Shark Infested Waters

Welp.

once-more-with-feeling-20-years-of-buffy-10-amazing-musical-moments-where-does-the-end-1359289

How was your week?

I have nothing to add about the election that hasn’t already been said. I am still grieving Hillary’s loss and it’s clouding my ability to fully process his win, but I’m getting there.

The last time a president won by the skin of the electoral college, I was 16 years old. I was used to feeling helpless about the world around me. I was politically aware as a teenager and I tried to be politically active in my 20s. I marched in a few protests against the Iraq War, donated to causes I believed in, and was outspoken among friends and family. And maybe that is being politically active, but it’s the activism of a young white woman who would never be truly effected by any failed efforts.

To many, this isn’t the New World Order. It’s been reality for quite a while. This isn’t comforting, but it is sobering. To me, it’s Kafkaesque. It’s a world I knew existed, but refused to believe could gain power and become legitimized. I’m more connected to other perspectives and worldviews than I’ve been in the past. Social media is a large part of this, but it’s also my own maturity and ability to interpret what I couldn’t see before. And I still feel so naive. There is so much I still need to learn and understand. This blog post is not going to be the thing that does that. It’s my bare minimum of moving forward and becoming a member of society again. I have clients to represent and work to do, but first, a few things.

1) Hi. I’m Sarah. I’m an introvert with sporadic bouts of depression and anxiety. Everyone grieves differently, but people like me often need to grieve alone – and silently. You may notice that a lot of people you follow on Twitter or Facebook have announced they’re “taking a social media break.” I’m one of those people. I promise, it’s not to cut ourselves off from reality or ignore those effected most. The word “introvert” became kind of trendy in the last couple years, and I’ve even had people ask me if “it’s really true” that we need to “recharge.” Yes, it is. And that’s just after a night of socializing with friends. What I think is less understood is that introverts don’t only need to recharge after a night out. Coupled with depression and anxiety, my own mind is sometimes beyond the restorative power of taking a yoga class or having a glass of wine. Sometimes I need to cut myself off so that the noise in my head doesn’t multiply any more than it will on its own.

2) I am an optimist. My first instinct is to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes they don’t deserve it and I end up disappointed. But, this is who I am and I like this part of my personality. Despite where we’re heading, I’m holding onto two things:

  • She won the popular vote. Even with low voter turnout, she won the popular vote. The majority of Americans did not sign up for his ideology. There is hope in this knowledge, and I am clinging to it.
  • The calls/texts I’ve received and made in the last week have reminded me of the good around me. Whether it’s in depth conversations about what happened, or just a random heart-emoji to say “I’m thinking about you,” I’ve felt incredibly lucky to have people in my life who are smart, engaged, and care.

3) Since I always try to relate my blog posts to writing and publishing… let me say this: Before Tuesday, my biggest mental occupation was that a few writers were disappointed in a comment I made about #ownvoices. (Remember when I said I have anxiety? Sometimes things like that keep me up at night too.) On Wednesday, I thought of how I had planned to elaborate after the election, but I became too numb to think. Then I thought, MY GOD WHAT DOES IT EVEN MATTER NOW ANYWAY!? But, it does matter. Maybe not on a grand scale, but here’s what #ownvoices means to me:

  • I made a comment that some Pitch Wars entries were using a loose definition of #ownvoices. This is because my own definition of #ownvoices has always been limited to societal marginalization. i.e. Other than stigmas and internal struggles, how does society treat you? Do you get paid less? Are you subject to discrimination in a way that puts your livelihood at stake? Are you more likely to be the target of violence?  In some of the Pitch Wars entries, it wasn’t always clear the main character was marginalized at all, even if the author pointed out how they, themselves, were. That’s because we live in a society where white is the default. Straight is the default. Able-bodied is the default. Status quo is the default. If a character isn’t that, but it’s not specified on the page, that default wins.
  • I’m usually vocal about wanting to see more #ownvoices queries in my inbox. My agent bio on the Bradford Lit website explicitly states I want to see books that challenge the status quo. I mean this now more than ever. The authors and projects on my list do this – sometimes in obvious ways, and sometimes in very subtle ways. I am proud of the list I have so far, and am SO ready to grow it from here. We can write and create and help sway the conversation through art. As small as I can feel, I do have a voice, and I’m in a position to raise other voices. Sometimes it might feel pointless, but I am going to take advantage of what I can.

