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I see another email in my inbox with subject "re: QUERY--From a Differently Gendered Closet: The Story of Q".

I double-click it to see who the rejection is from so I can dutifully record it in my database of queries.

It starts off:


I really like what I've read so far of your manuscript and would like to offer you a publishing contract if it's still available. We are a digital-first publisher, so first publication would be in ebook form. Our terms are quite generous.

Let me know if you're interested.

Pretty much everything in our contract is negotiable...



I blink a lot.




I have a weary and wary and cynical outlook at this point. I was querying publishers back in 1982 and got an offer to publish and only after reading the fine print realized it was what is called a "vanity press".

This publisher is not a vanity press, I know that much at least. But that doesn't mean this is a done deal and that there aren't any dealbreaker-type "gotchas". But I'm sipping tequila at the moment, oh yes I am.



If it should turn out that this really and truly is IT and I'm going to be published (in a way that counts, etc) then for the record I just crossed the 800-query mark:


Current Stats:


The Story of Q--Total Queries = 800
Rejections: 735
Outstanding: 65

As NonFiction--total queries = 579
Rejections: 516
Outstanding: 63

As Fiction--total queries = 221
Rejections: 219
Outstanding: 2



The query that landed this response was sent directly to publisher and billed it as fiction (LGBTQ-Feminist), specifically as a coming-out story, "a 97,000-word coming-of-age (and coming-out) story - set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world."

Further info will be forthcoming. I'll keep you informed.


In other news, I will be presenting my talk again at the EPIC lifestyle conference this weekend! I'll post about that too.

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ahunter3: (Default)
I had a very good time with the editor Barbara Rogan's author's colloquium, which ended last Thursday. Unlike some of these courses, which often focus on teaching a technique and then leave you to the task of applying what you learned to your actual work on your own time afterwards, this was one that encouraged us to use our work-in-progress as the source of material that we would submit to be examined and critiqued by the editor teaching the class and by the other participating students.

So I very much took it as an opportunity to put my book in the shop for some body work and a facelift. Several of the scenes I submitted were scenes I'd been thinking of punching up, and did so before submitting them and then modified them after getting feedback. Then I continued with other scenes from my book that were never submitted to the class, drawing on ideas and the energy percolating from all the sharing.

Here's an overview of the modifications to the manuscript:

• Early in the book there is a short overview of childhood in which it is established that as a child I identified with the girls and my friends were girls up until around 4th grade when it fell apart; the main body of the book begins with me in 8th grade, starting in a new school. Clarified brief internal-monologue in 8th grade in which I'm musing that 3rd grade, when I had girl friends, was a long time ago, if I'm going to have friends at all "I needed to learn how to be around boys… and stop thinking of boys as them."

because it needed emphasis; story line parses better when it is understood that I've put that "one of the girls" understanding of myself behind me as kid's stuff.


• Inserted new gym class locker room scene in which the other boys throw my underwear in the toilet while I'm showering, + replaced a bland narrative with a full-dialog scene in the guidance counselor's office in which I demand that those boys be expelled, counselor says "not gonna happen, you didn't see them do it", says "you need to pick your battles", and warns me he can bring them in but they're more likely to retaliate & what are my goals here?

first, because I needed a more fully fleshed-out "being bullied" scene and second, because many readers of my book kept saying "I want to see your character react more, all this bad stuff happens and he doesn't get all freaked out and angry and scared". So I realized I needed to establish more clearly that when he (i.e., me) HAD reacted he had been taught in various ways that no one was going to help & that not letting this stuff get to him is necessary and important. (And, as I said in class, "I think if the MC reacted with disbelief and outrage, anger and fear at each of these occurrences, it would be exhausting and tiresome and would take away from the gut-punch moments where the things that happen really shred him pretty awful.")

Those were in the first long chunk of the book. The balance of the changes were towards the end, in the last major chunk, where things come to a climax and resolution. I had been feeling for some time now that I needed this section to be a more vivid burst of triumph and joy—after my readers have borne with me through all the difficult and unpleasant trials leading up to it, too damn much of my "success story" portion was abstract and intellectual, and the parts that contained actual action were too often told as summary narrative and I needed stuff to pop a lot more here.

