I make people blush, in my old age. I can't help it. If you're beautiful and awesome, I have to say so. People don't feel free to say so, often enough. There are so many great things about being grown up, and this is maybe one of my favorites. I am finally not inside my head, worrying about myself and what everybody is thinking of me. I am able to actually be with somebody and see them and more often than not, they totally blast me out of the water with their beauty. How could I keep that to myself?
I also stayed up late talking with my gorgeous brave New Yorker cousin about our passed down family craziness and relationships and making it on our own in a big, bad world. I grew up being the oldest of thirteen grandchildren on my mother's side of the family. I used to feel awkward and obvious and old, like I was surrounded by adorable children, and I was just the big goofy pre-teen going through an endless rebellious phase.
When you're thirteen and somebody is eight, it seems like there is always going to be a huge chasm of experience between you. When we were kids, I was so much older than my cousin, but now we're both grown ups and so we're equals. I absolutely loved talking with her, hearing her secrets and appreciating that I've known this drop dead gorgeous, tall, long haired, successful woman since she was a chubby, silly, adorable little baby.
So. The conference itself.
I didn't know what I was hoping to get out of attending. I didn't know what phase of writing life I was in. I wasn't sure about the solidity of the ground I was standing on. I just wanted to go, and hope that some writerly magic would be swept up around me. Maybe some of it would even wear off on me.
Can I tell you that I think that very thing totally happened?
Honestly, I have been going down this rabbit hole for a LONG TIME. I have been researching the publishing business since I was in college. I had a list of agents I wanted to query long before I was done writing and editing my book. I have compiled such a mountain of advice about writing a query and how to send it out, it's ridiculous. I have been very determined and thorough about gathering practical information.
Where I haven't been so educated and exhaustive is in the real experience of being a published author. I have known for a long time about the proper format for a query letter, but I had no idea how many rejections brilliant people go through. I had no idea how many successful authors think about giving up. I learned so much about earning publication through grit and tears and sleeplessness. I found out that PRETTY MUCH NOBODY gets plucked from the tar, shined up and set on her feet on a pile of money.
If I feel like I have suffered, bled and been beaten by this process, I need to tighten up my little orthopedic mom-shoe buckles, smooth the front of my only semi-stylish, deceptively comfortable sweat shirt dress and get ready to bleed and cry and shake my fists at the sky some more. There won't even be an end in sight. There won't be any certainty. The only certainty I will have is the fact that I believe in my ability.
I learned that you don't quit, because that's the whole point. When you quit, you're not a writer. Only people who want to be writers quit. Only people who don't know for sure that they're writers quit.
I learned that before your book is published, you're going to cry. You are going to feel like you aren't good enough. You are going to be disappointed and rejected and passed over hundreds of times. Maybe thousands of times. And no matter how fucking amazing and talented you KNOW you are, pretty much nobody in the business is going to see it. Not only do you only NEED one yes, you will only GET one yes. (That means lots and lots of nos.) There is nothing to be ashamed about when you're stowing away another rejection. Amazing authors are rejected. That's just how it goes.
Also, I gathered a lot of information about how important a "platform" is. I have been hesitant to come up with a platform and a target audience. I am not a marketing person. I do not find the idea of "selling myself" to be fun. I don't want to decide what somebody is looking for and try to mold myself to be that something.
I've always felt that way. I don't care about fabulous-ness and reputation and being appealing. I'm too lazy or stubborn or something. I just want to be allowed to be who I am. If you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm sure you've noticed that I am SO TOTALLY OKAY with it if somebody disagrees with me or suspects they might not even like me. I don't agree with everybody. I don't like everybody. I certainly don't require that everybody likes me. (Remember when I was talking about how much I love being old? This is another reason why.)
I had the very valuable lesson hammered into me at this conference that the process of finding an agent and selling your book is TOTALLY ONE HUNDRED PERCENT about finding out what somebody wants and making sure you've packaged yourself to be that thing. I HAVE TO CARE ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THESE PARTICULAR PEOPLE LIKE ME, if I want to succeed at this.
Do you have any idea how HUGE that is for me? It's like... the clouds are parting, huge. I get it, huge.
It doesn't mean I'm being a big fake douche if I say, "You're looking for me. You want this thing and this thing and this thing. I am those things." Even if I know that there's SO MUCH MORE to me and that really, I'm magic and my platform is anybody who is susceptible to magic. It doesn't matter if my package is a little shinier than I really am. It doesn't matter how resistant I am to the idea of networking and impressing... no matter how much I don't want a pretty bow stuck to my head, I NEED IT. I NEED TO BE SELL-ABLE. I NEED TO BE A THING THAT IS REASONABLE AND DEPENDABLE. I need to fit in somewhere.
So, here I go.
Revamping my approach.
Taking all mentions of godlessness and rebellion out of my query letter.
Smoothing out my wrinkles.
Because, as much as I LOVE showing off my imperfections in my writing, that isn't what selling myself is about.
I will embrace the idea of a smooth, shiny platform and leave revealing how I'm just a mixed up, twisted, disgusting and brilliant, giant human, blotting out the sun with my very tiny existence... I'll leave all of that for my writing.