Monday, April 29, 2013

(Self)-Publish or Perish?

I've been thinking a lot lately about self-publishing.

Let me correct that.

I've been thinking a lot lately about NOT self-publishing.

Many of the people I follow or who follow me on Twitter are self-published.  Some are experiencing great success; others aren't.  For those who are, I could not be more thrilled.  For those who aren't, I could not be more hopeful.

But have I thought about self-publishing my own creative works?

Not for a second.

Lest you fear that this is going to turn into some kind of rant against self-publishing, rest assured, it's not.  I don't believe that self-published work is inherently or universally inferior to traditionally published work, nor do I believe that self-publishing is going to destroy traditional publishing or tear apart the fabric of the nation.  Truth be told, traditional publishing is far more likely to destroy itself than to be destroyed by some boogie-man.

No, for me, it's just a personal preference, based on my own sense of self.

For me, there are two major factors that determined my pursuit of traditional publication for my debut novel, Survival Colony Nine, and that will, unless something drastic changes, determine my course in the future as well.

NUMBER ONE


As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not the world's most outgoing person.  I'm okay at presenting myself in public, but not so okay at selling myself.  I could probably get better.  In fact, I've been working on it, with (I think) some success.  By the time my book comes out in 2014, I expect to be even better.

But I'll never be as good as some people, people to whom it either comes more naturally or who are willing or able to work harder at it than I am.  In my case, I feel it's essential to have the support of other professionals whose business it is to sell authors and books.

Don't get me wrong.  I know that, these days, authors can't sit back and expect the publisher's promo machine to do everything (which is one reason I might end up employing the services of a publicist).  But for purely personal reasons, I know I'd feel totally at a loss if I were largely or solely responsible for marketing, advertising, and selling the fruits of my creative labor.

NUMBER TWO


I started out in academic publishing, where no matter how good your manuscript may be, lots of other scholars and critics are going to weigh in on it before it sees the light of day.  I'm comfortable with that model; it makes sense to me as a teacher and writer.  I believe it's vitally important to have fellow readers--and, given my background, to me that means "expert readers"--making editorial judgments.  As with the promotional side of things, so with the writing side: I don't want to go it alone.

Now, of course, self-published authors don't have to go it alone.  There are beta readers, friends and fellow writers, editors for hire, and so forth.  All of these people can help the self-published author, if s/he so chooses, to improve her/his work.

But I know myself.  Much as I believe in the power of outside opinions, I know that my desire to get my book out there might overcome my good sense.  I know I might be inclined to cut corners: skip the beta readers, or ignore editorial advice, or simply be lazy with my own revisions.  I know I need someone to push me to make my writing as good as it can be--someone who simply will not publish my book if it's NOT as good as it can be.

Hence my decision to travel the traditional route.  I could, if I chose, ignore my beta readers.  But I can't ignore my agent and my editor.  If the former doesn't like my manuscript, it doesn't get subbed.  And if the latter doesn't like my manuscript, it doesn't get published.  So in my case, I feel I need the gate-keepers, the categorical imperatives that traditional publishing provides, to make sure I don't cut corners.

I don't want this to sound as if I see the traditional publishing system as a crutch for lazy writers, any more than I see the self-publishing system as a short-cut for poor writers.  Neither characterization is accurate.  My point is simply that each writer has to determine for herself or himself which route is best.

And this means, in the end, that each writer needs to know herself or himself, both strengths and weaknesses.  You can't let either success stories or horror stories decide for you.

If you do, you may never publish.  And your creative spark may very well perish.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Keeping It Real

An interesting conversation on Twitter (started by Erin Whalen) got me thinking about where my ideas for fiction originate.  Do I start with the characters, the plot, or the setting?  Most people in this conversation were character or plot devotees, but I have to admit I'm a setting guy.

Maybe this is because I write mostly speculative fiction, which puts a premium on where things take place.  The fictional world isn't our world, and so it's particularly important for the author to visualize it distinctly and to know it intimately.

And that's what tends to happen in my creative process: I see a place that I think would be interesting, then I ask myself what kinds of characters would be there, and why.  From that, character and plot flow more or less naturally.

