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Yes, I'm officially being published by NineStar Press, with a release date of November 27 of this year. The final editing has yet to occur (I'm waiting to receive the first set of change requests from the editor assigned to me) but they're already ramping up in various ways, including creating an author's page for me on their site.


I'm doing some of my own ramping up, preparing a centralized mailing list for LGBTQetc centers, women's studies / gender studies programs at colleges, and independent and/or LGBT-centric book stores. My publicist will be back from vacation late this week and will help me craft a set of emails to pitch to them the idea of having me come speak and/or consider my book (to sell, in the case of bookstores; to have a copy or two on shelf in the case of LGBTQIA centers; to use as assigned reading in the case of gender studies / women's studies classes).

Meanwhile, I thought I'd celebrate the end of querying by posting some of my favorite rejection letters from lit agents and publishing house editors!


Most rejection letters are, of course, boring and have little to offer in the way of entertainment value. There are the genuine non-form-letter variety, which tend to be succinct and blunt little things:

Not for me-thanks anyway.

Paul S. Levine

-------

This is not for me, but thank you for the look.

Caitlin Blasdell

--------



... then there are the impersonal form letters which tend to have some generic reassurances (it's all subjective, keep querying other agents, etc) to all those authors like me who fill up the agents' slush piles:



Thank you for your query. Having considered it carefully, we have decided that LMQ is not the right fit for your project, and so we are going to pass at this time.

Tastes and specializations vary widely from agent to agent, and another agency may well feel differently. Thank you for thinking of our agency, and we wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

Sincerely,

Lippincott Massie McQuilkin


-------

Dear Author,

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to consider your query—thanks for sending it.

Unfortunately, the query didn't appeal quite enough to my own tastes to inspire me to offer representation or further consideration of your project. I wish I had the time to respond to everyone with constructive criticism, but it would be overwhelming, hence this form response. 

This business is highly subjective; many people whose work I haven't connected with have gone on to critical and commercial success. So, keep after it.


I am grateful that you have afforded me this opportunity to find out about you and your project, and wish you the best of success with your current and future creative work.

All best wishes,
Eddie Schneider



One variety of more personal rejection letter that would come in from time to time was where the agent said they couldn't take on my book because it was too much like one they already had in their lineup. That was always encouraging to read after getting so many generic rejections that I started to worry that the concept or topic just wasn't regarded as worthy of publication:



Dear Allan,

Strange as this may seem, I currently represent a project that is directly competitive with yours. In good conscience, I can't take on a project that competes with the property I am now pitching. I wish you well, but have to pass on this. Best, Maryann Karinch

=======

Hi Allan,

Thanks for thinking of us!  I'm afraid, however, it is a little too close to something we have forthcoming and potentially forthcoming on our list, so I have to decline. I wish you the very best of luck.

Best,

Lauren MacLeod


=======

Allan: Thanks but I already did a similar book, BOTH SIDES NOW with Dylan
Khosla and my list is too small for another....Best of luck.

Sharlene Martin

=======



Then there were the "platform" rejection letters — the ones that basically said my writing was good and it sounded like a good story but that they'd have a hard time hooking me up with a mainstream commercial publisher because I wasn't a household name, a writer with a following, a celebrity, etc.

Incidentally, I ultimately ended up doing as Alice Speilburg suggests below — putting my energy into querying small independent publishers instead of querying literary agents — but it made sense to try the lit agents first, since many of them don't want to take on a manuscript that's already been seen by a bunch of publishers.



Dear Allan,

Thanks so much for sending your heartfelt memoir. The big issue standing in the way of my taking you on is not editorial, since you write cleanly and smoothly. It's a matter of platform, that built-in audience who knows the author through some form of media. With the comparisons you gave, it's the authors and their reach beyond the book world that distinguishes them. Feinberg has long been a rights advocate in the spotlight, Boyle had a successful writing career as a man, and the Scholinkski was a case that got media coverage that led to a book deal, not the other way around. Publishing is an industry that can ride a wave but is not so great at making them. It's a shame that a good book is no longer enough, but I see a tough road ahead without a really impressive platform. I appreciate the chance, though, and wish you luck connecting with an agent who doesn't share my reservations.

Christopher Schelling

=======

Dear Allan,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider The Story of Q. I do like the subject here, but I'm not convinced that you have the platform for this to reach a mainstream audience in the current market. Your background lends itself better to a university press, and if you want to go a more consumer/trade route, it would have to be through a niche publisher like Seal Press. I'm afraid it's not right for me, but please keep in mind that mine is a subjective opinion and others will feel differently. I wish you the best in finding a good home for your work.

Sincerely,

Alice Speilburg




Finally —— and these are my real favorites —— there were the rejections where the lit agent or publisher didn't feel that they could place it with a publisher but fundamentally liked my idea for the book and mostly liked my writing. Many of them made observations about my story arc or my character development that reassured me that readers will probably "get it"; and several told me that they wanted me to know that I had something fundamentally good here, which would serve a purpose, that the world needed more such books:


Dear Mr. Hunter,

Thank you for your query. It sounds like you have quite a story to tell. I'm afraid I will not be able to take you on as I work predominantly with our agency's existing clients taking care of all their subsidiary rights matters. I wish you luck with your publishing endeavors and thank you for taking the time to write me.

Sincerely,

Joan Rosen

=======

Hi Allan
Thank you for your submission. As a gay man myself (who grew up in the
70s/80s!!) I read it with a great deal of interest. Unfortunately I didn’t
love it enough to take it on. I don’t have any constructive criticism
because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your writing. I think
it’s just a matter of finding the right agent who will work with you to
present to the best editorial team. Given your theme and writing skills I
don’t doubt that you’ll find him or her. Thank you for thinking of me and
giving me a shot at it.
Best,

Kevin O'Connor

=======

Dear Mr. Hunter,

I wanted to commend you for your story and personal fortitude. It takes great strength for an individual to dare to be different. Unfortunately, we are not sure that Ross Yoon is the right match for you. As a four-person operation, we must limit ourselves to a very small client list, accepting a fraction of 1% of the manuscripts we review every year. In this ever-tightening market, the list of publishers we work with increasingly demands authors with broad, national media outreach and international bestselling potential, and I'm we afraid we don't see any of them biting on this.

This is by no means a final judgment on your work. The Supreme Court decision two weeks ago indicates that we are experiencing a different social climate in which LGBTQ issues no longer fall on deaf ears. Your memoir may find traction as we progress towards greater social change. I encourage you to look through recent deal listings on www.publishersmarketplace.com to find the agent that’s perfect for you.



Thank you again, and best of luck to you.


Elizabeth Smith

=======

Dear Allan,

Thank you for sending me your memoir "The Story of Q," and my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I found much to admire, particularly the depth of character you convey and your clear and engaging writing. This memoir shines a unique light on how sexuality and gender develop and evolve, and the narrative you've crafted uses a more subtle approach that doesn't hit you in the face with the narrator's sexuality, just as a person's sexuality doesn't necessarily hit them in the face at any one moment.

Ultimately, however, while the story has the potential for exposing a truly unique perspective, the memoir is overloaded with extraneous development that makes it difficult to pick out what bits are going to be the most important when piecing together the whole. Given these reservations, I'm afraid I must decline offering representation.

Thank you for the opportunity to read your work and we wish you all the best in your writing endeavors.

Yours,

Serene Hakim

=======


Hi Allen

Thanks for the submission. While I totally get what you're doing, I just don't think I'm the right agent for it, so for that reason I'll be stepping aside.

I wish you much luck with the book and in your search for representation.

