Ahh, the February break. It began during the mid? late? ’70s during the energy crisis, to save oil and of course, save money. Every June I’m cursing it, when the school year doesn’t end, and my NY kiddo is still in school 1, 2, 3 weeks after everyone else’s kiddos. But in February, when it comes? Oh yeah, we need it. This year, with the winter being absolutely unrelenting, it feels particularly necessary.
On Saturday Flower Child had a field trip with her art class. It was cold and flurrying and I had a couple of hours to myself, so I went to Loehmann’s to see if there was anything left. Not much of interest within my budget, but there were a good number of bags/purses left that were reasonable once all the discounts were applied. I saw a somewhat unattractive but neat laptop case. Predictably, I couldn’t decide if it was the right size for my laptop. But I did think about the purse I’ve been carrying, the way everything has been getting a little (ok a lot) wet with all the snow. So I saw a larger bag that closed and decided to get it. Even on the street it’s hard to find a bag for twenty bucks anymore. This store has never been known for its fabulously helpful sales staff. But now, with the certain unemployment ahead and empty racks, all bets are off. The staff seemed to divide into two camps, those who were more relaxed and nicer than I’ve experienced in there, and those who decided the time is right to lose their filter. At the register I was paying for the bag, the cashier next to the one ringing me up looked at it. She sucked through her teeth (back in my middle school days, that sound/gesture was equivalent to throwing down a gauntlet).
“That looks fake.”
I laughed. What a moment. I told her that was good, since I normally buy my bags from the guys selling knock-offs on the street.
After I dumped my shit from the old bag into the new one, I was online and followed a link from somewhere to youtube. I don’t remember what the original video was, but on the side of the screen was a link to Susan Boyle’s audition for Britain’s Got Talent. You know the one, “I Dreamed a Dream.” I’ve already seen this clip several times, but it’s a beautiful song, she has a lovely voice, and I clicked on it. Three minutes into the video, my eyeballs were leaking. A connection to this Susan Boyle singing that song at that moment, taking a breath and her shot with her unstylish dress and snark to defend against the expectations of who she should be based on where she is (was, she’s surely in a better spot now). For people with advantages, 40 might be the new 30, but for the rest of us…well.
I’ve begun to query Astonishing. Slowly, but I’m moving forward. I’ve even gotten a few “bites.” (Requests to see the manuscript) It’s a slow, often frustrating process filled with ups and downs and no guarantees. Many agents have adopted a “no response means no” policy. Except as the querier, you don’t know exactly when to assume it’s a no. Agents are flooded with queries on a daily basis, so even if they say 6 weeks on their website, that could mean 8 weeks, or 10 weeks, or 12 weeks. There’s an amazing, delicious charge when you open an email and instead of seeing “Dear Author, Due to the Subjective blahblahblah” you read “Dear Mrs Fringe, I was intrigued…please send me…” Squee! Now hurry up and wait. But don’t hold your breath, it’s still a long, uncertain road in between requests for more material and an offer of representation. And that is far from the second leg, when the agent queries editors–hopefully resulting in a sale to a publisher.
The general wisdom of the internets and writing groups everywhere is to begin a new project as soon as you begin querying. Meh. I’m taking a break. I have an idea that I will likely start playing with at some point, but for now, I’m taking a breath and paying some attention to…yanno, the other areas of my life. Being a woman of 40,000 years, I’ve got other areas. Being a woman of 40,000, I know myself enough to know taking a break doesn’t mean I’ll never write again, never find the discipline again. Being a woman of 40,000, I’m not obsessing about those queries. Do I think about them? Of course. Do I have spurts of ohmyGodwhenamIgoingtohearback? Yup. And then I notice the spots on the bathroom mirror, think about how long its been since I gave Flower Child a manicure, remember how good it feels to read for pleasure, and take care of some of those things. I don’t write just to write, I write when I have a story to tell. I write when I’ve got the energy and focus to find the correct words–regardless of how long it takes to find them.
I watched Susan Boyle and leaked a little bit and then felt better than I have in days. The odds are long and not in my favor, but I do have talent, I’ve worked and continue to work on craft, and the possibility is there.