Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Stop Worrying about that Orphan in Agent-Land

The orphan in question is my book, Hafan Deg, which is out there in the nasty old world, waiting politely in the ether, perhaps for an assistant to come back from lunch, or the boss lady to find a minute to look at it (because the assistant already has and she thought it might be viable). My orphan is so alone out there, with no one to remove that last unnecessary comma, or tweak that sentence that never did look quite right, but absolutely nothing else came to mind to replace it. My orphan has been out there for rather a long time, since January, in fact. She's floated around for half of the winter, through the early crispness of spring, rarely acknowledged and certainly not praised, and the only words I get back about her are the short, mostly sweet, email notes, "..not for me...", "while I appreciate...I cannot, at this time...", "original concept, but sadly I'm unable..." And my orphan feels hurt that the world isn't ready for her, and would like to come home and stay home, back in that dark, cozy drawer, but I can't allow it.

I've been told so many times, and believe it sometimes, that I must keep pushing her out there again and again. That it's the best thing for her. That she'll never be truly free until she's faced all her fears. And so I try not to think about her, passing her on to yet more professional and rational beings, people who have no emotional involvement with her, but who will take good practical care of her in the end, it's hoped.

I have Strachan's Attic to be concerned with now. This Other is the reason I sit down each day, to stare at a screen until my eyes start to water. I have to get this Other up and running by herself, ease her through her baby steps, and on to some kind of maturity, so I can send her off on her own journey, which will be easier for her, I think. (You just sense these things, don't you?) From time to time, when one of those little emails pops up, I think about the Orphan and wonder if she'll be all right. But then I give a little sigh, and get back to my Other novel.

But how I envy writers who truly wash their hands of their literary offsprings once the last page is really, really finished. And do I truly believe them when they say that?

John Steinbeck said,
"I truly do not care about a book once it is finished. Any money or fame that results has no connection in my feeling with the book. The book dies a real death for me when I write the last word. I have a little sorrow and then go on to a new book which is alive. The rows (!!!) of my books on the shelf are to me like very well embalmed corpses. They are neither alive, nor mine. I have no sorrow for them because I have forgotten them, forgotten in its truest sense."
Well, of course, he would say that, wouldn't he? Rows of his books on a shelf? Plenty more where they came from, what?

So I get back to the current writing because this takes my mind off that poor orphan out there on her own. It takes my mind off the fact that my paintings aren't selling, and stops me wondering what that's about. It takes my mind off my solitary state living in this small town, which I chose, but which I now think was a mistake. (It seems I prefer noise and bustle about me. I'm a city girl for all my fine rural talk.) My writing is a consolation, a shield from life's frustrations - from slights with friends, a poorly-planned cash flow, decisions on where to live in this world, to the stress of watching the news. My writing - as with my reading - is escapism.

And Little Orphan Hafan Deg had just better learn to get on with things by herself.



Casey said...

It really is a lovely form of escapism, isn't it?

I hope your orphan is able to find a home soon.

Johanna said...

Oh no. Now I am sad too because my orphan manuscript is out there with yours!

I just happened upon your blog and am enjoying it immensely. An artist and a writer: the full package.

I have only sent my manuscript out to about 8 agents but already felt better when it was just on my shelf looking at me. Horrible feeling wondering where it is and if anyone is treating it right. Even worse is knowing that if said agent doesn't like it, our little orphans will be lost forever...

But the bright side is that soon, these little nuggets of life experience and our hard work WILL (because I am an optimist) be out there inspiring others and causing a stir in the literary community...I know so!

Melissa Marsh said...

I feel the same way with my writing - it is my escape. Which is why I am so befuddled that I have absolutely no idea what to write about next! Oh, I have ideas, I suppose, but nothing that is compelling me. It is a lonely, bewildering place to inhabit and I grow to hate it more each day.

I would like to spend a few days in the country, but then I need the ebb and the flow of the city around me again.

I think, Fran, that if you and I were ever to meet in person, we would spend hours upon hours talking! We seem to have a lot in common. ;-)

Fran said...

I knew you'd understand. I feel your presence even when I'm irritable, and it sooths me. What would I do without you?