Best,

Renée C. Fountain

=======

Thank you for querying. I do very much believe you have the kind of story that should be heard, but I'm going to have to pass on this. Publishing is a subjective business, though, and I'm sure you'll hear many different opinions during the querying process.

Best of luck in your agent search,




Rachel Kory


=======

Dear Allan Hunter,

Thank you so much for sending us the query for your memoir The Story of Q, which we have read with interest. The narrative is compelling but we are taking very few new clients on at this time and therefore we must pass.

One of the challenges with writing memoir is keeping the story in scenes so that it flows narratively rather than as a series of told incidents (and then this, and then this). I wonder if you might find ways to write more scenes, like in the opening with the boys who are violent. I really connected with you (the character) in that scene.

I hope this is not too discouraging, as the writing is strong and we wish you all the best with your submissions and in securing representation for this project.

Thank you so much for sending this our way.

I hesitate to use the word "brave" when describing your story, because I know that word can be offensive to some in the LGBTQ(xyz) community, but please know you have all the love and support in the world and that the publishing industry is starting to open its eyes to the need for these kinds of stories.

I'm personally a huge fan of Caitlin Kiernan (though she writes sci-fi/fantasy) and I can't wait to see more diversity in literature.

All my very best, and please make sure you keep submitting, as I know this agent stuff can be slow and disheartening!


brandie coonis

=======



Oh, and here's how my statistics finally play out:


The Story of Q -- total queries to Lit Agents = 974
Rejections: 966
Outstanding: 8

As NonFiction— total queries = 748
Rejections: 741
Outstanding: 7

As Fiction— total queries = 226
Rejections: 225
Outstanding: 1

The Story of Q -- total queries to Publishers = 24
Rejections: 16
Outstanding: 7
Publisher Went out of Business after Making Offer: 1
Accepted for Publication (current): 1


(presumably those remaining 8 "outstanding" queries to lit agents and 7 to publishers will eventually be added to "rejections". I age them out as rejections at 3 months without a response if I don't get an explicit rejection letter)

I didn't quite make it to 1000 queries, but damn I came close!


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ahunter3: (Default)
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 was in Bluestockings (the book store) the other day and a book titled INTERSEX (For Lack of a Better Word) caught my eye.



Since I fancy myself an activist in the gender & sexual prefs rainbow these days, and intersex is (like genderqueer) one of the latter-day additions, I figured it would do me good to read it and get more of a sense of the experiences of intersex people. Because, you know, even though my situation doesn't really overlap theirs very much, it would be useful to have at least a generic familiarity with their concerns in case someone asks me someday while I'm presenting about genderqueer issues and whatnot, right?

OK, OK... so I should be aware, by this point, that I'm likely to recognize myself in descriptions and identities I wasn't previously familiar with. It's not like I don't have a lifetime history of that. I'm not now identifying as an Intersex person, but reading Thea Hillman's exposition left me with the strong urge to write her an email or something, commenting on things we have in common.

Hillman herself had run into the term "intersex" quite some time before deciding that it truly applied to her. She's had Virilizing Adrenal Hyperplasia from early childhood on, but received medical interventions that blunted the impact of her body's unconventional cocktail of hormones. "Intersex", she thought, "means people who have ambiguous genital, and I have normal-looking genitals". It took awhile for her to decide that yes, her experiences with doctors peering and poking at her breasts and vagina and inspecting her clitoris, being prescribed various hormonal medications and taking them as shots down at the nurse's office at school, internalizing a sense of herself as not necessarily OK, yeah, that qualified her to use the label. It took longer than that, and based on her writing seems to be an ongoing process, to be comfortable with the idea that she would at times be the face of intersex, the person showing up at conferences as the designated intersex person. Worrying that she wasn't "intersex enough" and that someone else would challenge her, discredit her.

As I read that, I found myself nodding because I often have that feeling about my own identification as genderqueer. That someone on some message board or in some forum or at some conference is going to say that if I don't ever feel a need to present as female, if I'm not genderfluid or otherwise inclined to want to be seen as a female person at least some of the time, and I'm a male-bodied person who is attracted to female people, then I'm just some cisgender hetero guy who wants to be edgy and is therefore colonizing the experience of legitimately marginalized minorities. Yeah, I know what it's like to worry and wonder that you've stolen someone else's label and that sooner or later someone's going to object.

Then Hillman goes on to describe trying to network, especially with transgender people. And finding that although, yes, they have a lot in common that links them, she often finds the issues of medical transitioning to be divisive. Because for intersex people, being surgically modified to pass as one sex or the other is something so often done TO them without their fully-informed consent, very often as infants or young children. Hillman describes how disconcerting it was to be the lone intersex activist surrounded by transgender activists discussing surgical intervention as a solution, not a problem, and describing it in glowingly positive terms as an choice-affirming and life-affirming resource. To complicate matters, Hillman was informed that she, too, qualifies as transgender: "By taking hormones", she was told, "you transitioned away from being intersex towards something else, towards a more traditional female".

And there again I was struck with the sense of shared experience. I'm not a transitioner and the issues of surgery and other medical intervention make me feel pretty alien and different too. And I, too, of course, have been told many times that the term 'transgender' applies to me, as a male rather than female girl-person, regardless of whether or not I wish to modify my body accordingly.

Sorry if I sound like I think I'm such a Special Snowflake, but always after experimenting with so many of these identity-labels, I've found myself backing away politely: "No, that's not it. It's something else".

When I finished the book, I made a note of the publisher — Manic D Press — and made an entry for it in my query-letter database.

Oh, and yeah: I'm no longer under consideration by the literary agent who requested the full manuscript. And with 640 queries to literary agents and 589 rejections, I've finally crossed the literary Rubicon and sent my first query letter off to a small publisher. It's something I've avoided doing up until now because more than a handful of literary agents have a policy against taking on any new author if any publishers have already seen their book and passed on it. And so up until now I've maintained the ability to say "nope, no publishers have seen it". Except that that isn't 100.00% true. Because when I attended the New York Writers Workshop Nonfiction Pitch Conference back in October 2013, one of the conference events was the opportunity to pitch our books to each of three publishers. Publishers, not literary agents. Well, so if I've actually been deflowered anyway...

Mostly though simply because it was time. The publishers I will be querying will be small publishers, the sort that consider small-volume titles and do not require that only literary agents contact them about books. Publishers that publish niche titles that literary agents tend to pass on because they won't attract a mainstream readership and hence won't appeal to mainstream presses with the larger profit margins that a mainstream book sale can command.

You'll perhaps have noticed that I've never mentioned the specific literary agents I've queried when I've blogged about them. Just a sort of superstitious nervousness on my part. I don't suppose there's any reason to keep it a secret, nor any reason to keep secret the fact that I'm querying any specific publisher. Probably less so, in fact, since I'm only going to query one publisher at a time.

The one I'm starting with is Seal Press.


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ahunter3: (Default)
Hot damn! From one of my query letters to a nonfiction lit agent, query only, no additional materials, I just got a request for a proposal plus sample chapters!


So once again my book is under consideration with two agents simultaneously! One full manuscript (still holding my breath on that one) and one formal proposal.


Current stats for The Story of Q:

Total queries: 640
Rejections: 573
Outstanding: 65
Under Consideration: 2

As NonFiction:

Total queries: 439
Rejectionsw: 388
Outstanding: 50
Under Consideration: 1

As Fiction:

Total queries: 201
Rejections: 185
Outstanding: 15
Under Consideration:


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Index of all Blog Posts

Requerying

Jun. 28th, 2015 06:39 pm
ahunter3: (Default)
Janet Reid — one of the literary agents who blog — was once asked whether it is ever OK to requery a literary agent who has already sent a rejection. She replied that you can, if it's after a major revision; but that you should inform the agent, and gave this mockup as an example:




> Dear Snookums,
>
> I've revamped my novel SharquesGoneWild from an adult to a YA
> thriller. It's a lot better now. I hope you'll want to take a second
> look.
>
> Obviously of course, not those exact words but you get the idea.



