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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A response to the question (right) "What defines you?"

I've been in mourning all day.  After I made a bleary-eyed email check this morning, I just couldn't face the computer.

First, I sat with my coffee on the chaise by the pool facing east.  I made some lunch and a smoothie and sat there some more.  Then I sat on the chaise by the pool facing west for a while, trimmed my fifteen year old poodle's hair.  Then I sat in the tub, soaked myself in baking soda and salt.  Then, naked, I sat on the patio facing west again, letting the sun wash me too.  It was there that this came to me, so here I sit, finally facing the computer.

"What happened?" you ask.

Well, yesterday I let myself get extraordinarily high.  In the morning, I emailed the literary agent I met last summer and who has been reading my novel for the past three months to find out what he was thinking.  He called me within a couple of hours, but I missed his call.  His message said, "It's funny you should call today, because I finished reading your novel this weekend and I was going to give you a call, so call me back."

OMG!  He wants me to call him back!  This has to be good news.  So I called right there in the parking lot.
No answer.  Okay-heart-racing-hand-shaking-arm-pit-dripping me is now driving home waiting for a call back from my agent like it's the most normal thing in the world.  But it definitely is not normal at all.  It is huge and I am a wreck.  Breathe....Breathe....Breathe....settle.  Okay.

I'd spent six years writing this book.  I finished it last summer just in time for the Writer's League of Texas Agents Conference.  I registered, met this agent, he asked to read my manuscript and voila!  I'm a novelist.  I'm picturing myself doing readings at Barnes and Noble, talking to other would-be novelists at workshops about the writing life, flipping my hair at Dave Letterman (did I mention that I have a tendency toward grandiosity?).

It is a fact, however, that getting a card from an agent at a conference like that the very first time I pitched it is a phenomenal feat, and I felt reaaaaalllly sure he would love my book.

So I get home and tell Mr. Friendly what's going on and he gets all excited too.  Now we're living in the Caribbean and he's driving a red corvette.  I sit by the water all day wiggling my toes in the white sand and write one beautiful novel after another.

The phone finally rings and its him.  I'm a race horse at the starting line.  But when the gun goes off, I don't even get to run.  My cage doesn't open.  I'm just standing there watching all the other thoroughbreds dash off in wild abandon and I realize, I'm not even going to get to try to win.

You guessed it.  He didn't love my book.  He said I have the bones of a good story, but that it needs some meat on it. 

I was ready to sign a contract.  I was even ready for complete rejection, but I wasn't ready to hear him say, "I'm willing to read it again after you've done some more work on it."  Now I know every writer has to re-write.  I've read that.  I was expecting that.  But I wanted the editor at the publishing house to whom my agent sold my book to to be the one to say, "You have to re-write."  Not my agent who is not my agent, yet.  So now, apparently, I'm pouting.

But really it's more than that.  It's because yesterday I was so close to getting something I strongly desire.  I was so close to being able to go around saying, "My agent this and my agent that," and "my novel this and that."  And today, I'm back to not so close.  I'm back to the me I am already.  Now.  The one whose worth I doubt unless she can say, "My agent, my novel, my book of poetry, look what I've achieved," when someone asks, "What defines you?"

The Buddha said that desire is the root of all suffering.  I agree.


  1. Dear D--Here is your applause, real loud. This piece, in itself, is evidence of your amazing ability to tell a story. It has the juice and the bones and the meat on the bone. It is in your inimitable and always fully alive voice! It is so you, so true, and it touches me. Now you only have to decide if you want to put the meat on for the man on the telephone or not, right? Wonderful post--even though the news is not what you'd hoped for. He's just one man--not The Man Who Knows Everything.

  2. Thank you for commenting here! You are among the courageous few. What's so frightening about putting one's thoughts here?

    Your applause sounds reeealllly good about now.


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