I've been hesitant to write too much about my manuscript on this blog, but I think it's finally time. Yesterday was a bit of a doozy. It seems that agents are finally coming back from their summer vacations and ready to send out all those rejections. I was getting a little far away from modesty a few weeks ago, with 7 out of 10 responding agents requesting to see more (6 full manuscript requests, one partial request).
Well, this week isn't going like that at all. Yesterday I received a very nice, personalized rejection to a full request. And I guess I forget what it feels like -- especially as more time goes on and I started to wonder how things might turn out -- to be let down. It's crushing, frankly. And while there were glimmers of promise in the rejection (as in, the agent had nice things to say about my protagonist -- another agent, responding from a partial request, couldn't stop telling me how much he did not care for my protagonist!), I read the one line I dreaded. The agent mentioned that the fact that my book deals with the Iraq War would make it difficult to place with a publisher.
I guess this is the time to say it. My book is about a teenage anti-war activist finding out that her idol, her uncle, has died protesting the Iraq War. It shatters her worldview and puts her on a quest (okay, a road trip) to find out more about this man, because she's terrified at the idea that she might one day end up in his shoes. Now, based on my query letter, it's pretty obvious that the book deals with the Iraq War. Is it going to be my albatross?
I sincerely, sincerely hope not. On the one hand, it's kind of hard to believe that possibly the precise thing that catches an agents' eye (i.e. that the book has that kind of real world relevancy) would be what sinks it. I'd have to think that most agents who request the book aren't already thinking that they have no hope in finding a market for it. Otherwise, why would they have requested it? Meanwhile, in the same week where this full rejection came in, I've also been hammered with rejections. Nine rejections in a row! I'm almost (she writes, while checking her email every ten minutes) leery of checking my email, my inbox seeming so chocked full of disappointment.
But then last night I remembered something. I was out at the Druid participating in their weekly Wednesday trivia with some friends. I love trivia, and so I was having a great time despite the fact that our team was not doing very well after the first two rounds. We just let go of it and put it all on the line in the last bonus question, in the last round. We risked 20 points (knowing we had very little chance of winning either way), hedging our bets that the license plate with a blue background and gold (eh, yellow really) lettering is Delaware's. After a tie-breaker question, the trivia announcer starts reading off where the teams finished. With the exception of the top three teams, he reads the team names and points out in random order. One after another, a team is named, a score is announced. Our score, which I've tabulated on the handy sheet, is higher than them, still higher. He reads third place. We're still higher. And second place. And still our team has not been named. But the tie breaker? We shoot glances at each other across the table. No freaking way. And the winner is.... SUKI! We scream! We won?!??!
There were so many silly things we got wrong or didn't wager smartly on (Charlottetown is in Prince Edward Island, not Nova Scotia --- clearly, despite all of my Anne of Green Gables knowledge, that was a major gaffe on my part; also, paramecium, John Grisham, etc, etc.). But we didn't give up. We stuck around, we scored 39 points in the last round. We won. We've been to two trivia nights there now, and we won both times (albeit in very different fashions).
And so I guess this is what I come away with, thinking about rejection, about winning and losing, about sheer surprises. You do it because you love it (writing, trivia). And you keep putting yourself out there. I really believe in miraculous surprises. And I believe in my book. And I'm nowhere near done querying.