Thanks to Janet Reid, notes of this nature are noted in my database and in my head forevermore as "snookums" notes.


Yes, I do requery.

• If I sent a query letter to an agent and get no reply, I may requery a year later especially if my standard query letter is quite different by then.

• If I sent a query letter positioning my book in one way (memoir nonfiction) and it was rejected, I may requery at a later point pitching the book within a different category (YA fiction for example).

• If the lit agent was one of those who request a partial (first 10, 25, 30, 50 pgs, first two chapters, etc) and rejected or did not reply, and it has indeed been rewritten since they saw that material, I may requery with a 'snookums' note acknowledging that they've received a query on this book before, but that it's been substantially revised.


You should not take this as a stated opinion that requerying literary agents is a perfectly acceptable practice. It's a practice that probably does annoy some of them. I've thought about it and concluded that my situation is somewhat different from that of an author who expects to write several books over the course of the next dozen years. They need to get published periodically. I need to get this book published. Authors who tailor their work to the market in order to get a book (or another book) into print learn to recognize when it's time to put one in the trunk and move on, and can't afford to annoy literary agents who might otherwise represent one of their future offerings. Me, I'm pushier. I have one book to find a home for and less to lose if some lit agents blacklist me for requerying.


• I don't want to descend to the status of "spammer" though. If I've requeried and received a second rejection, I won't keep pestering them about it. At least for now. (Ask me in 3 years if I'm still unrepresented and unpublished. In fact, check the web for stories about a crazed author in prison for kidnapping agents and tying them to chairs and forcing them to listen to him read his book out loud... that's not in my plans either, but...)


Anyway, I've made some modifications to how my system collects stats. Requeries were not being counted in the totals. Now I can optionally include those to get a better sense of how many queries I've actually sent (as opposed to how many agents I've queried).


NOT COUNTING REQUERIES (hence comparable to prior stats reports):


The Story of Q, total queries: 572
Rejections: 537
Outstanding: 54
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically: 383
Rejections: 354
Outstanding: 49

As Fiction: 189
Rejections: 183
Outstanding: 5
Under Consideration: 1

----

COUNTING REQUERIES:

The Story of Q, total queries: 623
Rejections: 568
Outstanding: 54
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically: 433
Rejections: 384
Outstanding: 49

As Fiction: 190
Rejections: 184
Outstanding: 5
Under Consideration: 1

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ahunter3: (Default)
Basically, movements like ours tend to have two goals: to reach out to others like ourselves, in the belief that if you're like us it's easier to have the support of other similar people than to be isolated; and to do social change, to modify how we're treated by others, to stop the mistreatment or oppression, to change the law or the social structures, so as to make the world safe for ourselves.

Today, I want to focus on the second priority, the social change fork.

I don't know what your experience was, but I first ran into hostility, directed towards me for being different, when I was a kid in school. I found it startling, shocking; I hadn't expected it and didn't understand it. Why were these people so hateful and mean?

Looking back on it with the additional benefit of hindsight and a lifetime of thinking about it, I'm aware of a couple of things that escaped my notice in 4th grade:

• To a lesser extent than what they were displaying, but still definitely present within me, I was hostile to THEIR differences from ME as well; mixed in with my anger and hurt was some outrage: how DARE they, I mean LOOK at them, they're pathetic, something's wrong with them, how can they be that way instead of being like me and then on top of that be so wrongheaded as to think I'm the one who deserves to be made fun of? They should look in a mirror, yeesh!!

• They had a notion of what my differences meant. It was all distorted and badly wrong in a lot of ways, and it was shot through with contempt and ridicule, and basically didn't reflect any meaningful understanding of me, but they apparently THOUGHT they understood what it meant to be like me, and they were largely in agreement with each other.



We tend to form our notions of dogs in large part from our experiences with dogs, but our notions of hippopotamuses almost exclusively from what we've heard about them and how they're depicted.


When it came to male-bodied people (or people perceived by their classmates and teachers as male) who act like girls and share the interests of girls and so forth, I was often the first direct experience for many of the other kids in 1st and 2nd grade; they hadn't formed a lot of attitudes yet, and although there was some of that basic xenophobia thing — "eww, why are you like that, you're different?!?" — it didn't get bad until later.

The boys and girls who had class with me talked about me to other kids, because it's an item of curiosity, something to be described with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Their description of me and how I act was formed from their experience of me, although of course shaped by how my behaviors seemed to them, and would not have tended to include much of any self-description by me of my own behaviors and how I saw them.

Within a couple of years, most kids my age had HEARD OF people like me, partly from this process (where kids describe someone that had been in their class who was like me) and partly from things they picked up from TV or things their parents or other adults said. Girlish boys were held up to ridicule for them before they met me, and still, in many cases, before they'd had much actual contact with anyone like me. So they observed a few things, sufficient to make them think "ooh, he's more girlish than any of the other boys in class, let's torment him, it'll be fun", anticipating that I'd rise to the bait and prove my boyish masculinity to their satisfaction... and when I didn't, and didn't try to conceal how I was, they had their first live one, one of those sissy boys they'd heard about. The circus was in town. Come see the weirdo!



This is the situation for marginalized minorities in a nutshell. Mainsteam people (e.g., cisgender conventionally binary people in our case) know about us primarily from what other mainstream people have said in the process of describing us to each other. There's a certain amount of not-very-friendly xenophobia ("ewww, you're not like me, why aren't you like me?") that probably can't be attributed strictly to social structures or "isms" of various negatively discriminatory sorts, but they're heavily fertilized and fed by what's inside the package of shared social attitudes towards us, the stories that the mainsteam have told themselves about us, and yes, in many cases they are also reinforced by institutions, social structures, systems that perpetuate our situation.

Laws can be overturned, policies can be set, and systems, especially formal systems governed by rules and whatnot, can be modified to make room for us, and to make those kinds of changes, it has proven useful and effective to appeal to mainstream people's sense of justice and to point to our injuries and the damages done to us and the unfairness and unnecessary nature of these hurtful things.

But formal structural rule-based aspects of society are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Attitudes may to some extent follow the path initially set by court decisions and institutional policy decisions, but for attitude changes to become pervasive, there has to be understanding, not just compliance.

Race — I dare say this as a white-skinned American who has never been on the marginalized side of racism — the concept that racism is wrong is easy for racially mainstream people to understand. People are born with one set or another of certain ethnic physical characteristics that we categorize as "white" or "black" or whatever; the people thusly categorized are otherwise not inherently different, and treating them on any level — institutionally, personally, culturally, etc — as if they WERE inherently different is wrong, immoral, unfair, has caused great pain and suffering. OK, in actual practice embracing and enacting a racism-free world is not quite as easy or as simple as we once hoped, but as a CONCEPT it has turned out to be something that people could grasp sufficiently well to make overtly racist attitudes socially unacceptable and viewed as reprehensible. Or possibly it only looks that way to me because it's 2015 and the long rough slog it took to get to this point stretches far back into our cultural past.

At any rate, gender and sexual identity, in my opinion, are largely NOT understood clearly by the mainstream folks. I think we're getting a decently generous batch of politically correct compliance and parroting back to us of the most common phrases likely to appear in newspapers and magazines about differently gendered people and our experiences, but it is accompanied by a lot of perplexity and pushback from people who resent being pressured to parrot those phrases when it makes no sense to them, they don't get it. They have some attitude, some annoyance, and some lingering xenophobia ("why can't you just be normal, why do you want to be a special freaking snowflake?"), but not such a high prevalence of real hostility and contempt so much as bewilderment.

