Why Fly Over the Cuckoo’s Nest When You Can Make Yourself So at Home?

February 24, 2009 at 6:50 am (Uncategorized)

Imagine, if you will, that today’s post is one long, unbroken blue streak of wall-to-wall obscenity that I am screaming from inside my concrete cell as the people in white shoes run silently toward the locked door with jacket and needle  at the ready. Take a moment. Take all the time you need.

Have you got it clear in your mind? Good. Now imagine I am punching the walls with my bare fists until the skin starts coming away, leaving rather grotesque marks on the wall. I’m still screaming, by the way. Don’t forget the screaming. It’s important to get these things right. I’ve somehow managed to squirrel away lots of breakables during my stay, I’m sneaky that way, and now I’m smashing them against the bare concrete flooring in great piles of glass and bad pottery on the ‘craft’ end of the art spectrum (who’ll miss those ceramic wind chimes? Who?). They make a satisfying din that can just be heard over my primal screams. I look around for more things to smash, and, because this is my fantasy, I find them. For variety, I throw this selection against the wall, where they shatter into little shards that land all over the cell. I’m having a fine time, and I’m starting to feel a little better. I’m even starting to wonder what’s for dinner. 

But before all this, you see, I got a phone call today from the literary agent to whom I sent my MS. Actually, I sent a sample before Christmas, and after Christmas she asked to see the whole thing. And she was calling, which was lovely, actually, and I suppose preferable to a ‘thanks but no thanks’ scrawled on a With Compliments slip, to tell me that she was not going to represent my manuscript. At least, not the manuscript as it is now, and not without its being “very heavily revised” (I wrote key comments down as she spoke so I’d be able to punish myself with them later). I curiously neglected to write down a single positive – what sad thing does this say about me? – and there were some, but the main word that kept racing through my mind was “No.” No, no, no, no, no, no. NONONONONONONONONONONO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! It’s a no. Not a yes. A no. And there’s no getting around it. I’ll dress it up in my mind’s eye and try and be positive and repeat all the things she did say that were encouraging (but you sort of have to say something hopeful, don’t you, if you’re going to go and call a girl up on a sunny summer’s day and break her heart like that), but there’s no getting away from the fact that the bottom line is N-O spells no.  

Fuck and fuck and FUCK. 

If I had stuffed toys, you can sure I’d be menacing passersby with them right about now.

Oh look, I knew there would be at least – at LEAST – one more major redraft, because I’ll either win a place on the Varuna HC program or I won’t, and either outcome means more work for this little cuckoo. And in truth, it’s why I only sent it to her, so I’ll hopefully have another agency to send it to once it’s in better shape. Why burn all my bridges at once? Why not drag it out some more, and really make myself suffer? There are other agencies up my sleeve for the day I think I’ve recovered sufficiently to go into battle once more. But that day is not today, folks. Today I want to gurgle and crouch on the end of my cot catching imaginary flies. You’re welcome to join me, but I understand if you’d prefer to wait outside in the rose garden.



  1. litlove said,

    Oh I’m so sorry, poor Di. Rejection really, really sucks and there is no way around the bad feelings. Take it out on a punch bag, fix yourself up with every treat you possibly can, absolutely wallow for 24 hours and know that you’ll let it go. Remember that the whole industry is going through a bad patch at the moment, and so everyone’s going to be mega-picky for a while. Which is no reflection, in other words, on you.

  2. Pete said,

    Fuckity fuckity fuck! Sorry that’s about all the screaming I can do today. Am really sorry but it did remind me of that well-worn advice from What Colour is My Parachute? that the job search often goes like this: NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo

    They put the extra yes in there to give you some options but it still sucks piles. I would actually be happy with a few Nos right now because it would mean I had more options than the bleak militaristic future (or cripplingly poor private practice). But enough about me. Sorry, Di. I’d suggest a run followed by a swim followed by a glass of Australia’s finest red followed by some serious slagging off of all literary “agents”.

  3. davidrochester said,

    Would she represent the ms after you made the revisions? I had a similar call, and after doing what the agent suggested (they were valid suggestions) she was fine with it. It’s sometimes hard to hear the “after you revise it” part of the conversation in the confusion over the “you have to fix it” part.

    Granted, my agent failed to sell my novel, but that’s not the point. 🙂

  4. Miriam said,

    I’m so sorry Di, but don’t take it too much to heart – what your other sage people said is spot on – about the current state of the industry, and all the ‘no’s that have to come before the ‘yes’s, and the hope implicit in ‘after you revise it’. And it is only one agent, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s always easier to believe those things when they’re said about someone else’s work, which is why you should trust us, throw some stuff around, drink some wine and then forget about it and move forward, as I know you will.

  5. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’m really sorry. I know how hard this is. Have at it–if you want to do some 3d throwing, I hear that ice cubes work well. I’m going to say something positive but I’ll put it in a separate paragraph for when you’re in the mood.

    The agent called you. That wasn’t just being nice. That shows interest. Otherwise you’d get an email or form letter.

    The agent talked about things you need to do & also said some positive things even if those flew by you. The agent wouldn’t have taken the time to do that if the agent wasn’t interested.

    Times are bad for publishing and the agent still called you and talked about what needs to be done–that again shows interest.

    Hang in there. Have a fit. Throw things. Be mad, disappointed, whatever.

    But the ms obviously has elicited interest and so, when you’re ready, hang in there and rework it.

  6. doctordi said,

    Champions all, thank you. Really. Look at you, look at all these kind words. I feel better just seeing them all lined up down my screen. I might read them all again just to really suck the most out of your generous good will.

    There. Ah. I feel much, much better now.

    Treats, Litlove? Indeed. What a good idea. Luckily I had some chocolate to hand (Lindt, 70%).

    Pete, how did you know?! I did go for a run, that’s just what I did, and then I had a swim just for good measure. Of course, I sank to my knees in the surf and then sat on my bum as the waves hit me in the face like so many hard slaps, but it did help. I’m not liking the sound of those two options of yours. Either of them. Can’t there be more?

    David (so, um, what’s the deal now? Is your agent trying to sell your manuscript? Are you going to rework it again? How many of us are there??!!), yeah, she did, and she also said she’d be happy to look at #2 when I finish it if I don’t have representation by then. There were certainly positives, and the advice was sound. I guess it’s just how far away I am from the end zone that keeps leaving me feeling so whipped by these encounters. I’ve done a lot of work. I am heartened, though, as you say, Lilian, by the personal response, the length of the conversation, and the free advice. I’m moving on, Miriam, I am. The interesting thing is that it’s consistent with the process as I’ve experienced it so far. With every redraft, there’s less and less of things inspired by real events, and more and more pure invention. And it’s the pure invention stuff that people seem to like. So I just have to go back, break it apart, and put it back together, taking out everything that no longer needs to be there, and see how it stands on its own two feet now we know each other better. It could be fun.

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