Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hope - Despair - Repeat

Not long ago, eldest daughter came to me with two Barbie coloring books. Unfortunately, she can read. I say unfortunately, because it makes it awkward for me to lie to her when she can read things for herself. I'm just saying, it was easier to say the bakery was closed before she could read that the sign says OPEN.

But I digress. Eldest read the sticker on the barbie coloring books. They said WIN and HOLLYWOOD! and CHANCE! and she begged me to get on the internet and enter her into their contest. The grand prize was a trip to Hollywood, a visit to Barbie's compound (or wherever the heck she dwells) and a one of a kind Barbie that you design. Eldest almost swooned and she wanted to go upstairs right away and figure out what she should wear to Hollywood. I sat her down, looked her in the eyes and explained to her why she doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hades of winning. I rattled off a mega-ton of zeros. I may have even said the word probability. I also told her that the fun part was entering and it wasn't about the winning. I basically told her a bunch of crap to try to get her to not be too excited. In my professional life, it's known as 'managing expectations.' I guess in the real world I guess it's called killing dreams softly. It's what parents sometimes do, because we can't bear the idea of our kids being hurt.

Wouldn't it be a great story if now I told you that, against all the odds, eldest won the Barbie prize? That the naysaying mommy was wrong and should have had faith, dust & pixie dust (sorry, wrong corporation)? It would have been awesome, but it didn't happen. Instead, when she found out she didn't win, she cried, loud and long, alarmingly and heartbreakingly - the way only kids seem to be able to do. I comforted and consoled her and soon she'd spent out her tears.

Now, a couple of months after, I wonder if she remembers the Barbie contest. I know that she still wants to enter every contest she hears about (LaLaLoopsy, anyone?) I also know that she still glazes over when I tell her the odds of her winning are not ever in her favor (heh, channeled a little Effie there.) She just continues to believe she can win. I wonder how long she can keep that belief up.

I've decided not to tell her about probability anymore. Mostly because I'm currently engaging in some magical thinking myself. I'm not even talking about the occasional Megamillions dollar I drop at the WaWa. Yes, I'm querying.

So far I've sent out eight. I've got two partials out and I've gotten four rejections. I know that's not much yet, and I know I don't have any choice but to keep trying or give up. The trick now is to figure out how eldest does it. How she cries bitter tears (I reserve the right to eat chocolate instead) then shakes it off and keeps going, her spirit undiminished. It's probably mostly up to the fact that she's seven.
I'm going to go find my inner seven year old.

How do you survive the query process?


  1. Whether with competitions or with querying, we like to crush our own dreams to make the inevitable disappointment more bearable. But does it really help? Honestly, just because you expect a rejection, does it make that rejection less painful? For me, a better approach to all of this (whether it's submitting queries, or entering contests) is to relish the experience of participating. Yes, I want my query to be successful. But there is an art to the process of querying that can be, in itself, fun. Choosing agents, crafting the query to their particular requirements, seeing how long it takes to get a response, and the types of response--is it a form rejection, or are there notes in the rejection that betray a more personal touch? Or is it a request for a partial, or a proposal package? Think about how much you're learning about the industry as you do this. And consider how much more a savvy querier you're becoming, and how you are honing your wordsmith abilities by trying to summarize your work in 250 words, or by writing a synopsis.

    Also, keep working at the next novel. There's always the possibility that by the time you've finished the next novel, you'll find that you love it more than the one you're querying, and you'll find those rejections really don't sting, because you know it's not your last chance.

    With my kids, I will remind them that the chances of winning are slim, but I would want them to do their best and enjoy coloring that picture, or writing that essay, or whatever the contest requires. Yes, there will be tears and disappointment if they don't win. But that's life, and, in all honesty, I would rather my kids go through life putting their best foot forward knowing that they can win, than being afraid of trying because they know they'll probably fail. And I think that applies just as much to our writing and querying.

    Just my 2-cents. :)

  2. I just start working on the next to keep my mind off it.

  3. I'm not querying right now, but when I was I would just file any rejections away and move on; like Bonnie said, it helped to keep my mind on other things.

    Good luck with querying! I loved the Effie reference you slipped in there, by the way.

  4. OMG, my eight-year-old does the same thing! We have to buy every cereal box that says, "You Might be a Winner!" Gah! I gave up trying to explain the odds to him long ago.

    As for handling querying, well, my solution was to pace in circles and refresh my email every five seconds. My kids took to calling me, "Wacky Mommy". Not very productive, but what can I say? Maybe we're all still that kid stockpiling cereal boxes hoping to be The Winner.

    Good luck! I've got my fingers and toes crossed for you!

  5. Forgot to add that getting 2 partial requests already is a Really Good sign! That means you're on the right track. Soon you'll be getting an email from an agent asking if they can call you to talk. (That's when the stress really happens! I think I downed a year's worth of chocolate and coffee while I was waiting to talk to my agent!)

  6. @stephanie - thanks for the kind words and support. I use chocolate medicinally as well! I think it's inevitable that, while querying, I just will believe the worst about my writing. Even though what you say is true (about the partials) the bad always seems to out-shout the good. Will try to stay positive! And if/when that agent call comes, I will think of you and chug mocha lattes! ;)
    @Jennna & @bonnie- yes - keeping busy. I'm working on a germ of an idea for a new book, one that keeps me up late and wakes me up early, so I'm trying to get my 'crazy' energy on that!
    @Colin - thanks for the thoughtful comment. It's hard not to think of a rejection as a 'dead end' but you're right of course. And expecting a rejection, doesn't make it less painful, it just allows me to be smug and say to myself "I told you so." It's part of a long buried defense system - be negative about yourself before someone else gets there first. You're absolutely right. It's a rubbish way to be!

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