Me, I'm not a 4th grader any more. I'm sure of myself and my gender identity, I am not plagued with nervous self-doubts about my difference, I understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and I'm willing to be in the circus sideshow. Yeah, come see the weirdo. Ask your questions. Wanna hear my story? I'll tell you how it is, what it's like. Don't worry about offending me, I've heard worse, I assure you. Interact with me. Think about this stuff. I want you to understand. The more you mainstream folks understand the more you will hold attitudes that I want you to hold because they just plain make sense, not because everyone will point fingers at you and tell you you're an insensitive privileged cisgendered boor of an asshole who should be ashamed of yourself.


That is how I view our activity. I'm glad we're winning at the policy-change level, but the current rising trend towards correcting people for microaggressions and castigating them for triggering behavior and otherwise trying to roll out social change by demanding compliance before understanding, that doesn't appeal to me.

Even the phrase "social justice" is getting on my nerves lately. The word "justice" is a heavily loaded term. We live in a punitive society. The systems that dispense justice largely do so by identifying evildoers and perpetrators and violators and wrongdoers, and then punishing them, as well as or sometimes instead of stopping them from continuing to do so. And they are all of them systems that rely on authority, coercion, power over other people, to lend force to their implementations of justice. Oh, I understand anger, all right, and the gut-level desire to see the shoe forced onto the other foot, oh yeah WE shall coerce YOU and designate you as a perpetrator of our oppression and FORCE you to stop it, punishing each offense, identifying it as a social misdemeanor against us, connected historically with how we've always been treated up to this point, and if it makes you feel disempowered in the process, yay, so much the better, assholes. But it's morally wrong, it's tactically wrong, it's factually wrong, and it's, dammit, politically wrong.

I don't believe in the Culprit Theory of Oppression. I don't think the white cisgender able-bodied male people gleefully plotted everyone else's plight in the primordial paleolithic boys' bathroom and then subjected us all to this. I also don't think people intrinsically benefit from having power over other people and therefore are unfair beneficiaries whenever someone else is disempowered and silenced and marginalized and oppressed. Furthermore, if it were true, it that really were the case, YOU CAN'T FIX IT since if it is intrinsic, you are, by definition, saying that you would oppress if given the opportunity to do so; that anyone, ever, with the opportunity to oppress will do so; that anyone set up to be in a position of protective power to enforce equality will use that power to oppress, instead, because, well, it's intrinsically beneficial to them to do so.

It's a measure of how marginalized (ha! so to speak...) I am within our own activist communities that I just got booted from a Facebook group, the Genderqueer, Agender, Neutrois, Genderfluid, and Non-binary discussion. The precipitating event? Someone had posted a link to an article about Triggering. In the article, the author, Gillian Brown, said "Triggering occurs when any certain something (a 'trigger') causes a negative emotional response", and then went on to explain the necessity of preventing triggering from occurring, and the necessity of stepping in to protect people and keep the space SAFE by reminding people to put trigger warnings. I replied with some derision: by that definition, we would all have to preface anything that might cause a negative emotional response in anyone with a trigger warning. It's a silly definition. More to the point, this is simply not how I think we best make the world a safe space in which to be genderqueer people. We make the world safer by making ourselves understood. We make the world safer for ourselves by stepping out, being brave, being seen, letting people point and ask questions, by risking hostility and derision, by being brave enough to SHOW that we aren't going to be intimidated by the risk of hostility and derision, by not being ashamed of who we are.

It didn't go over well, apparently. (I can only conjecture; my membership in the group evaporated without any private message and I can only assume they decided I was a trigger and made people in the group feel unsafe).



OTHER NEWS


I haven't blogged in an embarrassingly long while. A big part of it is that I'm metaphorically holding my breath while an agent is reading my entire manuscript, trying not to become unduly hopeful that she'll represent me, but not succeeding in that attempt. I can't help it. I may be setting myself up for a horrible letdown but I am full of excitement and joyful daydreams.

I have, however, at least succeeded in not just sitting motionless in these endeavors. I've continued to send out query letters. And as a matter of fact, I got a request for a partial (a request to read the first 50 pages) from a query letter and therefore, for a couple weeks at least, for the first time ever, had two agents simultaneously expressing interest and reviewing my writing with the possibility of representation. Unfortunately, this second agent soon wrote back on June 3:

> We were impressed by From a Queerly Different Closet: The Story of Q's
> holistic approach to the underwritten topic of growing up queer.
> However, we struggled to engage emotionally with Derek because of the
> lack of specificity in prose. For example, it was difficult to
> understand why, in middle school, Derek found boys' behavior to be
> "bad" (rather than merely displeasing or disruptive), when Derek had
> not expressed a desire to be "good" or why Derek was ostracized
> growing up without knowing how exactly he was teased in each school he
> attended. Without such basic details, it was difficult to get a sense
> of Derek's personality and essential conflict. Ultimately, this meant
> that we couldn't completely fall in love with the story.


That was such a thoughtful and personal rejection letter that I did something I never do in response to rejection letters: I wrote back!

> Hi, and thank you for the most thoughtful rejection letter I've ever
> received!
>
>
> This is the type of feedback I was hoping to get except, of course,
> accompanied by something along the lines of "please address these
> concerns and send us modified chapters" instead of "not quite right
> for our list".
>
> I don't suppose y'all liked what's there well enough to want to work
> with me on it to see if I could address some of these concerns? (It
> can be hard for me as the author to "see" only what is on paper
> instead of seeing through it to the story that I already know —
> especially after editing it to a smaller size).
>
> If not, well, thanks again for such a personal and encouraging reply.

No subsequent reply though, so onward I move, on my still-neverending quest for a lit agent.


Current Stats:

Total Queries (Story of Q): 562
Rejections: 524
Outstanding: 37
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction, specifically, total queries: 373
Rejections: 343
Outstanding: 30

As Fiction, total queries: 189
Rejections: 181
Outstanding: 7
Under Consideration: 1


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Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Back in January, one of the literary agents I queried wrote back to say she was really inundated with a backlog of query letters and therefore had a temporary moratorium on looking at new submissions, but if I were still looking for representation in April I should feel free to contact her again.

More polite by far than the typical "Sorry I'm really busy and not taking on any new work at the moment" rejection letters. Needless to say, April came around and I was still without agent so I resent my letter along with a note that she'd invited me to do so. This time I got this reply: "Still very busy here but send me the first 50 pages and if I get pulled into the story we'll take it from there".

I should pause here and explain that some agents want your intial query to contain anything from the first 3 pages on up in addition to the query letter, along with perhaps a synopsis, often a self-descrip itemizing your prior publications and qualifications, sometimes with a complete formal proposal with review of comparable literature and marketing plan; other agents just want the query letter and if they want to see more at that point they'll ask for it. This agent's profile put her in the latter camp. So this was her asking for a sample that other agents might have expected as part of the initial query. That's still not to be minimized though: any time a lit agent asks for anything above and beyond what their profile says to send in the initial pitch letter, that indicates some degree of interest in the author's project. And I only get a tiny and rarefied handful of those.

But now it gets better. Last week she wrote to say that it's "a little bumpy in places" but she was sufficiently interested to have me go ahead and send in the entire manuscript, hard copy printout, and give her a few weeks to examine it.

This, in the writer's vernacular, is the fabled "request for a full".

I am repeating to myself, mantra-style, that this does not mean I'm finally going to have an agent. Or that it's more likely than not that it will go that way. But it's very exciting.