An example is my forthcoming novel Survival Colony Nine.  I couldn't get the image out of my head of a wasteland world, a desert setting sparsely populated by small roving groups of people.  The questions of how the world got that way, who these people were, what they lacked and wanted, what obstacles stood in the way to their achieving their desires, and how they might overcome these obstacles all developed from that original image, which I quote here as it appears in the manuscript's current form:

The world stretched in an endless circle of dust around me, broken only by the shapes of ragged tents and squat, rusted trucks.  Both were patterned with camouflage colors.  Everything else was a dead reddish-brown, the color of dried blood under fingernails.  The sky was a uniform brown so similar to the land my head spun with the feeling that the solid ground was only a reflection.  The heat felt like a blanket wrapped around my hands, my eyes, my throat.

That setting was enough to propel me into the story of fourteen-year-old Querry Genn and his colony, Survival Colony Nine, as they struggle for existence in a ruined world overrun by the monstrous antagonists I call the Skaldi.

I wrote in a previous post about the risks of "info-dumping," or revealing too much about the fictional world in a single lump of information.  But balanced against that risk is the need for the author--and particularly the author of speculative fiction--to have all that information in mind.  Indeed, I've found that the more I know about my own setting, the less inclined I am to dump what I know on the reader all at once; if I feel confident in the setting, I also feel confident in letting it emerge slowly and organically.

So let's hear it for setting!  Plot is what makes readers keep reading your book, and characters are what make them fall in love with it--but setting is what keeps it real.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Remembering E. L. Konigsburg

I was greatly saddened by the news that two-time Newberry Medal-winning author E. L. Konigsburg died Friday.  I remember her novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968) as one of the books that made me believe, way back when, that I might grow up to be an author.

I don't recall the exact age at which I read Mixed-Up Files.  I was probably 9 or 10.  It was certainly before I encountered J. R. R. Tolkien (at age 13), another huge influence.  My old copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been lost and replaced, but my original paperback copy of Konigsburg's book is still on my shelves.  A few years ago, I read it aloud to my daughter.  With any luck, it'll still be on my shelves when it's time to read to my grandchildren.

Like all kids who dream of being writers, I read a lot.  I read whatever I could get my hands on, whether that was fantasy, sci-fi, history, travel, memoir, or anything else.  My mom seemed to buy a lot of books for my little sister, so I read a lot of what she had on her shelf, which meant a lot of Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Roald Dahl.  (My older brother read nothing but sports biographies, one of the few genres that left me cold.)  I assume Mixed-Up Files was another book I nabbed from my sister, along with such titles as Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Charlotte's Web.

Even though I was reading it, I didn't know at that time that there was a genre called "middle grade" or "young adult" literature.  Maybe the terms hadn't yet been developed by the industry.  All I knew was that certain books resonated with me, inspired me.  Made me say, "Man, I wish I had written that!"

Mixed-Up Files was at the top of that list.  It blew me away.  It was a coming-of-age story, a mystery, an adventure novel, an introduction to art history (I'd never heard of Michelangelo before), and more all at once.  The story seemed so simple--two kids run away and hide out in a museum--but at the same time it amazed me how much surprise, insight, and raw life Konigsburg wrung out of that premise.  I loved the characters, especially Claudia; I think I even had a little crush on her.  The story turned out exactly as I felt it had to, and yet still it made me feel as if I'd never seen the end coming.  To this day, I'm not sure how Konigsburg pulled it off.

There are so many favorite passages I could pull from this book, but here's one that strikes a particular chord for me:

I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal.  But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything.  And you can feel it inside you.  If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you.  You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them.  It's hollow.

As a teacher, a parent, a writer, and a human being, that passage speaks to me strongly, tells me what kind of life I want to live.

Thank you, E. L. Konigsburg, for giving this to me.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Info-Dumping

I was thinking about the subject of this post recently, while reading a futuristic YA novel.  Good story, interesting premise, tense and intense opening scene.  And then, just as the scene got REALLY gripping....

INFO-DUMP

It stopped everything cold.  It lasted only a page or so, during which time the author filled us in on the history of the world that had brought the protagonist to this moment in time.  But for me, it killed the scene.  I wish the author had let us find out organically, as the plot unfolded, how the world had come to be.

That, to me, is the definition of an info-dump.  Providing information isn't bad in itself; in fact, providing information is precisely what novels do.  But when the information appears grafted onto the plot, or distracts from it, or reeks of "my readers might not know what's going on, so I'd better tell them," it's an info-dump, and it's generally a bad idea.