4) I’ve dealt with feelings the same way since I was 14 years old – listening to a lot of Ani DiFranco. Whether it’s my crush not liking me back, my parents not understanding me, not knowing what I want to do with my life, or feeling like the world as I know it is about to become very, very scary – music and art and words have been there for me. I can’t offer any final words of inspiration because I truly don’t know what will happen. I still haven’t fully processed everything myself. But, I’ll leave you with Ani for now and hope we can continue this conversation another time when things look a little clearer.

I’ve had a lack of information
I’ve had a little revelation
I’m climbing up on the railing
Trying not to look down
I’m going to do my best swan dive
Into shark infested waters
I’m going to pull out my tampon
And start splashing around
‘Cause I don’t care if they eat me alive
I’ve got better things to do than survive

Any Questions?

It’s been said a thousand times, but the publishing industry sloooooooows during the summer months. This happens for obvious reasons (vacation time) and less-obvious-to-the-public reasons (editors are preparing for their upcoming fall and winter launches and catching up on material sent to them in the spring).

As an agent, I read submissions and queries as I receive them. I don’t have to worry about “launch” and I don’t have to wait until my superiors return from vacation before I can take on a new project. It also helps that my editorial deadlines are self-imposed. This means I spend most of my summers preparing clients’ work for fall submissions, catching up on queries, touching base with editors on existing projects, and traveling to conferences.

The most recent conference I attended was from the comfort of my own home (well, a Starbucks) and it was the free online conference, WriteOnCon (which is wonderful, and did I mention free?). I did a live chat with a few other agents in which we answered questions specifically about querying. Writers always have many, many questions about querying to the point where I just want to hug them. But since I can’t do that through the internet, I try my best to answer their questions. 

The questions during WriteOnCon could have been direct quotes from the questions I receive at every conference I attend in person. Most of them are fantastic and smart, and I don’t mind answering them 50 different times because every single time is important.

Questions like:
“How important is my author bio?”
“Should we use comp titles?”
“How long should a query be?”
“Can we send a previously rejected query after a major revision?”

… and other good questions that pertain to querying in general – as a process, as part of the business, as a necessary step toward reaching a larger goal.

There are other questions that always come up though – whether in Q&A sessions at conferences or in #askagent chats on Twitter – that only tell an agent the writer is at best, uninformed, and at worst, desperately unprofessional. These questions are rarely questions at all. They are masks to hide their pitches behind.

Here are questions to reconsider before asking an agent during a Q&A session:

What is the market like for [insert genre/style here]? 
Unless the topic of the Q&A session is specifically about the state of the market – which would be rare in circumstances involving unpublished/unagented writers – do not ask this question. We all know what you’re really asking, and if we represent your genre, you can query us. Questions about the market for a specific genre tell me you don’t actually care about the answer. You just want to know that there’s a market for your book. That tells an agent you’re writing (and querying) for the wrong reasons. If the answer to that question is “the market is dead,” does that mean you’re going to stop writing? If so, what happens if I sign you as a client but we have trouble selling your first book? I wouldn’t want to work with an author who gives up that easily or is unwilling to write another book. Also, it tells me you’re not reading in the genre in which you’re hoping to contribute. You should already be aware of what’s been published and the general trends in the genre you’re writing.
What are you looking for right now?
This question is asking the agent what they represent, which is something that will vary among agents and is another sneaky way to finding out if the agent represents your book. Do your research on where/whom to query, but panels are not the place to ask for specifics you can easily Google. It’s your chance to get insider knowledge that isn’t on their websites and Twitter feeds. 
Are you looking for new writers?/Do you work with debut authors?
99.9% of the time the answer to question is an all-caps YES. Agents close to queries sometimes for various reasons, and if that’s the case it’ll say so on their websites/Twitter pages (aka, the things you should be checking before you query anyway). If you’re still unsure, just try anyway. Worst that happens is an auto-response that says no, or you just don’t hear from them. The point is, it’s not a question to ask during a Q&A. It’s an agent’s JOB to find new authors. If you’re querying us at all, chances are you are a debut author. I can’t think of any agent who’s ever said “I only work with published authors.” If an author is already widely published, it’s likely they have an agent already too. So… YES, we want new authors.