Current Stats:

The Story of Q, total queries: 542
Rejections: 513
Outstanding: 28
Under Consideration: 1

As Nonfiction: (total queries): 358
Rejections: 340
Outstanding: 18

As Fiction: (total queries): 184
Rejections: 173
Outstanding: 10
Under Consideration: 1

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Index of all Blog Posts
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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Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Just sent out the very first queries positioning the book as "young adult" fiction. This batch also included a higher % of queries for the book as a nonfiction memoir, as I decided it was time to do a search on notes I'd made on various agents' pages, "See also So-and-so, same agency", and many of those date back to when I was mostly focused on hawking the book as a memoir. Which is, btw, something I haven't given up on.

I've made some minor modifications to the book based in part on the first little handful of reviews and in part on late personal insights from the process of revamping. Mostly cutting some unnecessarily wordy blabby abstract paragraphs and in some places replacing them with more dialog.

I posted notices on the availability of the book on the GenderQueer Facebook group I'm in, and also on a Facebook group dedidated to folks who grew up in Los Alamos. Interestingly, two of the first three reviews came from the Los Alamos crowd. (I wanted a sense of whether the book would be boring to anyone who wasn't immersed in LGBTQ stuff). So far I've been told that my character development is good and consistent and that the story arc is good entertainment. One person said my own confusion about how I was different from others mirrored her own as reader, and it wasn't until the end that she got a sense of who I am. I don't know if that's a weakness of the writing or an artifact of the fact that I'm writing from a sexual/sexual-orientation identity vantage point for which there isn't any conventional name yet. I'm hoping that reviewer writes back with more comments.

Stats at the moment:

Total Queries = 498
Rejections: 407
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction, total Queries: 340
Rejections: 329
Outstanding: 10

As Fiction, total Queries: 158
Rejections: 78
Outstanding: 80


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Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Revision project is successfully completed!

This thing was written, originally, as a nonfiction memoir, but since I'm currently hawking it mainly as a work of fiction, and because I've gotten enough feedback over the last couple years that the writing is a little "disappointing", it made sense to me to go back in and translate generic descriptions of how things were into individual representative scenes, complete with dialog and action and so forth.

That tends to create much longer, wordier blocks of text. One doesn't need to lay down a lot of words in order to say something like "I had tapered off and then quit spending time with the flagpole folks who sang the religious songs. I'd attended some evening sessions in various folks' houses and one day was riding back to White Rock with one of the guys when his VW bus ran out of gas coming down the hill. He cheerfully 'put it in the hands of the Lord' and managed to coast to the traffic light then creep through a left turn and then pick up speed down the next hill and into the service station, and he praised Jesus for making sure we got where we were going without any fuel. I became aware that I simply did not believe what they believed and even though they were not at all confrontational about it I felt less and less comfortable, as if I were faking it just to be singing the songs, so I dropped out of that scene."

But if you were going to do that like a screenplay, well, let's see, let's have me arrive and greet some people, come up with some names, specify 3-4 characters standing around the piano, try to recapture the feel of their friendly but treacly way of interacting, put some private thoughts in my head, a line or two of a song, some more dialog, get into the VW bus, some dialog taking place in the van before it runs out of gas, hmm better describe how we're going down this steep hill, NOW run out of gas, now have the driver comment on putting it in the hands of the lord... OK now describe coasting through the traffic light and slowly making the corner then picking up speed down the hill, and the guys in the van doing the Praise Jesus thing, and more internal dialog, then me getting out of the van, some more contemplation, elaborating on me not feeling comfy with those folks any more, then a wrapup sentence or two indicating that this event among others led to me tapering off and dropping out of the folk-religious singers group.

Guess what, we've sprawled out into several pages to cover a scene that used to be described in a paragraph!


So alongside of that, I streamlined and trimmed and hacked off subplots, condensed some characters into one character, and ended up with a narrative that sticks a lot tighter to the central story line, and that seems like a good thing too.

Overall, the manuscript has gained weight, but not too badly.

Old: 302 pages, 95,900 words
New: 318 pages, 96,800 words

With the revision finished, I've gone back to querying. Another 17 went out via email or are queued up for delivery to the post office for snailmailing.

Stats:

Total Queries: 470
Rejections: 380
Outstanding: 90

As NonFiction: total queries = 332
Rejections: 320
Outstanding: 12

As Fiction: total queries = 138
Rejections: 60
Outstanding: 78


Since it's a new edition, I'm again interested in beta readers. If you'd like to stick your nose into this tome, email me backchannel: ahunter3@earthlink.net


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Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Not too terribly long ago, on a message board just the usual internet-distance far far away (the Absolute Write Water Cooler, to be precise), I bravely asserted that all this is just the first year, and that I was going to keep plugging away at this for at least 10 years before before calling it quits.

One of the board regulars replied:

> you say '10 years,' as if you're just going to query for 10 years,
> come hell or high water, but won't you run out of agents long before
> then? I mean they do keep making more, but still. How're you not close
> to that already?

As it turns out, that was a rather prescient observation. In the first week of October, I continued my ongoing agentquery.com search for agents who do memoirs, picking up where I left off, and at the bottom of the page, where there's usually a "next page" button, there wasn't one. I'd gone through the entire supply of author's agents who do memoirs.

That's not quite as FINAL as it may sound. I mean, the first search I did, way back when I first got started, was for agents who marketed nonfiction books about gay and lesbian subjects. I ran to the end of that within a couple weeks. But the pool of agents doing memoirs was OCEAN-sized and yes, it was unsettling to hit that wall.

I've been focusing since then on sending out queries positioning the book as fiction, of the "Literary Fiction" ilk. I have to admit, though, it's all been a bit discouraging.

Which made it particularly nice when I opened another in a small daily stack of self-addressed stamped envelopes, recording the rejections in my database, and realized after a moment that what I was staring at wasn't a rejection.


> I'm writing to you about your book FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET.
> We would like to consider it. Please send the first 50 pages, a
> detailed outline or synopsis no more than 10 pages, double-spaced, and
> mail them to my attention. Please claerly mark "REQUESTED MATERIAL"
> on the front of the envelope and enclose a self-addressed, stamped
> envelope. We'll review your work at the first possible opportunity.
> If it seems like something we can represent, we'll contact you soon.


That still doesn't shift the odds for me with that particular agency to "more likely than not", but it's at least a move in a favorable direction. It's so good when someone's sufficiently interested that they ask to see more instead of just sending a form-letter rejection notice.



Current Stats:

The Story of Q--total queries = 420
Rejections: 310
Outstanding: 109
Under Consideration: 1

As NonFiction--total queries = 331
Rejections: 286
Outstanding: 45

As Fiction--total queries = 89
Rejections: 24
Outstanding: 64
Under Consideration: 1

That Guy in Our Women's Studies Classroom--total queries = 22
Rejections: 21
Outstanding: 1


————————

Index of all Blog Posts
ahunter3: (Default)
Here's the query letter (aka pitch letter) I'm using for agents who handle literary fiction:

-------------

Derek is a girl. He wasn't one of the boys as a kid; he admired, befriended, and socialized with the girls and always knew he was one of them, despite being male. That wasn't always accepted or understood, but he didn't care: he knew who he was.

Now he's a teenager and boys and girls are flirting and dating and his identity has become a lot more complicated: he's attracted to the girls. The OTHER girls. The female ones.

FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET: THE STORY OF Q is a 95,000-word literary fiction tale set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world.