• There's a party scene where my character (i.e., me) is frustrated that going to these parties over the years hasn't resulted in connecting with any girls and having either sex or sexual relationship as an outcome. Original scene had him musing sourly to himself that maybe he ought to try acting like other boys and coming on blatantly to girls and not caring if THEY want sex etc, -- classic "Nice Boys™" sour angry stuff -- and he tries it cynically and bloody hell it works! Or he enough of it working to startle him. Redid it as a full dialog scene with named characters and body language and the smell of smoke and the music being played, etc

• Turning point scene is where character is listening to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" for the first time while tripping and feels outed by the music. Also redone as full dialog scene with named characters and more interaction, less summary. Also stripped out all but the most central line from the music itself (copyright issues).

• Figuring-stuff-out scene shortly afterwards, Christmas vacation with friend from college, parent's home front porch, redone with the friend used as a foil to have an out-loud conversation, replacing inside-the-head internal monologue summary stuff. Let the other guy be devil's advocate and argue against some of what I'm putting forth, to let me elaborate and clarify in my responses.

• Inserted new scene, coming out to my parents. Actually happened more awkwardly and earlier when I knew less, but helps to flesh out relationship with parents and clarifies how they reacted & felt about me being different "in this way".

Because reviewers have periodically said they wanted to see more about family interactions. Mostly missing in action because there wasn't much to write about: like the dog who didn't bark, my parents were parent who didn't say and do homophobic / sissyphobic things; it's hard to incorporate the absence of a behavior into a story; this is one of the rare opportunities to show their attitude including both their lack of judgmental disapproval and the limits of their interest in discussing or listening to me talk about it.

• Two post coming-out scene in the Siren Coffeehouse (feminist coffeehouse) were punched up with more dialog and more evocative descriptions of the people I interacted with, because I was flirting as well as seeking political-social allies, and my character (me) flirting and feeling sexually confident is a triumphant thing and needed more pop and color

• The last "trauma" of the book is one of those late-in-plot teases, a reappearance of Bad Shit after things have finally started going the character's way etc — in this case, university folks find his behavior disturbing and ask him to be checked out by the psychiatrist "just to alleviate concerns" and his agreeement is treated as a self-commitment to locked ward. Rewrote the arrival scene where he's first brought in, first discovers that he didn't merely consent to a conversation with the school shrink but is being held there, first interaction with the others on the locked ward: redid with full dialog, more solidly fleshed-out characters (the attendant, etc) again to make it pop

• Inserted new scene with dialog with two male gay activist types after a Human Sexuality class in which my character and those two folks presented to the class.

• Inserted new scene of conversation with a transsexual woman in which they discuss transsexuality and my character's own peculiar sense of gender identity, after he is introduced to her by one of the gay guys in the previous scene.

Those two events did not happen in real life at that time, or at all precisely as described, but similar conversations took place about 4 years later. Greatly add to continuity, action, excitement, fleshing out of issues, use of contrast and compare to more fully explain my character's gender / sexuality identity.

• scrapped overly long postlogue in favor of highly condensed flash-forward to give more of a sense of a successful gender-activist life. Previous version tried to do a fast-forward summary of life from approximately the end of the previous chapter to current era; blah and boring and overly long and tedious. New version starts in present era, crisply identified with the closing of a web browser window in sentence 1, main character off to do a presentation on gender issues and genderqueer as a specific category of gender identity. That along with short conversation with girlfriend (and a later "oh and her, well this is how me met" snippet) and a passing reference to a published article do a much better job of "and he lived happily ever after" as well as being much more concise and streamlined.


I am INDEED doing a presentation about being genderqueer, two of them in fact, one later on in April down at Baltimore Playhouse on the 29th and then again at the EPIC Conference in Pennsylvania May 12-16. I need to review my notes and subject anais_pf to listening to me rehearse! But I'm very much looking forward to it.