Is this something you would like?/Can I send this to you?
This question is one I usually receive after I do a critique. At conferences, part of the draw for authors to attend is getting a one-on-one session with an agent and getting personal feedback on their pages. Once the 10, 15, or 20 minute conversation is over, I always ask “do you have any other questions for me?” And sadly, from at least one person, that question will be whether I want to represent the manuscript based on the opening pages I just read. No. The answer is no. Even if it’s a genre I love and my critique was entirely made of praise, that was not the point of meeting with me. If there are no questions about the critique itself, or larger industry-related questions, then just say “Nope. No questions. Thanks!” (And then query me after you revise.)

I understand frustration with rejection and feeling like any chance you get to speak directly to an agent should be used to sell your book. Professionalism is about curbing that impulse and thinking before you act. Agents experience rejection all the time, but if I’m at a cocktail party I don’t pitch books to editors. I get to know them, get a feeling about their taste, and then we either set up a lunch or I’ll send a follow-up email to pitch books to them. Think of conferences and Twitter as the cocktail party; your query is the lunch date.

If you’re interested in other query-centric discussions on this blog, feel free to read these as well:


In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

I’ve stumbled across a few blog posts and tweets recently that have been both flattering and troubling. The posts come from writers who are either querying agents or preparing to query agents, and have very nicely named me as their “dream agent.” When I say “a few” posts I mean just that. I’m not implying I have legions of fans or anything. But a few posts – and really even if it was just one post – are too many. Here’s why.

Resting all of your hopes and dreams on one person is dangerous. This is true for life in general, but let’s stick with talking about publishing. If you’re a writer and you’re querying agents, you should have a healthy list of agents (say 10-20) whom you deem the best fit for your work. If they all say no, find 20 more. And if they all say no, OK well maybe you need to revise. The point is, there is never just one agent to query. The number of websites devoted to curating lists of literary agents is staggering, so no one with Internet access has an excuse for not doing research.

Here’s the thing: most manuscripts get rejected. On an average month, I receive roughly 400 queries. Of those 400, I request maybe 5-10 manuscripts. I won’t tell you how many of those requests turn into offers of representation because I don’t want to depress you too much. Let’s just say the odds aren’t exactly in your favor if for no other reason than I can’t read 400 manuscripts a month. That’s the beautiful thing about there being other qualified literary agents! What I don’t request, someone else might, and your chances of getting an agent increase. Building up one person out of many to pick your needle out of their haystack is absurd. What happens when your dream agent says “no thanks, this isn’t for me?” Do you give up because the dream is dead? Of course not. Saying “OK, on to the next one” – and not taking personal offense – should be your only logical course of action. 

What’s more troubling about the “dream agent” is that when I see writers use this phrase, whether about me or someone else, I worry it may be for more personal reasons than professional. The Internet has eliminated the great divide between Writer and Gatekeeper. Agents aren’t just mysterious figures in their New York City Ivory Towers who crush the dreams of writers at will. Now writers can see that we’re just regular people who love books and happen to have the right connections to get their books published by major publishers. This has been great for publishing for several reasons: Stronger relationships, built-in marketing networks, and being able to directly tell writers what I like and am looking for has made my slush pile a much more pleasant place to spend time. But, sometimes I worry the personal connections writers feel to certain agents can overshadow the real task at hand – selling books. Liking me on a personal level is great, but please research me on a professional level.

The agent-author relationship is first and foremost a business partnership. If you’re querying agents, writing is probably more than just a hobby for you. This is your career. It’s not something to take lightly or “pass off to a friend.” You should want a professional who will know exactly how to sell your work. Being liked is a nice feeling, and it lets me know the advice I give to the writing community on Twitter hasn’t gone unnoticed. But if you’re a writer seeking an agent, I hope you’re not just querying me because we both watch Doctor Who or because one time I made a joke you found funny. I have a good personal relationship with all of my clients, which I think enhances any business relationship, but that part of our relationship is a fun added bonus. I didn’t only love their books or think they were cool people – even though I did, and they are – I also knew I could help them get their work published.