Junior high to college, the stage on which Derek's adolescence and early adulthood takes place, is mostly hostile to gay people; transgender isn't a word in common use yet; and against this backdrop, Derek seeks friends and companions and someone to love in a world that has no name or concept for who he is. Years of painful questioning, vulnerability and confusion are interspersed with fragile optimism and hope and a willful determination to survive.

In 1980, 20 years before the word "genderqueer" would roll off anyone's tongues, Derek attempts to come out. He's confident, excited about the social and political implications of this gender identity, and eager to find out if these ideas are as powerful to other people as they are to him. The result is incarceration in a psychiatric hospital.

Undaunted, he starts a mental patients' liberation movement within the locked ward and gets kicked out for disrupting the facility. He goes on to fall in love, to succeed in college as a women's studies major, and gets his controversial gender ideas into print as feminist theory.


This story will appeal to fans of Alex Sánchez's RAINBOW BOYS and Julie Anne Peters' LUNA, as well as to readers of nonfiction works such as Daphne Scholinski's THE LAST TIME I WORE A DRESS and Jennifer Boylan's SHE'S NOT THERE; like these titles, my book will be a resource for anyone exploring questions of identity and questioning their own sexuality.


----------------

Authors' agents often ask NONFICTION authors to submit a formal proposal, which presents the premise of the book in a longer wordier version than the query letter, explains why the author is the best person to write it and why these ideas or concepts will work well as a published book; provides a list of similar titles and how this book is different; and how the book might best be marketed and publicized.

They don't ask that of FICTION authors, apparently; instead, what is most requested (aside from the ubiquitous query letter) is a synopsis, explaining the plot trajectory on a chapter by chapter basis. I never posted my nonfiction proposal here (too long and stultifying) but I like the way the synopsis came out so without further ado...



=== SYNOPSIS ===

(page numbers based on double spaced Times New Roman 12 pt)


1) PROLOGUE starts page 1

A short 3-page teaser in which the main character Derek is beaten up at a party on very little provocation, prompting him to ponder his differences, his now-questionable sense of being accepted, and how things had led to this.


2) CHILDHOOD starts page 4

Derek in first/second grade in Los Alamos New Mexico begins to compete with the girls, aspires to do well in school in deportment as well as subject areas. Makes one close male friend. Family moves to Georgia. Polarization increases: hostility from other boys, close friends with other girls, epithets including "queer" from other children, hostility from some adults for not being a normal boy. As he gets older, girls cease to be friend with him, he is increasingly isolated and lonely. Awareness of sexual attraction towards girls takes place before he knows what it means. Derek looks forward optimistically to adolescence, thinking he will again have girls as friends and as romantic girlfriends.


3) JUNIOR HIGH AND HIGH SCHOOL starts page 19

The family moves back to Los Alamos. Day to day life over the five years from 8th grade to high school graduation, beginning with Derek being ostracized not just for being the new kid but for being a "faggot", subjected to extensive harassment and horrified as he discovers that sexuality is not going to bring him closer to the girls, who link up with masculine boys. Derek makes a significant effort to discard his own prim judgmental standoffishness, make friends and fit in: he joins Boy Scouts, plays in the band and sings in the choir, re-establishes contact with his boyhood friend and somewhat belatedly rebels against adult authority like the other kids. His hopes of falling in love and having a girlfriend don't quite pan out but he hopes getting out of the fairly small town and into a college environment will let his life truly begin.


4) THE LIMBO YEARS starts page 131

Derek hates the conservative southern Mississippi college and daydreams about joining the hippies and flower children he's read about, not fully realizing the people and ideas described in the library books are not culturally ascendant any more by 1977. He drops out of school and seeks to become economically self-sufficient as soon as possible by taking vocational school courses in auto mechanics. The all-male environment isolates him, dating or even meeting girls seems impossible, and he wonders if maybe people who've called him gay knew him better than he knows himself; he tries gay sex, first with the boy he's been friends with since 1st grade; then, when that wasn't very pleasant, he decides maybe it was too much like incest but gay sex with a kind and friendly stranger is even worse. Still horribly lonely, Derek is becoming increasingly confident and self-reliant until he narrowly escapes being raped and then later is assaulted at a party (the incident in the PROLOGUE). He'd had one good connection with a girl who seemed to want him as a girlfriend in all this time but he'd met her while her family was on vacation and she lives across the country in Boston. But now he's desperate for something to work out with girls so he goes to visit her there. It doesn't go well: she's amenable to making out in the basement but is not interested in him personally, and he's devastated.


5) BACK TO UNIVERSITY starts page 206

Unable to make a go of it as an auto mechanic, Derek lets his family talk him into trying college again, this time in Albuquerque at a far less conservative institution. The University of New Mexico's student body is indeed far more socially liberal and tolerant than anywhere else he's been: people who think he is gay go out of their way to let him know it's cool with them, instead of being hostile and violent. Derek tries to focus on just having a good time and maybe losing his virginity, and putting his bad experience with the girl from Boston behind him. But casual sex and flirting and dating are impersonal and the assumptions roles and attitudes are very sex-specific and don't fit him at all. He finally acknowledges to himself that he's always thought of himself as one of the girls and now realizes that this may make him incompatibly different from what's expected of males in heterosexuality. He reads about transsexualism and it resonates but he realizes he doesn't think his body is wrong... just what people think it means to have that body. Other college students keep urging him to come out and accept himself. Finally something clicks: he sees the parallel between what he's going through and what feminists have said about sexism and sex roles. He begins writing manifestos about his gender identity and sexual orientation and circulating them to other students and to his professors and to others on campus. People worry about him: they don't understand what he's driving at and he disturbs them by being so excited about it. He is asked if he'll talk to a psychiatrist and he agrees, not realizing that the "permission slip" they have him sign will result in being locked up on a locked psychiatric ward and not allowed to leave. Derek, however, is for the first time certain that there ISN'T something wrong with him, and he talks and listens to the other patients and organizes a patients' rights movement that disrupts the facility, which discharges him abruptly.


POSTLOGUE starts page 288

Derek goes to California seeking the hippies and flower children he read about, and actually finds a commune, lives there for awhile, and loses his virginity without having to take on the unwanted male sexual-initiator / sexual-aggressor role. Later, in the library, he reads about a women's studies department at a college and realizes that if he were a student there, the kinds of things he wants to talk about would be typical subject matter in the classrooms. His parents are understandably relucant to send him to college a third time so he hitches to New York and endures a period of homelessness before establishing himself and getting into the school, at which point he gets solid A grades and an enthusiastic reception by his feminist professors. He goes on to graduate school and publishes his theories about gender and sexual orientation in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Over the years that follow he gets into relationships with women, learning from each, culminating in solid yet nontraditional relationships in which he is accepted and understood as a male girl.





Total Pages: 301

Word Count: 95,993


{optional bit if writing sample is requested:}

*****

Your contact information at YOURLITERARYAGENCY.com/submissions indicated that I should include the first 5 pages / 10 pages / 20 pages / one chapter / two chapters / whatever, as a writing sample. Pasted inline below this line:


=======================

{appropriate writing sample goes here, if requested}


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ahunter3: (Default)
On August 25, I got yet another one of those "your platform isn't good enough" responses to a query letter:

> Thank you for the opportunity to review your project. While I
> appreciate that you thought of me for your work of nonfiction, I'm not
> sure that your author platform is quite at the level necessary to
> launch a book. I suggest that you continue to establish and grow your
> platform so that you will be in a stronger position to pursue a book
> deal.
>
>
>
> Thank you again, and best of luck with your work.

So after a few melodramatic fantasies of creating a platform by kidnapping an array of author's agents and thus getting myself covered in the news cycle, I decided it was time to question one of the earliest decisions that I faced when it came to trying to get this book into print: fiction or nonfiction?