To give a personal example, here's a draft of a scene I wrote for a novel titled Ecosystem.  This scene occurs early in the novel--maybe ten pages in--and I tried to insert the information more "naturally" into the story by presenting it as someone's speech to an audience.  But I still think it's an info-dump.

***


I am first of the Sensors to return.  Not surprisingly, as my circuit was by far the shortest, my track the safest.  A hundred rods into the forest beyond the sward, a quick kill, the same distance back.  The others will have gone deep into the Ecosystem, to places of which I have only heard, places I can only imagine.  In time, if I’m successful, I will seek out those places as well, where the game is thickest and the dangers greatest.  In time, if I live to Aaron’s age, I will train the next generation of Sensors to plunge into the Ecosystem’s everchanging maze.

But today, I will celebrate.  The village will celebrate.  They will celebrate me.

They will meet as always in the great hall, the entire community gathered as one, with the exception of those few assigned this day to ward the periphery.  In the flagstone hearth they will light the fire that is the Ecosystem’s chief grievance against the village, that and the cutting tools with which the threshers keep the greensward from encroaching on the pavilion of stone.  The Sensors will step forward to be acknowledged, to bask in the village’s thankfulness for the risks they take on the commoners’ behalf.  In their identical uniforms of close-fitting brown fur, cut short to expose muscled arms and long legs, the Sensors will stand in a line, aloof, imperturbable, their Sense of the Ecosystem removing them always from the community they are pledged to serve.  And for the first time, wearing the same uniform as they, I will stand among them.

Then Chief Warden Daniel will deliver the customary address, rehearsing our history, reminding the populace of how the Sensors came to be.  He will talk of the old days, when humans were numerous and powerful, when their cities stretched for miles across a landscape subdued by machines.  He will speak of species driven to extinction by the hand of man, of habitats despoiled, life’s essence corrupted.  For us who have known only the Ecosystem these past thousand generations, such a picture will seem fanciful, but none of us will laugh.  And then he will tell of the rise of the Ecosystem, how unseen and undreamed of by those who thought they had secured Earth’s domination, the innumerable threads of life and will knitted themselves into one, sentience burgeoning from dim, disparate signals to full roaring consciousness.  He will speak of cities overwhelmed by jungle, of food sources turned to deadly poisons and others to deadly predators, of virulent pathogens borne by vermin and birds and insects and cultivated crops, of newly weaned livestock feasting on their owners’ blood.  It was a coordinated attack, and it succeeded.  It gave birth to the world we know, a world in which the Ecosystem rules and we who were once its masters hide in its angry shadow.

Then Daniel will talk of the relearning, how the few who were left discovered a Sense of the Ecosystem’s will, and in so doing found ways not so much to fight back but simply to survive, to establish small enclaves the Ecosystem could not breach.  These few were the first Sensors, and as they gathered the people around them there grew the first villages of stone, the first walls and firewells, the first masters and apprentices.  But the Sensors, Daniel will tell us, were meant not to rule but to serve, and once they had established those first villages they willingly relinquished their authority to become what they are today: messengers and mediums, interpreters of the Ecosystem so finely attuned to its ways only they can pass safely through its winding passages in the daily hunt for food, drink, and fuel.  They are selfless, Daniel will say, so selfless they have agreed to serve the communities of which they can never fully be a part, the communities where they can never know the joys of love and family and children.  Perhaps, he will say, his lips curling in a grateful smile, it is their selflessness that is their Sense, their abjuring of mortal pleasures that enables them to project themselves into the Ecosystem and know its will.  Perhaps, too, it is this quality that makes them immune to the Ecosystem’s snares: for when they enter it, they enter it without the concentration of self that marks other humans as objects of the Ecosystem’s rage.

When he is finished the community will applaud, and I will glance at the other Sensors who stand silently around me, and wonder if, like me, they doubt this portrait Daniel has drawn of our class.  I’ll wonder if it is me alone who draws the Ecosystem’s fire, who taunts it, who hates it beyond all measure for what it has done.  And I will wonder too if it hates me with a special fury, if it knows me not just as a human, not just as a Sensor, but as the particular concentration of self that is me.
 
But I will voice none of these thoughts.  As the village's newest Sensor, I will step forward....
 