Before querying, ask yourself the following questions:
– Is this agent taking on new clients?
– Does this agent represent my genre?
– Has this agent ever stated whether they specifically are or aren’t considering certain sub-genres?
– What type of success has this agent had with my genre specifically?
– What type of sales does this agent have overall? Will they have good connections even if my genre is new to them?
– What agency does this agent work for? Are they legit? What’s their reputation like in the industry?
– Does this agent share the same vision for my work that I have? If they don’t, why not?
– Will I get along with this agent on a personal level? Will this be an enjoyable relationship, as well as a successful business partnership?

You won’t know who your dream agent is until you receive that offer of representation and realize that someone saw something brilliant in your manuscript. If your pre-determined dream agent turns you down, then they weren’t the best fit to begin with. The person you need to work with is the person who needs to work with you. Don’t pretend this person exists before you even query them. Writing is hard enough, let alone querying. Take one solace where you can and know that your dream agent is out there, but it’s not up to you to decide who that is until he or she reads your work. They will come to you.

Should You Publish Your Memoir?

There have been some good posts about memoir recently – I’m thinking specifically of Janet Reid’s post on querying a memoir and Rachelle Gardner’s on when to write your memoir. I’ve noticed an increase in nonfiction queries lately, and have met with a few writers at conferences who are trying to get theirs published. I like memoir and personal essay collections a lot and don’t read them nearly as much as I used to. (Note: Not because I stopped liking them. It’s mostly because I don’t have the time.)

Creative nonfiction reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer. My expectations and fantasies of New York were formed when I read E.B. White, Joan Didion, and David Rakoff in college. I went head-to-head with writers like Nick Hornby and Chuck Klosterman in my obsession with pop culture analysis. I commiserated and laughed with David Sedaris over our crazy families. Through writers like Jennifer Finney Boylan, Leslie Feinberg, Mary Karr, and Joyce Johnson I formed my ideas of feminism and civil rights and shared in their experiences even though their lives couldn’t have been farther from my own.

I expect a lot from memoir writing and essays, which I think is why I haven’t found anything I’m head-over-heels in love with yet. I’m looking, always looking, but it’s hard. I need to be inspired, awestruck, unable to put down the book even after I finish it.

Reactions like that are harder to come by these days. I’m no longer the idealistic youth I was when I first discovered creative nonfiction, but I am still a romantic at heart. The difference now is that I’m a tougher reader, a stronger editor, and even if a story gives me that jaw-dropping reaction, I’m forced to look at it from a business angle. Can I sell this? Is there a place for it in the current market? Do I know the right editors to send this to? The same questions that go into whether I offer representation on a fiction project go into nonfiction projects. But, there’s an added question when it comes to nonfiction. Even though memoir writing is pitched to agents the same as a novel would be (see Janet Reid’s post linked above), the word “platform” looms over even the most literary and story-focused nonfiction writer.

As an agent, I end up rejecting queries from writers who have bravely shared their stories of abuse, drug addiction, war, divorce, cancer/fatal diseases, kidnapping, and almost every other painful or difficult thing you can think of. Because the thing is, these things are horrible, but they are also, unfortunately, common. There is a fine line between “relatable” and “boring.” Agents and publishers need to see your story on a national scale, and while things seem unique and important to the writer, their stories don’t always translate to a bigger picture.

That’s where platform comes back in. It’s an awful feeling to have to say to a writer “your story is beautiful, but not enough people will care.” (OK, not that I’ve ever said that to a writer, but that is what it comes down to.) People care about celebrities because they think they know who they are and want to relate to them. The difference between Michael Douglas’ cancer and your cancer is huge, I’m sorry to say.

I’m a big proponent of writing as a form of therapy. Treat your story like you are going to share it with the world. Get everything down on paper and then edit, edit, edit. Even if no one else ever reads it, EDIT. If someone outside of your family won’t understand something, cut it. If your emotions are still too strong to view a situation objectively, cut it. I’ve done this with my own experiences and it really does help. Sometimes we just need to get things down on paper so it escapes our minds. That doesn’t mean we need to publish it.