The first batch of query letters actually didn't specifically position the work one way or the other: "The names have been changed and it could be treated and marketed as either fiction or nonfiction". But that's not how the agent-querying business works. And when I decided last year to attend the NY Writer's Pitch Conference, I had to pick nonfiction or fiction; autobiographies and memoirs are definitely listed as nonfiction (whereas no subcategory of fiction sounded quite right) and at the conference itself I was told "Yes, definitely you should market it as nonfiction, you've got a memoir, that's powerful, authentic, comes from real experience" and so on, so that's what I've been doing.

But in the back of my mind, I kept remembering that Rita Mae Brown's RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE was technically marketed as fiction (fooling no one), as was Marilyn French's THE WOMEN'S ROOM (I think most of us figured that Mira was either entirely or mostly Marilyn French), and so was the far more blatant WHO WAS THAT MASKED WOMAN? by Noretta Koertge, in which the supposedly fictional Tretona Getroek's adventures are told.

So I sat down and wrote a new query letter, describing my book as a work of fiction. (Oh yeah, the same issue of no obvious subcategory of fiction again presented itself. It turns out that it would apparently be "literary fiction", which is everything that isn't "genre fiction", the latter of which comprising your basic mysteries, romances, sci fi, thriller action-adventure stories, vampire gothics, and so on).

And, because fiction queries are sent off with a synopsis, not a proposal as nonfiction is, I wrote up a synopsis.

Early end result: in the first week of querying it as a fiction book, I got a request to see a 30 page sample of the manuscript. For comparision, I have exactly two agents who have requested additional material after receiving the nonfiction query and that's after a year of querying.

I'm going to continue querying it as nonfiction but will definitely send at least 50 % of each week's queries as fiction queries.


I will post my fiction query letter and synopsis in subsequent blogposts.

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ahunter3: (Default)
Got this reply from an agent*:

> Thanks so much for sending your heartfelt memoir. The big issue
> standing in the way of my taking you on is not editorial, since you
> write cleanly and smoothly. It's a matter of platform, that built-in
> audience who knows the author through some form of media. With the
> comparisons you gave, it's the authors and their reach beyond the book
> world that distinguishes them. Feinberg has long been a rights
> advocate in the spotlight, Boyle had a successful writing career as a
> man, and the Scholinkski was a case that got media coverage that led
> to a book deal, not the other ay around. Publishing is an industry
> that can ride a wave but is not so great at making them. It's a shame
> that a good book is no longer enough, but I see a tough road ahead
> without a really impressive platform. I appreciate the chance, though,
> and wish you luck connecting with an agent who doesn't share my
> reservations.


This is pretty much where I came in, the impetus for starting this blog.


On the one hand, it IS encouraging to get some occasional confirmation that the problem isn't that the book isn't good enough to be published, and QUITE encouraging to get some signal that the problem isn't with the quality of my query letter, either.

On the other hand, the platform isn't something I can easily do much about. I've been operating this blog for a little while now (it's one of the few platformy things that seems to be within my reach), but as much as I deeply appreciate you folks reading it, and commenting on it, I suspect that the agents who are looking for an author's platform won't be impressed with blogging unless there are hundreds of followers lapping it up, not the dozen or so that I have. And I have no clear idea what kind of magic tricks I need to do to drive people en masse over here to read my stuff.

I've been to more GLBT meetings and have found myself understood and accepted there, with reciprocity, but if being part of those structured organizations is going to morph into "a platform", it will take awhile.

I've spoken a couple times at open-mike events where performance artists and poets and comedians and other folks get 5 minutes at the mike, and will attempt to do more, but at the moment I don't see that growing into some kind of huge cult following.

As far as I can tell, my best bet is to just keep plugging away and accept that the lack of platform means I have to do this for a lot longer than if I were famous or had a built-in audience. That I have to believe it makes my road difficult, not impossible.


Current query status (The Story of Q):

total queries: 305
rejections: 193 (includes no reply > 3 months)
outstanding: 111 (no reply yet, < 3 months)
under consideration: 1


* agent's name and agency not included here due to lack of explicit permission. I don't really have permission to reprint the email, either, I'm just doing it anyhow. The references to Feinberg, Boyle, and Scholinski are from my query letter and proposal identifying "comparable books": Leslie Feinberg's STONE BUTCH BLUES, Daphne Scholinski's THE LAST TIME I WORE A DRESS, and Jennifer Boylan's SHE'S NOT THERE

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ahunter3: (Default)
Self addressed envelope arrives, another rejection. I log them when they come in; here's my current overall status:


The Story of Q (first / main book): total queries = 288
Rejections (includes no reply after 3 months): 173
Outstanding (awaiting response): 114
Under Consideration: 1

That Guy in Women's Studies (second book): total queries = 21
Rejections: 18
Outstanding: 3


But when I open the envelope, it's a little different from the usual:



> I am impressed with your query and ordinarily would request your
> manuscript. However we are backlogged with submissions. Should you
> not secure representation you can query us again in February 2015.


Yay!

I'm off to Scotland now for a rare vacation. This was a nice note to be leaving on!

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ahunter3: (Default)
Is there any legitimate role for a male activist to play within feminism and women's studies?

Derek is an angry genderqueer activist who wants to go to college and major in women's studies so badly that he hitches to NY and even withstands a year of homelessness to get into the school of his choice.

He sails through his undergrad career cheered on by his teachers who wave him on to graduate school, encouraging him to believe he can pursue his genderqueer politics there. But then things deteriorate. He faces off with the only Sociology professor doing feminist theory: another male. The professor expects to take students under his wing and mentor them, while Derek is used to doing theory as an active (and political) verb and doesn't respond well to being spoken to as if he wasn't already a theorist.

The Sociology professor tells him that he should be embracing socialist feminism instead of radical feminism, and when Derek disagrees, what begins as an intellectual correspondence degrades into a pissing contest, eventually to their mutual embarrassment.

Derek's interactions with the school's interdisciplinary women's studies program start off on a better foot but eventually lead to another disagreement, this time between poststructuralist feminist theory and radical feminist theory. This puts him for the first time in the indefensible position of being a male telling women professors they're doing feminism wrong.

THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS is a 93,000-word memoir, providing an entertaining story in the "fish out of water" genre, with interpersonal conflict and conflict between personal aspirations and institutions. It also explores serious political issues of interest to feminist theorists: the implications and limits of male participation in feminism, of course, but also the tension between egalitarian elements in feminist theory and the hierarchical relationship between students and teachers as well as between faculty and institution, and the role of theory itself (subject matter to be studied? personal understanding of the world in which we live?) in a college student's life.

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ahunter3: (Default)
In February, I excerpted a second book from my massive autobiographical tome. This one begins with me figuring out that I could discuss all these gender issues, and my interest in feminist theory, in a women's studies class. My folks (not too surprisingly, but to my dismay) aren't interested in financing a 3rd attempt at college so I head off in a huff, hitch to New York to seek whatever job I can get with the aim of eventually getting in anyway. A year of homelessness there is a blessing in disguise: it makes me economically independent of my parents and so I quality for financial aid and I do indeed get into college.

The balance of the story, THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS, is about me in college trying to do feminist theory and pursue my gender activism in the 80s and 90s.


This second book has been sitting on the back burner for several months; I didn't like the query letter I was using for it and I was focusing on the first book. But recently (for reasons I'm about to go into) I decided I wanted to go back to sending queries on that one again, and I spent some time revamping the query letter.

I'll post the new query letter I'm using for it in a moment.

