Monday, July 28, 2014

Universe, Give Me a Book Deal

Not so long ago, I was invited to a wine tasting. Being new to wine, I was entirely excited--so excited that even though my husband and I drove 46 straight hours from Montana to Massachusetts and only got home that morning, I was still going to go. In my mind, there would be ten to twenty people all bringing their favorite bottles of wine, there would be crackers to clear our palates, and I would leave with a list of new wines that I would love forever and ever.

It started out great because I saw these little cucumber things, but imagine my disappointment when people started showing up with cases of cans. I don't drink beer, but I'm a beer snob because my husband is a beer snob. No self-respecting beer comes in a can. Then there was a backyard fire. I hadn't dressed for a backyard fire. In fact, I hadn't even brought a sweatshirt, which I was sure to need.

The conversation eventually turned to people I had never met in situations where they might have been funny if I knew who they were. What did I do? I was rude. I pulled out my phone and started texting the babysitter. We spoke briefly of my daughter's refusal to go to bed and then moved on to the founder of Chinese communism. Yep. That's what we texted about.

Then, someone started telling a story in which she really wanted her husband to get a snow blower. It went something like this: Newly married and in a new house, she experienced her first winter in which she had to shovel snow. She told her husband they needed a snow blower. He said, "We live in the city and only have 50 feet of sidewalk to shovel. We do not need a snow blower. We aren't going to spend two grand on a snow blower." She told him, "That's fine. The universe will bring us a snow blower." Lo and behold, a couple weeks later, someone left one on their driveway for them.

So this woman continued. She told me her husband wanted a truck. They're sensible people, so after some discussion they decided they had neither the money nor the need for the power of a truck. But what did she say? She said, "If we really need a truck, the universe will bring us a truck." What happened? You got it. Someone gave them a truck, which after $300 in body work looks brand new and works like a charm.

Forgetting my whole texted conversation about Mao, I said, "I like your universe. Could you tell it I want a book deal."

"That's not how the universe works," she said.

If you know me, you know I have a really hard time in social situations. I promptly felt like I needed to go to the bathroom and hyperventilate.

"That's not how the universe works," she repeated. "If you really want a book deal, it's got to be something you need, and it's got to be something you're willing to wait for. The universe doesn't just give you things. You have to constantly give it things first. I'm always doing nice things for other people. That's why the universe gives us things. If you really want a book deal, you have to say, 'Universe, give me a book deal,' and then be willing to wait and give the universe back."

I was duly chastised.

Her husband saved me. "April's a teacher. She understands all about giving without receiving."

But it got me thinking. After I finished WINTER ON BRIMSTONE HILL, after completing and polishing it, I started to put every effort into my query letter. I wrote four drafts before putting a better draft up on Agent Query Connect to be peer-critiqued. Unfortunately, practically nothing came up for help. I had a maximum of 20 hits with only a few vague responses. I entered the New Agent Contest as hosted by Michelle Hauck. My query didn't make it onto anyone's 'maybe' list, but there was a tweet about an LGBT contemporary that might have been mine, saying it was still too much like a draft.Then I saw with dismay that WriteOnCon probably wasn't going to happen this year. And I thought to myself, "But I really needed WriteOnCon to help me with this query. I'm floundering here."

Still, I made sure to critique other queries on the AQC forum; all the while, I started to create a list of author friends who may be willing to take a look at my query letter and tell me where I went wrong.

But what did the universe do? The universe did not bring me a book deal--has not yet, at least. The universe brought WriteOnCon back! My vacation will have ended by then, and I'll have to overlap work with WriteOnCon. I'll be writing lesson plans while critiquing others' queries. So what. I'm optimistic now. With some perseverance, a little luck, and a lot of giving back, the universe may very well bring me that book deal yet.

Oh. Let's not be remiss. Thank you for the wine tasting. Even though I didn't taste any wine but that which I brought, I still learned some valuable information.