It’s obvious why people write memoirs. Sometimes it’s the only thing they can do. But, unless you are a celebrity or published author, ask yourself the following questions before you try to publish your memoir:

1. Can someone else write this story?
It’s true, everyone handles situations differently and learns different lessons. That is not what we mean when we ask whether your story is unique. As I mentioned above, most people have gone through what you’ve gone through. Unless you are the only person who can write about that topic, your memoir will probably get overlooked by agents and publishers. Excellent writing can often change our minds, but you should know going in that even if you have an MFA from a top program and have crafted your memoir flawlessly, it will be tough.

2. Why does this need to be published?
Most people write memoirs because they think others can learn from their personal experiences. This can be true, but that’s not a motive that interests me. I want to be told a great story, whether it’s your memoir or a novel. If you set out to inspire people or teach a lesson, make sure you’re not writing a self-help book instead of a memoir. Creative nonfiction means you employ the same techniques as novel writing, except the ideas come from real life instead of your imagination. The ability to tell a story and develop a character needs to be there in order for your memoir to get published.

3. Will this be more effective as a novel?
I give this advice to debut memoir writers a lot. If the story is interesting, but not particularly unique or exciting, I wonder why it’s so important to the writer to publish it as nonfiction. Fictionalizing real life can be just as therapeutic and it allows for creative freedom to build an even more interesting story for your reader. The heart of your story remains, but you’ll be free of platform-building. Not only that, your readers won’t expect as much from you. Reading a memoir creates an intimacy with the author, but if that author is just some stranger off the street, sometimes readers are left wondering, “yeah but so what?” A novel, on the other hand, transports the reader into a fictional world that’s far less demanding and just as real.

I tend to think of personal essay collections the same way I think of memoir, but I admit they are a slightly different breed. For one, you’d need to have a few pieces already published in some higher profile magazines or keep a regular blog that has a substantial following. Essays also, when done well, offer cultural or political analysis through a personal narrative, which is hard to convince readers of if you’re not at least mildly known.

I’m rooting for you, creative nonfiction writers. Just be prepared for how much harder it can be to break into nonfiction as an unknown author – even harder than fiction, and those writers can tell you just how hard that world is to navigate. Readers love true stories and feeling like they aren’t alone in the world, but more goes into memoir writing than being a regular person. Make sure you’re trying to publish for the right reasons, and if your story is as funny, sad, wonderful, and inspiring to us as it is to you, we’ll fight for it.

Your Rhetorical Questions, Answered

If you’re a writer who’s ever queried an agent, let me salute you. It’s not very fun, I’d imagine. As you’ve noticed, agents tend to have different submission guidelines and some of us are quite militant about them. I hope you all have spreadsheets to keep everybody straight.

However! I’m here to make your lives slightly easier. While I don’t have the power to create a universal submission guideline, there is one thing that 99.9% of agents agree on when it comes to your actual query:

We hate rhetorical questions.

Now, to be fair, some agents don’t mind when you begin your query with a rhetorical question. Some just skip it and move on. But no one likes them, which I think it a notable distinction. They’re awkward to read, wastes precious query-reading seconds, and can even get you a very quick rejection. Agents read hundreds of queries – sometimes hundreds of them a day (!) – and your rhetorical question is not going to hook us the way a direct, unique description of your book will.

Here’s why rhetorical questions fail:

Have you ever wondered… ? Nope.

What would you do if…. ? Whatever your character does.

What if you… ? I’d be living in the premise of your book, whatever that is.  

Remember when… ? Maybe, but you shouldn’t assume I come from the same background or generation as you.

Do you ever wish… ? Probably not, but hopefully my enjoyment of your novel doesn’t depend on my inner desires. 


In short, the answer is never a simple “yes.” Even if by a miracle you pick the one agent who has been waiting to hear that question all day, chances are he or she will prefer to have heard what your book is about instead. What’s worse is that if the answer is a very plain “no” (which it usually is), then all you’ve done is given us permission to stop reading your query. 


You will never be rejected based on a rhetorical question alone, so don’t worry if you’ve already sent out a bunch of queries littered with them. But, for me, if I’m on the fence about a query or I know my reading my pile is getting too large to add to, I may take that rhetorical question as a testament to your writing style. It may not always be fair to the writer in question, but it’s an easy way to filter out material when I just don’t have the time for new things. 


