>Saturday I went back down to Oxford for the monthly meeting of the Yoknapatawpha Writers Group…. kicking off our second year together. We spent the morning and early afternoon working on newly drafted chapters of three members’ books-in-progress and one essay. The usual supportive, refreshing, inspirational stuff. I was especially excited to get more feedback on the essay I’m about to submit to Real Simple Magazine’s first essay contest, addressing the question, “What was the most important day in your life?”
But part of the draw is just being with like-minded folks… and soaking up the atmosphere in Oxford. We usually eat lunch somewhere on the square, but Patti suggested we go for a late breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, (which is reviewed here and here ) just a few blocks north of the square in the Midtown shopping center. It’s named after Oxford author Larry Brown’s book of short stores, Big Bad Love. Lots of the menu items are named after local writers’ works, like the “Smonk Burger,” named for Tom Franklin’s novel, Smonk. I loved the brandy-spiked French toast. And the fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices.
And then came an embarrassing moment: I saw this guy walking by our table and said, “hey—would you take our picture?” As I began handing him my camera, Patti and Doug started laughing, then got up to shake hands and speak to him.
“Hey, Jack! How’s it going?”
And then he hugged Patti. And they introduced me to Jack… Pendarvis! and he gracioussly took this photo for us… (right). Wow…. a photo credit to Jack Pendarvis in my blog!
Jack Pendarvis wrote Awesome and was one of the guest authors at Camp Square Books this summer. (Patti and Doug hung out with Jack one night when I wasn’t there.) So, I just apologized and asked Jack to be in the next picture with us (that’s Jack in orange) … just hoping the next guy I asked to take a picture wasn’t also famous! (By the way, there’s also a menu item called “The Awesome,” named for Jack’s book.)
On the way back to Memphis I began thinking about revisions I want to make to the chapter the group critiqued, as well as the essay. But now I’m thinking about the Game. And this time, it’s not the Olympic basketball game I’m thinking about.
A friend and published author told me a couple of months ago that I would soon get tired of the game… of trying to find an agent—and then I would get serious and focus on my writing. He had published two novels, but was struggling with getting his third published, and was tired of shopping for a new agent himself. He gave an amazing talk about why we write at a writers workshop in June, and of course I came away inspired. But…. Not deterred from my search for an agent. Because, as superficial as it might sound, I am not just writing for “therapy” or my “friends and family” or just the joy of seeing the words on my computer monitor. No. That is definitely not what I’m after.
I just finished reading Elizabeth Dewberry’s novel, His Lovely Wife, and I love her descriptions of the emotional journey the main character, Ellen Baxter, makes, especially when she says, near the end, that she wasn’t writing her story for revenge, but “because I needed to explain something about my childhood to the child in me.” Maybe there’s some of that in my motivation for writing my memoir, but there’s so much more.
I want this memoir (and 2-3 more books) to be published, and I’m actively seeking agent representation.
Here’s the score so far:
Initial queries: 12
Initial rejections: 7
Agents who asked to see complete book proposal: 3
Still waiting to hear from: 4
Yes… the time-consuming, energy-sapping task of researching agents and carefully drafting personal email queries continues. I’m trying to learn to keep the business side of writing separate from the creative side, but my years in publishing (trade magazine), marketing and advertising seem to have left me a bit broken. I’m just not able to quit thinking about the publishing side of things, even while continuing to write and revise my memoir and a few essays.
This is one in a series of article on literary agents that P&W is running. Some encouraging things that Ms. Friedrich says include:
“When you’re an agent, you must be open to every single person. There is no one who doesn’t have an opportunity to see me. I really mean that. There is no little person who will be turned away by me.”
She shared some interesting insights into the world of memoir:
“I think the world of memoir is divided into two camps. One camp is the memoir of an unbelievably fascinating life. Huge! …. But the author can’t write. In the other camp you get beautiful writing—magnificent writing—with a kind of pointillist attention to every marvelous detail in the course of a life in which nothing interesting has happened. It’s usually one or the other. So when you can combine those two things in one book—an interesting life and good writing—then you have pay dirt. But it’s hard. It’s hard to sell memoir, especially if it’s not big in an obvious way.”
You want fries with that?
You want that super-sized?
Game still on.
As intimidating as her description of a good memoir is, I’m still going to query her. Oh, and this is interesting: Friedrich wrote a children’s book, You’re Not My Real Mother! after her adopted daughter told her that one day. My adopted daughter and sons don’t play major parts in my memoir-in-progress (it’s my story, not theirs) but what an interesting human connection. It’s good to be reminded that agents are people, too.
And now, to settle down and watch the closing ceremonies of the Olympics and regroup as we enter the final week of summer….