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Friday, 27 July 2012

The Seasons of Queries

The houses in the Yukon are all sliding off their foundations.  They were built on permafrost and every time the ground thaws and re-freezes, the building walls shift.  It's amazing to realize they're even still standing after all the things they've weathered, people they've sheltered, and winters they've endured.

Yukon weather on those houses is a little like the Agent Query process.  Research an agent, find out he or she loves urban fantasy with paranormal elements, is into history and digs thrillers.  Tailor the query letter to them, paste the dreaded synopsis and whatever pages their submissions guidelines request into the body of the e-mail (never an attachment), make sure it's titled and addressed correctly and hit "send."  Then make a note with the date in the Marking Time notebook covered with images culled from the internet, hand-drawn, photoshop-manipulated, and designed to inspire and collect all things related to the Book.  This is the Spring Thaw.

And then the waiting begins.  There's nothing in the waiting place - no temperature at all.  It's just... void.  Because the waiting place is so full of potential crazy-making mind games that if even the slightest hope is entertained, the rejection would be that much more painful.

Because "no" is so much easier to say than "yes."  Especially when there are 163,000 words to potentially wade through.  Especially when there are "creature" elements to contend with, and a vampire to fall for in an age where vampires have been done to death.  Silly mortals.  As if they could ever die.  I made myself smile with that one, but I'll take it.  The swift "no" is the gift.  It's the one automatically spit out because of page count or "failure to grab," which basically means "not different enough from what's already out there to be an easy sale."  I get it.  I don't begrudge it.  People will click with whomever they want to click with, and I take the same advice I've always given my friends: "Choose someone who chooses you."  But "no" is always the beginning of winter.  Even the swift ones stack up and put a chill on the day in a way that only the laughter of my kids and the love of my husband can warm again.  Minute by minute by minute.

And so I force the Thaw once again, with another query, to another agent, whose blogs I've read, interviews I've absorbed, words I've pondered and turned over in my mind, hoping for the fit that just...fits.  And then every once in awhile an e-mail comes in from an assistant.  One that doesn't say "re: QUERY:  Marking Time," it just says "Marking Time."  And it has an actual return address, and there's a request written in a friendly assistant's voice asking to see three chapters.  And with one line of a cheery e-mail addressed to me personally Summer has thawed the frozen ground and the Yarrow flowers have pushed their way up, ready to heal all the little cracks and fissures in the self-esteem it's taken a lifetime to build.

And even if the walls slant a little, and the paint ages and peels with every winter the shack has weathered, it's still whole and solid and unapologetically proud to be standing.