Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Empty Nest, Sick Kitty, & a Query

83º ~ what's this? not 95º by noon? storm clouds here and there, a good wind knocking down the trash cans, maybe, maybe a bit of rain to come

It's been a tough couple of days, Dear Reader.  We have a really sick kitty and are waiting to hear back from the vet with a diagnosis.  We do not handle this kind of waiting well here at the house of the Kangaroo.  C. and I are both soft-hearted to the point of weakness.

Alas, the robin's nest is empty.  One fledgling has been spotted learning to fly in the back yard, hopping around after whichever adult is still tending it.  It's a mad squawker.

Well, now that I've violated my poetry-only rule not once but twice, let's get down to it.  My hours at the desk have been spent in two ways this morning.

1.  I read through and made initial notes on a set of poems from a good friend.  We exchanged drafts yesterday.  Ah, the luxury of summer, to have the time to recreate the camaraderie and support of a workshop without all the BS.  Reading this person's work always makes me want to write, and that's a wonderful bonus!

2.  I prepared a query to send to a publisher for In a World Made of Such Weather as This

desk sprawl
I have a bad habit, Dear Reader, of printing information off the computer or receiving it in the mail and then setting it aside "to do later."  The result of this is a sloppy pile of bills, letters, books received, calls for submissions, rejections, &etc. all tilting and slipping beneath my printer (which is raised up on a shelf meant for kitchen cabinets so that this sprawl doesn't take over the entire surface of the desk).  Today, I grabbed the stack and started at the top.  I refused to allow myself to set anything aside.

About three tasks down, I came to the folder for this particular press and a new set of submission guidelines that I'd printed out, which included detailed instructions about what the editors wanted to see in the query: a letter explaining the book, a current CV, and a writing sample.  I must admit that when I began the task, I thought it would be a snap.  I suppose I thought this because submitting to contests is so easy: manuscript, check, SASE, done.

Two hours later, I saw the error of my supposition.  How to summarize this book in one paragraph in a query letter.  I know, I know, this is one of the top five things you are supposed to do when you think the book is ready to be published.  I've read this on countless blogs and sites:  write a one-paragraph narrative about the book's subject and themes.  But it is so much simpler to just print the manuscript out and shove it in an envelope!

Now, I'm so glad that I did this.  It really helped me clarify my own thinking about the book, and when I was selecting the sample pages to include with the letter, I kept checking them against the paragraph.  I opened the complete file of the book and then scrolled through each poem, highlighting the ones I thought would make a good sample.  As I did this, I asked: Is my description honest and accurate?  Do I really understand my own motivation for ordering the book the way I did?  Do these poems matter?  Do they offer music, image, and wisdom?  Is reading this book worth the precious time out of someone's life?

While I received yet another no-go yesterday, the process today was a huge confidence builder.  It helped me reconnect with the book and the poems.  It gave me a little bit of faith in the long process at work here.  So be it.


Nancy Devine said...

i hope your kitty gets better. it's hard to have a sick pet. actually i don't consider animals in the house pets; they are family.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for understanding, Nancy!

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

I hope the cat gets to feeling better.

I like how you describe the struggle of winnowing down a large project to one stinkin' paragraph.

I had a similar experience when I had to describe the influence of Aristotle and John Dewey on the teaching of composition in four paragraphs in an article I published years ago.

It was a painful process but necessary.

Michelle said...

So sad about your kitty! Is it your younger or your older cat? I hope your vet calls with news that it is a passing virus or some such thing soon.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Q. Glad it's not just me.

M., thanks. Hope so.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Oh, younger cat, which is surprising.

Tawnysha Greene said...

Hope the kitty feels better soon! Poor thing :(

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Tawnysha!

Kathleen said...

Glad about the confidence, sad about the cat. Good wishes to you.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I appreciate it!

Jeannine said...

Dear Sandy,
Yes, the process of describing your book can seem kind of like analyzing your own beloved child: how can we judge? I still feel flummoxed when I'm asked what either of my books is "about:" there's subject matter, which is easier to describe, but the actual "aboutness" of the book is more delicate and ephemeral and feels like it might crumble if you really describe it.
Do hope your kitty gets better! Our little sixteen-year-old kitty has been a health-crisis bundle lately as well. I just hate it.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Yes, exactly, there should be something in the heart of the book that refuses to be summarized.
Thanks for the good thoughts about the cat. Back to you as well.