***
 
From "Then Chief Warden Daniel" on, the info-dump takes over, not relenting until the paragraph beginning "But I will voice none of these thoughts" returns us to the narrative.  It's too much, too soon.  It tells the reader so much about the history of this world, s/he might reasonably feel there's little point in reading on; what's left to discover?
 
It's no good, and the simple solution was to take it out (which I did) and let the reader discover the world's history through action, dialogue, and context.  I kept the info-dump in a separate file in case I needed it later, but the truth is, everything I said in it emerged much more plausibly and inobtrusively elsewhere in the book, so I never needed it after all.
 
So, what do you think?  How do you define or deal with info-dumping?  Why is it so easy to fall into that trap?  I'd love to hear what others think.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How 3-D Is Ruining Movies For Me

First, let's get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a 3-D movie.


3-D movies are two dimensional like all movies.  In the case of traditional movies, the flat screen uses certain context cues (scale, overlap, etc.) to trick our brains into perceiving apparent depth.  In the case of 3-D movies, an additional trick is used: two slightly off-kilter images, which our brains, assisted by special lenses, combine to perceive apparent depth.

I was perfectly happy to imagine movies as having depth.  I didn't need to wear funky glasses to aid the deception.  In fact, to me, that additional illusion destroys the illusion: the few elements that jump out of the screen only emphasize how flat everything else truly is.

To me, the 3-D movie craze is absolutely ruining my ability to watch the kind of movies I want to watch.


Case in point: Jurassic Park.  I saw it twenty years ago, and I was excited to see it again on the big screen.

But I can't.  Why?  Because it's in 3-D, and the very few 2-D screenings are in the middle of the day.  When I'm, you know, at work.

Most of the movies I enjoy watching--that is, fantasy and science fiction--are now being presented in 3-D.  Soon, they might only be released in that format.  At which point, I'll probably stop watching movies altogether.

And maybe that won't be such a bad thing.  Because the other, deeper way in which 3-D is ruining movies is by dictating their content.  With our fancy new 3-D technology, we take a perfectly nice story like The Hobbit and add endless chase scenes, dropping-off-cliff sequences, and other completely needless nonsense merely because it looks really cool in 3-D.

The technology, rather than the story or the theme or the character relationships, drives the film.


Now, to a certain extent, technology has always played a determining role in fantasy and sci-fi film.  A main goal of such films is to produce the illusion of the impossible, and technology has kept pace in striving to make that illusion convincing.  By introducing another illusory reality to fantasy and science fiction film, one could argue that 3-D is only extending that tradition.

But 3-D, I believe, is different.  To a far greater extent than any of the technologies that have preceded it--stop-motion animation, blue and green screens, CGI--3-D takes on a life of its own: it becomes the film's reason for existence, over and above its function of enhancing the realism of the film's patently unreal effects. If you want proof of that, the mere fact that these movies are advertised as 3-D should supply it: no one ever said, "I'm going to a CGI movie today," even if (as in the case of the original Jurassic Park) revolutionary advances in CGI modeling greatly added to the film's appeal.  3-D, in other words, is a kind of uber-technology, a technology that calls attention only to itself.

And ultimately, that's why it's ruining movies for me (and seems likely to ruin them for everyone in the long run).

We don't watch movies anymore.  We watch the technology.


Like so much in today's digital age, we've added a (virtual) dimension, while losing the thing itself.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Proper Twitterquette

I'm relatively new to Twitter--only about two months tweeting--so I'm sure there's plenty I don't understand about its uses, its rules, its nuances.

That being said, it's taken me only two months to become thoroughly exasperated by what I see as the abuse of the medium by certain users.

I offer, for what it's worth, two categories of tweeters whom I believe are showing extremely poor twitterquette and generally ticking the rest of us off.

The Trivial Tweeter

I read somewhere (probably on Twitter) that the system allows each user a maximum of 1,000 tweets per day.  That's roughly 40 per hour, or two every three minutes.

But do we really need to reach that limit?

I used to follow a guy who tweeted constantly about his coffee-drinking.  As in, "I'm headed to the coffee shop now."  A minute later: "Just ordered my latte."  Thirty seconds later: "Ah!  First sip.  Delightfully frothy."  A minute later: "Almost done.  Time to order another."

I'm not kidding.