Anyway, my current thinking is that either of these books MIGHT be more easily published at an academic press instead of a mainstream popular press. Authors query academic presses directly rather than trying to get an agent, and I haven't gotten many nibbles from agents yet.

I have not, as of yet, tried to market the first book (THE STORY OF Q) to academic presses because many agents don't want to have anything to do with a book that has been seen by publishers yet. Quite possibly they aren't thinking about academic presses when they make that stipulation, but I haven't wanted to do anything that would limit my options with them.

I'm thinking that by hawking the second book to academic presses, I retain the honest freedom of saying, with regards to the first book, that no, it has not been seen by any publishers, and at the same time, if the second book generates any interest among academic presses (or even gets picked up for publication!), I can let them know at that time that I have a different book they might also want to take a look at. Plus, if it gets printed, I'm then a published author instead of an unpublished author looking for an agent for the first book.



-----

Stats so far on the two books:


THE STORY OF Q

Total queries so far: 316
Rejections or no answer after 3 months: 161
Outstanding (sent, no reply yet): 112

THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS

Total queries so far (including old query letter): 25
Rejections or no answer: 17
Outstanding: 4


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ahunter3: (Default)
In my database where I track literary agents and when I've sent them materials and when they've responded, I have a field for what materials each agent wishes to receive: just the query letter (aka pitch)? the query with a sample of the book (ranging from 3 pages to 3 full chapters)? the query with a synopsis and list of the chapters? the query with descrip of the author's qualifications and background? the query with the full proposal? or perhaps various more complex combinations of these elements.

The first time I sent out a full proposal, it was by request.

In brief, a proposal describes the book and elaborates on the concept as described in the pitch, analyzes the potential market for the book, introduces the author including qualifications & background & prior publications, examines similar books in the same genre and how this one compares to the others (similarities and differences), examines likely strategies for promoting the book and reaching the market, provides the table of contents and synopsis of each chapter, word count, length in conventionally-formatted pages, attests to the completeness (or lack thereof) of the book, optionally incorporates early reviews and feedback, and provides some sample chapters or chapter excerpts. Proposals are used almost exclusively for nonfiction books. Memoirs are odd beasties, telling an entertaining narrative story the same way fiction does but nevertheless being works of nonfiction; and I eventually sent my query letter to a literary agent at an agency that had a submissions policy that said all nonfiction queries should include a proposal, so she wrote back and asked me to send mine. I didn't have one yet, so I drew one up, and that's how my proposal was born.

Her request for my proposal was what you might call a "partially favorable response": it was expected that nonficton authors include one, and if I had realized that (and had had one already at the time), I would presumably have sent the original query with the proposal attached, so in a sense she was merely requesting what I had left out of the standard query-package. On the other hand, literary agents don't waste time corresponding with authors whose book descriptions don't resonate with them to some extent, and she sent me examples of some proposals and some guidelines to use in creating my proposal. In the end, she said it wasn't a project she wanted to pursue.

Fast forward to the current query. This went to a small "boutique" agency where their submissions policy is just the query letter. So her request to see a proposal, while not as favorable a response as a request to see the entire manuscript, is a distinct positive response.

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ahunter3: (Default)
First I pick where to fish for new names:


Some of the largest and most popular sites for this kind of thing let you search for either fiction or nonfiction subject areas that agents have specified an interest in, and gives you the matching agent records along with all their contact info. I'm pretty sure that agents fill in their own interests from a supplied checklist. For any given agent, an indicated interest in "memoirs" could mean anything from "I specialize in representing memoirs" to "oh let's see, mysteries and young adult fiction and science fiction and romances and what else? yeah sure, memoirs, I could do that...". One cannot search on terms that the site doesn't use; hence on agentquery.com, for example (they're one of the big popular sites), one cannot search for "gender" or "feminist" or "trangender", although there is a "gay and lesbian" search term under nonfiction that I've used as a search term.


Smaller resources are often things like lists of memoir agents or lists of agents interested in LGBT content that someone on some web site somewhere has assembled.


I do my searches and skip to the results page where I left off, or pick up where I left off on someone else's list, and spend awhile reading agents' profiles and checking to see if I've already queried them (or another agent at the same agency). I have several different prospective lists and I switch between them at random, continuing from where I was when I last worked from that list.





I keep a database of literary agents I've sent query letters & proposals to. I'm a database geek — that's my day job — so I made a FileMaker Pro system to keep track of it. Let's say I'm doing my search for nonfiction subject = "memoirs" on agentquery.com . The next entry is for Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management, who represents memoirs that include personal and experiential growth and cultural conflict. Sounds good. Keeping my web browser page with her data open in front of me, I turn to the other monitor and do a find in the database window. Nope, haven't queried Erin Harris before, although I've sent to her colleague Michael Harriot who is also at Folio and he hasn't responded yet.


New Record. I drag from the web browser window her name, email, the organization name and its weblink, the postal address, phone number, and her blurb about what kind of material she represents. Then I click on the link to "How to submit" and scan it to see what form of submission she prefers. I have an initial breakdown into either "Email", "Snailmail", or "WebPortal". Many agents do not accept anything but email or will not accept email and require it be mailed with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the reply; others will accept multiple formats but have a preference; still others do not appear to have a preference, which leaves it up to me. In the case of Erin Harris, she wants all submissions to be uploaded using Folio's web form: answer the questions and click the "upload proposal" button and upload the material. I check "WebPortal".


The next field in my database distinguishes between types of material the agent wants to receive: query only? query with sample of your writing? query with formal nonfiction proposal? query with proposal AND sample? Then I have a field for stipulation of what type of sample for those who want an included writing sample. The most common options are First Chapter and First xx pages, but I also have indicators for Sample Chapter (any of the author's choosing), first TWO chapters, Selections Up to xx Pages, and First XX Chapters Up to YY Pages.


I fill out that Erin Harris wants a Query with the first 10 pages only of my proposal (unusual option) and first chapter as writing sample. I flag the record, indicating that no query has been sent yet, but also flag the "OnHold" field because I'm not sending to her until I get a rejection from her colleague Michael Harriot, or until enough time has elapsed that I can figure I would have heard if he were interested. (Some agents do not reply except in the affirmative).



I move on to the next agent in the search results. Meh... their writeup says they are interested in memoirs of experts in the medical or industrial-sciences fields, not my kind of memoir, skip that one... OK here's a good one... I make the new record, drag the fields into my database, then, since this person wants the query via email I click the button next to email address and my database auto-generates the email with the agent's name and email address in the To header, with the subject line: QUERY--The Story of Q, copy my query letter text and paste it in as the body, and then I personalize the attached proposal (putting in the correct name and address) and send.


I have a related table of correspondence records. I input that I "sent NewQuery 8 + proposal via email" and it auto-dates the record with today's date. When a rejection letter comes in I will find the record and input "Declined interest" on the next line and that will generate a second related record with that day's date.


The next agent wants the proposal via standard US mail ("Snail mail") with SASE. I stick more paper into the laser printer, personalize the proposal front page and print it, print the pitch cover letter and sign it, paperclip the proposal, then click the "Print Agent Label" twice and "Print SASE Label" twice. My little Dymo label printer obediently prints my mailing labels and I crack and peel one set onto a new envelope, slap on a Forever stamp, grab that and the cover letter and proposal and slip them into the big parcel envelope, seal that and crack and peel the second set of labels onto that and mark my database record "sent NewPitch 8 + Proposal w/ONE chap snail w/SASE".


I get nine or a dozen or sometimes fourteen or so done and call it quits for the week's endeavors. Stack the outbound US mail envelopes in the chair, where I (or anais_pf) will get around to mailing them when we're out and about and the rest of it's out of my hands. All I can do is keep fishing.

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