Queries are hard, but there is no magic formula to them either. The only thing agents want to know is what your book is about. Note: your book. Rhetorical questions say nothing specific about you, your story, or your characters. They’re like movie taglines, meant to entice a potential audience without giving anything away. Agents, however, are not your potential audience. We’re the ones who will help you find your audience. But first, we need to know what your book is about. 

Watching What You Read

Here’s a question.

Is your literary taste the same as your taste in other forms of entertainment?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen I recently threw in the towel on steampunk. The thing is, steam-powered machines, Victorian settings, and time travel are all AWESOME. But visually, when I’m reading it on the page, I just can’t make sense of it. A steampunk movie or TV show though? Yes, please.

Film-making and novel writing are two different art forms, and both excel in different areas. For me, I almost always prefer to read literary fiction and magical realism than to see their film and television equivalents. Other genres, specifically urban fantasy, high fantasy, and noir/detective stories, are personal favorites, but only when I’m watching them on screen. It’s not a stretch to say that novelists are more cerebral and film-makers are more visual, so I prefer to let the experts offer me the best interpretation of a story based on what matters most in that story. *Note: There are always exceptions on both sides.

So what about you? Any gamers out there love the new [insert popular video game here], but hate the high-octane movies that cater to you? Romance fans who roll your eyes at chick flicks? Members of the Sylvester Stallone Fan Club who can’t stand reading thrillers?

Tell me in the comments what you yawn your way through in one medium, but get completely absorbed by in another.

Taking Advice

I saw this list of quotes from Stephen King today, and immediately thought “YES!” when I read the first one: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

As you know, I give writing advice a lot. I speak from a Bachelors and a Masters in creative writing and (more importantly) as a professional in the publishing industry. I’d like to think I’m pretty qualified to give writing advice, as are many other publishing professionals who offer advice on a regular basis. All we can do is sit back and hope people listen. (Mostly so we don’t have to repeat ourselves.)

That said, I understand why some writers don’t take our advice.

With so much subjectivity in the field, how does one differentiate between personal taste and unarguable truth? The thing is, there are always going to be exceptions to rules, so nothing is ever set in stone. But! For the most part, especially for a debut author who’s way less likely to be able to break any rules, there are some things you’ll just need to take an editor’s word on.

Bringing me back to adverbs. Poor, poor adverbs. The thing is, they can be used in moderation, but no one ever uses them sparingly enough, so they get ruined for everybody. Adverbs are words that seem to be universally hated by writing professionals, and yet writers continue to use (and abuse) them. It makes me wonder who is listening to writing advice out there.

So I ask you, fair writers:
How often do you listen to writing advice from professionals, either via blogs, conferences, or Twitter?
How many second opinions do you require before you’re able to think of suggestions as “rules?”
When something is as frowned upon as adverbs, are you still able to write it off as “personal preference?”

Thanks, friends 🙂

What Do You Write?

I know I don’t let her out very often, but I’m speaking to you today as Writer Sarah. As most of you know, I also write. By which I mean, sometimes I jot down a paragraph that could someday end up in a novel, and then let it sit for months without writing anything new because “free time” is a thing of myth and legend.

But, sometimes I write.

In New York, if you say you’re working on “a novel,” the response is not “Oh, how interesting. What’s it about?!” It’s more likely to be a subtle eye roll and a polite “oh” with the clear subtext: “Yeah, who isn’t?” I appreciate this about New Yorkers. Nobody here is special, and many New Yorkers will think nothing of reminding you of that fact. It’s one of the things non-New Yorkers think is “rude” about us, but it’s actually quite refreshing.