I'm querying again. Modified my query letter slightly, modified my synopsis a bit (some agents want a synopsis), and of course sample chapters all reflect the above changes. I've got a damn good book here and I will see it into print.

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ahunter3: (Default)
I'm deep into the author's conference that started on Feb 4, with our 4th weekly assignment turned in last Thursday and comments still trickling in on what we wrote (and replied to that other people wrote) from the previous week, assignemnt 3, as well.

I'm on pins and needles because for both assignment 3 and assignment 4 what I turned in are scenes from my book that specifically highlight my sexuality and my attempts, at the time, to get things to work and/or figure out why they weren't working. And so it's personal and it's hard not to just talk their ears off explaining and elaborating in response to every little tidbit of feedback.

Assignment 3: a scene where your character is in a difficult situation and how they handle it

Assignment 4: a scene full of dialog in which what a character says is at odds with what character actually feels or believes


For Assignment 3, I snipped a bit from "Back to University", where a girl in my college class invites me back to her room and I'm hoping she fancies me and things will develop; but she talks about her divorce and how she sometimes misses staying in bed on a rainy weekend and having nonstop sex, and I get all self-conscous about being a virgin and not knowing how the heck people figure out how to get from "friends" to "yeah and sex".

For Assignment 4, I snagged a section from the previous chapter, about 6 months' prior to the Asgn 3 event in real life, where I was at a party and wondering why the hell I never get a girlfriend or get laid and I get all cynical and wonder what would happen if I just act like other boys, in other words be overt about seeking sex and pretend like I don't care if she does or not... and holy shit, the girl I try it out on doesn't get pissed off, she SAYS that I'm being disrespectful and she's not that kind of girl etc but she's bantering with me. And it freaks me out quite a bit (and confirms my cynical anger about How Things Are) and I quit playing


The feedback is interesting (and I crave more more more feedback dammit, and discusson and stuff!).

In general: the others in the class see my main character (that would be ME) as sexless or asexual in Assignment 3, and then in Assignment 4 so far (feedback just starting to trickle in) they see my behavior with this girl as totally normative, completely missing that I'm acting in anger and contempt, that I'm acting out of character and that this isn't at all what I want, this demeaning humiliating game. And they ask "Gee why did your MC stop? Did he fail to get that the girl was into him?"

This all constitutes a mixture of good and frustrating results. Good, that people read the scenes and without prompting, and without me pounding them over the head lecture style, they perceive "Hey wow, you experienced yourself as a sexual being who just wasn't having any success, and yes indeed the reason is that your participation was so different from 'normal boy' behavior that you were completely off their radar, you came across as sexless" in Asgn 3. And good, that I did not have to claim that the girl was interested in me, or that my verbally sexually aggressive behavior (overtly asking for sex, not letting it drop when she says no) was in fact normative and that I was copying boy-behavior I'd seen all around me.

What's more frustrating is that my book needs to get people inside MY head, the MC's head, and with the others in the class reading a scene here and a scene there, I can't know (yet) whether they'd have a clearer sense of my feelings and attitudes and, well, my sexuality, if they'd read up to this point in the book instead of just being dropped down into this scene.

In our "introduce yourself" first emails to classmates, I did say I was genderqueer, without much additional explanation: "I'm genderqueer. (sort of like being trans, which you've probably heard more about; more on that later)". I think most of them have forgotten, I haven't brought it up since then.

I did reply "backchannel" (i.e., to her email address alone, not to the group as a whole) to one other author, because she replied to my Asgn 4 immediately, on Thursday, and I wanted an early feel for "if I explain a little, does it click into place?") -- and that went very well, she said not only these two scenes but another one featuring me being beaten up for very little discernable reason, suddenly made a lot more sense.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Seal Press will not be publishing my book. I received the rejection letter on 9/8.