Why, oh why, did this guy believe I wanted to know every excruciating detail of his moment-by-moment love affair with caffeine?  Why, oh why, must everything in our lives be reported to everyone else on the planet?  If you're doing something worthwhile, then by all means let 'er rip.  But if you're drinking coffee, or filing your nails, or picking your nose, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

When I stopped following this guy, he immediately stopped following me.  I assume he has one of those programs that automatically identify unfollowers and unfollow them.

And all I can say to that is: thank God.

The Serial Tweeter

If anything, worse than the Trivial Tweeter, who's merely annoying.  The Serial Tweeter is trying to sell you something--in my case, one of his or her books.  So every hour, ten or twenty times, s/he tweets a link to his/her works on Amazon.

Let's get one thing straight.  I'm a writer too, and yes, I do advertise my works on Twitter.  As I understand the rules, that's one of its uses.

BUT TEN OR TWENTY TIMES AN HOUR?

This does not make me want to run out and buy these books.  Quite the contrary.  It makes me loathe the writer, the same way I loathe the people who come up to my door and try to sell me things I don't want (usually religion), the same way I would loathe anyone who was constantly in my face trying to sell me something when I'm trying to conduct other business.  Thanks to the Serial Tweeters I've had the misfortune to follow cluttering up the Twitter feed with their endless barrage of "look at me, love me, buy me!" tweets, I can hardly find the other business I want to conduct.

So I'm going to be spending the next couple days identifying Trivial and Serial Tweeters on my list, and unfollowing the heck out of them.  I'm sure they'll immediately return the favor.  To which I can only say: thank God.

Maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot.  Maybe there'll be a mass exodus away from my tweets.  Maybe I'll drop instantly from my respectable 80 followers to an anemic 5 or 10.

But you know what?  I'd rather have one good and true companion than countless fair-tweeter friends.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Anti-Social Media

Now that I've amassed a fairly full complement of social media accounts--I've got Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, this blog, even Rafflecopter (though I have yet to figure out how to use that one)--I've noticed a disturbing aspect of them: namely, the anti-social use of social media.

On Facebook, for instance, I witnessed one of my friends engaging in a rancorous, obscenity-laden exchange with one of his friends.  What set them off I'm not sure; I believe it was a simple political disagreement, something having to do with wealth and poverty or guns or the government.  But man, did the expletives fly!  Maybe it was all in fun, though it sure didn't sound like it.  I considered stepping in to recommend civility, but I decided I'd be an unwelcome interloper in their mutual tirade.

Then there was the Twitter exchange I recently--and unwillingly--experienced, where one of the people I follow went back and forth for some time with someone else over the question of what he'd originally tweeted.  He said he'd said one thing, and the other guy said he'd said something else, and by the time they were done I wasn't sure who had said what.  It ended with your basic "dude, whatever," but it was pretty nasty to watch as it unfolded.

And then there are the reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, which range from thoughtful and respectful to downright cruel if not barbaric.  I deleted a couple of my Amazon reviews when I got return comments from people I'd never heard of that went something like, "who the **** do you think you are not to like this movie?"  (I actually wrote to complain to Amazon, whom I thought moderated these things, but their only suggestion was to not post reviews if I was worried about how people would respond to them.)  I'm amazed at the ferocity of some reviews on Goodreads, where four-letter words reign and the goal appears to be to come up with ever more extreme ways to insult and demean authors.  I've considered jumping into a couple of those conversations too--with something like, "well, gosh, you know, it's hard to write good books, and if you don't like a particular book, it's not really as if the author is consciously trying to be mean to you or to waste your time"--but I decided, again, to let discretion play the better part of valor.

What to make of this?  Am I just a dinosaur who believes we should try to be kind to each other, in word and deed, whenever possible?  Or is there something about social media that breeds or at least liberates anti-social tendencies?

I think there is.  Social media are relatively anonymous, relatively risk-free (no real chance of an actual fistfight, which as we know from Fight Club most people assiduously avoid), and--perhaps worst--virtually instantaneous, with little opportunity for the internal censor to intervene.  Under such conditions, it's far too easy for small misunderstandings or disagreements to bloom into posturing, rants, and put-downs.

So I'd suggest we develop an app or a widget or whatever to deal with this epidemic of social media unpleasantness.

Or wait, we already have one.  It's called conscience.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Double Agent; Or, What I Learned When the First One Didn't Work Out


In a previous post, I wrote that after revising my query letter for Survival Colony Nine, I acquired representation within a month.