New Yorkers in general might not care about what I’m working on, but when friends and family hear I’m writing a novel, they ask the inevitable “What do you write?” It’s a harmless enough question, but I hate answering it. Mostly because this is what usually happens:

Q: What do you write?
A: Fiction.
Q: Yeah but what kind?
A: For teens.
Q: Is it a mystery? Scary? Romance?
A: No. Just fiction.
Q: That sounds boring. You should add vampires to it.
A: ::falls over and dies::

Or this happens:

Q: What do you write?
A: I’m working on a young adult novel right now.
Q: What like vampires?
A: No, like just regular fiction. But for teens.
Q: ::does not compute:: ::thinks I’m not a “serious writer”::

I feel the need to give my credentials when people give the “you write for teens?” look. It’s mocking and ignorant and I’m always tempted to quote Shakespeare and rub my MFA diploma in their faces (if I knew where said diploma was). But I don’t do that and instead just say to myself “Yep, YA. Oh you don’t know understand what it is? You must be really stupid then.” and merrily walk away. (I hope you other writers do the same. But seriously, only say it to yourself. Not out loud.)

Maybe my “non-specialness” of being a New Yorker has made me shy away from this question. Truthfully, I’m more concerned about coming off like a novice, even though that’s exactly what I am. So, I’m curious what you real writers answer when asked “What do you write?” Do you downplay what you’re working on out of modesty? Do you proudly offer your genre even if it’s not taken seriously by the less-informed? Or do you just ignore people and keep typing?

Happy Writing this weekend 🙂

When Do You Write?

I’ve noticed something in my query inbox lately that I find interesting. In the past two or three weeks, my request rate has dropped dramatically. Or, I should say, it’s dropped back down to normal. I didn’t even realize I had been requesting fewer manuscripts until I saw that from June 9 to June 21, I received 0 material due to lack to requests. This lag between requests isn’t uncommon, especially after I compared it to other months. The reason it felt so wrong to me, though, is because for the entire month of May, and the first week in June, I had requested at least one manuscript (sometimes more) almost every single day.

This means that a) my reading pile for May was massive – yes, I am still getting through it; and b) the quality of the queries, and the writing, that month was noticeably higher. Most of what I received were from people who clearly did their homework, knew what I was looking for, what I might like, and delivered. I can only assume they spent an entire winter researching only me; that’s how well-matched many of these queries were to my personal tastes.

The bulk of June hasn’t been like that, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s a summer slump. (Note: There were, of course, some gems, regardless of whether I had requested or passed on them.) Does the slowness of June mean writers are taking a break from querying? Was that request-rush in May just a fluke that may or may not happen again?

Or, have writers toiled away all winter to finish their masterpieces so that queries could be good and sent by the time summer hit? Alternatively, have they all left for an exotic writer’s retreat on the beach, where they will spend every day of the summer simultaneously working on tans and new novels to query by winter?

I’m not sure, and the reason is more likely that this was simply a slow month that will pick up again by July. But, it’s made me wonder when writers write. Are there better times than others? Are certain seasons more inspiring, depending on the project? Or is it a less exciting matter of simply when you find the time?

You tell me, writers. When do you get your best work done? And when do you decide it’s time to query that work?

(Blogger’s note: Speaking of summer, I’ll be on vacation beginning mid-week, so there won’t a publication this Wednesday, and no regular posts until July 6. Enjoy your 4th of July weekend, everyone!)

Commander in Chief

I don’t know about you all, but I am very, very tired of hearing about who the GOP will nominate in 2012. Speculation about speculation is exhausting, and it doesn’t get any more tiresome than Donald Trump. No matter what your political affiliation, let’s all agree that the country probably does not need someone with the catchphrase “You’re fired” to bring them out of a recession.

Anyway, while Obama begins his re-election campaign and the other side tries desperately to get their shit together, let’s go into the weekend thinking about a much more pleasant presidential election – a fictional one.

Which literary character would you most like to see run for president? And remember because it’s fictional, your choices don’t need to be limited to pesky rules like age limits and U.S. citizenship.

My dream ticket would be Hermione Granger and Tracy Flick. If there are any two people who can lead the free world, it’s them. And I’d be happy to sit back and, for once, not worry about what the people in Washington are doing to me. The hardest part would be choosing the top of the ticket, but I guess I’ll go with Hermione since she can keep cooler under pressure.

Honorable mention: Atticus Finch. Not only is a natural leader, but he’d make us all better human beings. Plus, he’s pro-civil rights, from the deep south, has a background in law, and (if you think of him as Gregory Peck) has a simultaneously dreamy and commanding presence. Kind of hard to beat.

What say you, readers (American and non-American alike!)?