Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Walking into my meeting with agent Jeff, I didn’t know what to expect. The times I pitched before, the agent only knew my name. A month ago, I sent my material to Jeff. He read my entire proposal and first two chapters of my project. I was also nervous. Imagine! Shaking hands, we introduced ourselves. He leafed through a pile of papers and pushed them towards me. “Please pull your material out.” He wasn’t even organized. At least I could blame my hesitation on nerves and being an armature writer. He has decades of experience. I pulled out my pages and handed them to him.
“What makes you an expert on suffering? What are your qualifications?” His ton of disapproval enveloped the room.
I listed my “qualifications” in my proposal but I humored him. “I have watched those around me suffer as I myself have suffered.”
“Are you a psychologist?”
“No.” This completely threw me because I listed my degree.
“You don’t have the authority to write a project like this. You can’t compete with someone with a PHD.”
I have never intended to compete with doctors. My goal is to write about stories and how through these stories we can learn skills to apply to our lives helping us still lead lives of purpose while in great amounts of physical, mental, or emotional pain. I have always believed we can learn from literature. Now I want to connect the dots.
As we continued to talk, I felt smaller and less significant because I have no big initials behind my name. Yet, I sat taller because I knew he was not the agent for me. He seemed highly offended I pitched to him a piece with Christian stories in them. He shook his head in disbelief at my idea of discussing that Eve and Adam suffered. (Yes, there is a huge debate on if there even was an Adam and Eve, but remember I am working with story.) Of course they suffered. They physically were torn away from God. They lost both their sons. They most definitely suffered.
Once we started talking about my autoimmune diseases, he said I am qualified to write about my experiences of suffering and the process I went through to turn my situation into something positive. I needed to write a personal narrative, but I had to stay away from family topics. He also stated I needed to find a Christian publisher. Hum, why did he have religion as a category on his web-site then?
I will admit that he did say one thing useful. He stated my writing was choppy. I most certainly agree. Transitions have always been a downfall for me. I also struggle to express exactly what I am trying to say with topics that are so close to my heart. I also rush at times when I feel the need to just get it done. I know these things. In actuality, I shouldn’t have pitched this project, but at the time, I really had no other options. I damned the torpedoes and I now know his publishing company is not for me.
My aunt asked if his life has been “sunshine and roses.” I actually think he suffers. He mentioned that he believed some people are unable to be happy due to genes. I don’t buy that. Yes, chemical imbalances can cause depression. I had this happen to me after two pregnancies. I also think the way we are raised can play a part in how we deal with suffering, but with all of this, we can learn to overcome the obstacles of suffering. He made a comment that if a person is happy they won’t strive for anything. I disagree. I am very happy; yet, I strive everyday to become a better writer. So, really, I think his belief system is about as different as one can be from mine. In fact, I suspect he may enjoy suffering to use it as a catalyst to propel him further. At any rate, he is not the agent for me.
Amazingly, I was quite humored by the entire meeting. I came out of the classroom feeling good with myself for trying. However, though I didn’t really like Jeff or think all he said had merit, I am still left with the typical doubts I have when being rejected. Will anyone ever say I have what it takes to publish? Am I wasting my time? A college student just left my house. He was here to have me edit his paper and I fear that I did it wrong. Writing is such a fickle undertaking. As one agent said, “I hate dogs. If you have dog in your story, I will reject it.” How do you stay sane with that kind of rejection?
God is standing over my shoulder cheering me on. He knows Jeff isn’t the right person to partner up with for this project. I can stay sane with Him helping me along the way. When I start to feel blocked, He will give my husband or one of my readers (family and friends) the right words to keep me working. In fact, one suggested I put some Bailey’s in my coffee. I think I will do just that.
While thinking about this small event in my life and the project, a new direction for my story unfolded. I had named the book The Positive in Suffering. I didn’t like it, but that is what came to me when I sent the proposal. The new idea is Finding Perseverance through Story. I love this so much better. Instead of concentrating on the negativity of suffering, I will focus on perseverance despite suffering. Yes, this had always been the plan, but the focus of the title is so much clearer. Thank you Lord!!!
Blessing to you all.