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Connections, Connections, Connections!

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to read the latest update in my journey to published-writerdom, or as I like to think of it: “The Diary of False Hope and Broken Dreams”, but sadly I, too, am playing the waiting game.

Now that you all (hopefully) have a better understanding of what the process looks like (if not, please refer to my earlier posts), perhaps you can sympathize with the soul-consuming anticipation and lingering dread of this so-called “game”. I have sent out almost 20 queries to agents in Canada and the US. I have received only three responses. Two rejections, and one request for a partial manuscript. While the rejections kind of suck, I’m heartened that I haven’t seen more of them, really. I’m still obsessively checking my email (even though my iPhone supposedly alerts me of incoming messages). And I have mentally paced a rut between the blind optimism and harsh realism centres of my brain.

But I made a conscious decision to take the weekend off from worry. There is no harm in that, I think, since as far as I can tell the publishing industry pretty much ceases to exist outside of the Monday-Friday 9-5 bracket. Ther’s no point in stressing about responses that won’t materialize until Monday anyways. I think this will become my weekend rule, as long as I’m still playing the waiting game.

But now it’s Tuesday, and I’m back at it in full force!

The worst part is, I haven’t heard back from the NYC agent who requested a partial MS. Or maybe it’s the best part. I don’t know. She was so quick to respond to my query, I have to assume she’s on the ball with her emails. So I could convince myself that, since she didn’t reject my partial with equal readiness, that perhaps she’s actually considering it. Or, it’s just been relegated to the virtual slush pile and her assistant hasn’t gotten around to sending out last weeks rejection letters yet. I like the sound of the former, though. Let’s go with that.

Maintaining the positive-thinking vibe, I also have another agent who is willing to look at my work. As far as I can tell, she doesn’t represent science fiction, but she’s willing to look at it anyways because I have connections. Well, one connection, really. But in this industry, that one connection could very well be my wheat-free bread and butter. Let me explain:

Back in my uni days, I worked on the Canada Council for the Arts Writer’s Series as a part of a research assistant gig. I was responsible for picking up visiting writers at the airport, showing them around campus, promoting their readings, and just generally schmoozing. I actually got paid to schmooze writers. And at the time, I didn’t think anything of it. It was a job. And I foolishly thought that my “education” was going to be my meal ticket. There were a dozen potential connections to be made, and I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity! I was too busy trying to write clever Critical Theory papers to worry about networking, that shit was for business students. Right? (Eeeediot…)

Now, I wish I could hop into the old DeLorean and go back to smack some sense into myself. But that’s besides the point.

The point is, without knowing I was doing it, I did manage to forge one valuable relationship during the Visiting Writer’s Series, with our Writer in Residence. It took me a little while to realize that, although it’s been almost 5 years, he might still be interested in helping to develop new Canadian authors. So, I nervously considered my options. I could stumble around blindly, and rely solely on online writer’s forums for my info into the biz. Or I could reach out and ask for help.

Asking the help of a professional writer that you knew for one semester 5 years ago, who is not being paid by the university to help you anymore, is kind of intimidating. But this is important to me. So I gave myself that little “how far are you willing to go?” pep talk. You know the one. And, after about half an hour of hulk-flexes and yelling at my reflection in the mirror, I magically grew a pair.

I got back in touch with him and, to my amazement, he was excited to hear from me. He offered to help me with my query, take a look at the MS, and to show it to his agent. Seriously. Right now, he’s looking at my synopsis before he sends it and my sample chapters to her. It’s terrifying. Wonderfully terrifying. And I’m incredibly grateful that I did reach out.

If I can give one piece of advice to aspiring writers it’s to get out there and meet people in the publishing industry. Join your local writers’ guild (I just did that, too), take a workshop, visit the Writer in Residence at your nearest college or university (even if you’re not a student, they’re usually open to the public), and get involved! You never know who you’ll meet who might be able to give you a leg up once you’re ready to take the next step. And from what I’ve read, one good connection can be worth hundreds of hours of querying.

So while I’m sweating out the wait for a reply from Ms. NYC Agent, I have Ms. Canadian Agent’s response to look forward to. Even if she’s not interested in it, I think my “connection” will warrant some feedback.

Real live agent feedback. My Precioussss.

So get yourself out there, my would-be-writers. If I could go back and do it again, that’s what I’d do. But, in the absence of a DeLorean, I’ll have to suck it up and start now. It’s never too late, right?

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