I was originally planning on querying Cleis Press next: "Cleis Press publishes provocative, intelligent books across genres. Whether literary fiction, human rights, mystery, romance, erotica, LGBTQ studies, sex guides, pulp fiction, or memoir, you know that if it's outside the ordinary, it's Cleis Press."

But then I read some things other authors have written about them in recent months that made them sound like a bad idea.

I've been contemplating Thorntree, publishers of the polyamory guide More Than Two, and in fact I sat down at my desk tonight to review their submissions policy:


To submit a proposal, please first send an email with the following information:

A one-paragraph biography, including any published works

A one-paragraph summary of the proposed work, including your intended audience

Links to your social media and Web presences

If your submission appears appropriate for our list, we will invite you to submit a complete proposal.

We will accept queries and proposals on a rolling basis.




Whether it's the mood I've been in lately or not, I can't say for sure, but right now their submission process is very discouraging. It comes across to me very much as "we might be interested in your book if you've already got a track record of publication and, in particular, if you've got a strong active platform already; outside of that, just summarize your book and its intended audience in one paragraph and we'll let you know".


I have of course continued to send query letters to literary agents. It seems to me that public attention is more focused on gender issues and gender identity than ever before, so my book is squarely located in the midst of a trendy topic. So I keep telling myself that any day now some agent could decide to represent my book and get it published. Well, here's how that's shaping up at the moment:


Total queries to date: 680
Rejections: 613
Outstanding: 67
Under Consideration: 0

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 467
Rejections: 414
Outstanding: 53

As Fiction, total queries: 213
Rejections: 199
Outstanding: 14



I've been trying to make a public ripple, explain the phenomenon of being a male girl or non-transitioning transgender or heterosexual sissy or gender invert or any of the other things I've attempted to call it over the years. I've been trying to do so because once upon a time, a long long time ago, I promised myself that if I *EVER* found out why people treated me this way, if I *EVER* found out why these things were happening to me, I was going to do something about it. I've been trying to do so because once I did, in fact, figure it out, I promised myself that I'd make it so that anyone like me growing up would not have to figure it all out for themselves. I've been trying to do this as my primary avocation and purpose in life, my mission, since 1980.

You could say I've only seriously set out to do one thing in my life and I've been a pretty pathetic failure at it.

That's not entirely fair, I tell myself. Once I figured this stuff out, I also set out to actually live my life, to not merely preach these ideas but to put them into practice. And to my relief and surprise, that's been the easier part. It took decades but I got better and better at communicating up close and personal, I learned from experience how to find what I was looking for, and I found personal solutions. I get to live my everyday life not at all closeted or isolated but instead loved and understood and cared for and appreciated for who I am, and I in turn get to hold and love and cherish and have togetherness and meaningful connection in my life.

Which is to say that I've got damn little to complain about, and also to acknowledge that it is grossly insulting to people who love me for me to characterize my life as a failure.

I get to be me, and not merely in isolation. (Can anyone be themselves without connection and accepting companionship?) But there is "be" and there is "do". I set out to do something. Nothing else I have ever set out to do has held anything akin to the same kind of importance; every other activity or accomplishment has basically been distraction and entertainment along the way, including artistic accomplishments, job and career, and the acquisition of skills. This one thing is where I've invested all my determination. I am stubborn, intelligent, passionate about my issue, and I'm good with words and skilled at explaining complicated concepts, and I can't believe I've accomplished so damn little in so much time!

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ahunter3: (Default)
On March 12th, I will be giving a presentation at Life In Nassau at their regular monthly meeting in Woodbury NY, titled "Gender Inversion, being Genderqueer, and how Kink facilitates stepping away from gendered assumptions".

I'll be using a lot of the material from my Gender Isn't the Same Thing as Sex blog posting, including the visuals you see there (I had them printed out on sturdy posterboard to use as visual aids). I've done a run-through with anais_pf kindly sitting in as audience and I covered the material in my notes in 25 minutes. It should be more like a one hour presentation, so I need to go back through and insert anecdotes and examples, describe things in more detail, flesh things out more. That should make it a better talk anyhow. I tend to worry that I'm going to go way over so this time I sort of overshot... undershot? I did too good a job of compacting my message and now it's too short! Anyway, my first venture into lecturing since speaking at the Boston College Women's Center in 2010.

