I paid attention to the thinness or fattiness of the university envelopes.

Getting into undergraduate school was a breeze – only one school rejected me – Hamilton College – which at the time, I didn’t even know why I applied there in the first place.  I got into every school I wanted.  Even at a Pennsylvania school I never intended on attending like Susquehanna University!

This time around though, is completely different.  My acceptance is based on this – what I’m doing right now – sharing my thoughts and experiences in fictionalized form.  Maybe I jumped the gun; maybe I should have waited another year before applying to grad school.  I feel like the time between applying and now, my writing has already improved.  There are instances that I’m already aware of improvements without a workshop. 

After all that, how do I really feel?  The free ride was a Sweet deal but that’s all I was thinking about.  And because it was a good program.  Was I in love with the prospects of attending UTA?  No.  Am I sad with the rejection?  No.  I got six more schools to hear from.  Bring it on!  I’m ready.

Memoir Writing

While waiting for my “results” from my MFA school choices, I have embarked on a new genre: memoir writing.

I find it comes easier to write about my life than to create a new world.  There is something freeing about writing about one’s self.  Maybe it’s because I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember, this isn’t foreign to me in the least.  What is foreign is trying to write for an audience that can connect to my message and/or content and that is written well.  I guess, kind of like this blog.

The assignments I have every week are great exercises to get me flowing, digging into my life and learning how to show more rather than telling much.

I’m enjoying my writing class very much.  I have not made the time to even touch my genre since my application piece.  I intend on returning to the piece.  This year, the goal is to submit to contests and literary magazines.  What have I got to lose?  I might even receive some feedback!  Well, most likely, no, but it can’t hurt to dream a little? Right?

I look forward to the kind of work that flows out of this class.  It is different than anything I’ve ever had people read from me.