That story is true.  But it’s not the whole story.

For those who’ve struggled with agents, editors, and the entire publication process, I thought I would provide the part I left out.

My revised query letter did indeed garner a number of requests for the full manuscript.  One agent seemed particularly enthusiastic to read the full—and when we talked, she seemed very much “in tune” with my book, my career, everything.  It was incredibly flattering for a debut author to feel that someone really “got” my book, saw its potential, and was ready and eager to start shopping it around.

With the benefit of hindsight, maybe I jumped at her offer too quickly (there was another offer waiting in the wings).  Maybe I should have been more skeptical.  Friends cautioned me that this agent didn’t have a lot of experience in my genre, but I refused to listen.  I was on cloud nine, and I could barely hear all those little quibbling voices from the ground.

So I signed with her, revised the manuscript in accordance with her fairly modest suggestions, sent it back, and waited.

And waited.  And waited.  I’d thought she’d get right back to me, telling me the manuscript was ready to go out or, perhaps, asking for a few tiny “tweaks” before she started submitting it.  But I sent it back to her (much improved, I thought) in March 2012, and it wasn’t until May that I finally heard from her again.

What she told me then was devastating.

The revised manuscript, she announced, was “rough” and “slow,” and still needed tons of work.  It wasn’t anywhere near ready to send out.  A paid editor would have to go through it before she’d even consider subbing it.  When I asked her what the going rates for such editorial assistance were, she told me it could be anywhere from 2K to 5K.  I told her I didn’t have that kind of money, particularly not if I was spending it only in the hope, not the assurance, of her sending the book out.  I pressed her for details on what was wrong with the manuscript, but she would only answer in generalizations: it needed to be “finessed,” it didn’t yet “sing.”  We went back and forth like this via phone and email, until finally—after she told me the story was narrated in the wrong tense—I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and exercised the termination clause in our contract.

I still have no idea what happened.  Maybe she, too, had leaped before she looked, snapped up a manuscript she thought was in good shape but then discovered, or was told, that it wasn’t.  Maybe she was simply as inexperienced as my friends suspected, and she didn’t know what to do once she realized that.  Or maybe the whole thing was a scam, a way of milking novice writers in some sort of kickback scheme.  (I doubt this, however; she works for an entirely reputable agency.)  Maybe the manuscript really did stink.

But whatever happened hardly mattered at the time.  All that mattered was that I felt as if my dream had been snatched away from me just when it was finally within my grasp.

I picked up the pieces, though.  The first thing I did—the very next day—was start writing another manuscript, just to have something in reserve.  (It’s finished, though I haven’t done anything with it yet.)  Then, a month or so later, when I could bear to look at Survival Colony Nine again, I went back to it and revised.  I decided the verb tense was fine, but there were other issues that needed to be addressed.  I deleted scenes, added others, tightened the language, worked on the pacing, improved dialogue, fleshed out characters, fixed continuity errors, everything.  In retrospect, being brought back to earth—however rudely—turned out to be a good thing, as it enabled me to see my manuscript through newly critical eyes.  By imagining that it was as bad as she’d said (even if it wasn’t), I was able to make it much better.

And the work paid off.  I queried agents again.  This time I received a positive response right out of the gate from Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.  A one-month exclusive led to an offer, which I accepted.  Further revisions were called for—bringing the number of complete revisions of the manuscript up to five—but this time, Liza found my changes acceptable, and she started sending the book out.  Acceptance by Karen Wojtyla of Margaret K. McElderry Books followed roughly three months later.

It’s a cliché to say you learn more from failure than from success, but it’s true that in the end I benefited greatly from this experience.  First and perhaps foremost, I teamed with Liza, as tenacious and talented an agent as I could have dreamed for.  At the same time, I learned that every part of the writing process—not only the physical writing but the querying, the relationship with an agent, and all that follows—is a work-in-progress; it’s naïve at best, harmful at worst, to imagine a time will come when one can stop laboring to create and recreate one’s product and oneself.

Finally, in true Scarlett O’Hara fashion, I learned that tomorrow is indeed another day.  I was crushed, angered, and dismayed when my relationship with my first agent went sour; I felt like giving up.  I was as low that first day as I’ve ever been as a writer.

But I went to bed, had some few dreams, then rose to meet the dawn.