Hey, y'all, I'm building a platform!

I'm going to try to take this show on the road, give the same talk elsewhere, and then diverge from there, expand on it and so forth.



Last weekend I attended a one-day seminar called "The Editor's Eye", presented by Francis Flaherty, a former NY Times feature editor and geared towards helping people edit their own work more effectively. I thought it was well-presented and although some points were self-evident and not exactly news to me, overall I think it gave me a fresh sense of how to approach revamping my own work.

From my notes:

• insert ACTION to make paragraphs pop: sometimes by describing the present as a harbinger of the future, using language that anticipates, use metaphor, set up the future as a consequence of current processes and describe those using ACTIVE verbs.

• similarly use vivid action-inclusive metaphors and similes in describing your characters' mental processes

• describe decisions; don't have your characters float through time passively with things happening to them, be explicit about their decision-making process. Decisions are active

• embed yourself in each scene as if YOU were interested in what was going on at the time; if you are (or were) bored, your readers probably will be too

• sensory descriptions, especially other than visual (although in my case my writing actually does not tend to describe how things look, I'm NOT a very visual writer so in my case all 5 senses need to be punched up).

• Example A is about emotional human face of an abstract theoretical idea. Insert emotional content even if at the level of metaphor throughout the scenes of the book. Add body language: yours, that of other characters

• For trimming, think of your main message as a bullseye target. In each section look at paragraphs in terms of how close or how far they are from the bullseye. Trim more aggressively on parts that are farther from the bullseye.




I opened my my email as usual on Wednesday and saw another email reply from one of my query letters. The overwhelming majority of these are "Thank you for querying but after due consideration we don't think your title would be right for our line, sorry, best of luck" type letters so as I was double-clicking it to read it I was mentally already opening my query database to mark another rejection, yet I found myself staring at this:

> Dear Allan,
>
> Thank you so much for your query and we apologize for the delay in
> getting back to you. Is your manuscript still available? If so, we
> would be happy to read the first fifty pages or so of THAT GUY IN OUR
> WOMEN’S STUDIES CLASS. If you could send them as an email attachment
> with the word REQUESTED as the subject line, that would be wonderful.
>
> Thank you so much, and we look forward to the reading.

I blinked. Wait a minute. Oh wow, this is about BOOK TWO, which I haven't sent queries out about since last April. Heck, I haven't even been reporting my second book figures when I've posted my stats on # of queries sent and all that. The original idea behind book two was that, firstly, one way to get your book published is to get a different book published, then you're a published author; and, secondly, that I could directly query academic presses about the second book while still being able to say, honestly, that the main book has not been sent to any editors yet. But not too long after I'd started sending out query letters for the second book, I decided the book needed a massive restructuring and rewrite of its final 30%, that I had made it too much about a pissy argument with my academic advisor when I should have focused on how it led to me deciding I could not pursue a career as a feminist theorist in academia, that as a male person I could not theorize in directions that feminist women were not already pursuing, since trailblazing inevitably brings conflict and that in turn would lead to me arguing with feminist women about how to properly pursue the enterprise of feminist theorizing. Anyway, book two has been dormant and virtually forgotten. Except that now I have a request.

Fortunately, the first 50 pages are prior to the section that I think needs the radical surgery. I just finished applying some of my newly-honed editing skills, cutting some chaff and tightening the narrative.

Only 22 queries for book two were ever sent out. This is the one and only reply expressing interest and asking to see additional material.



Current Stats:

THE STORY OF Q

Total queries: 536
Rejections: 466
Outstanding: 66

As NonFiction—
Total queries: 348
Rejections: 332
Outstanding: 16

As Fiction—
Total queries: 188
Rejections: 134
Outstanding: 50

GUY IN WOMEN'S STUDIES

Total queries: 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 0
Under Consideration: 1

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