Monday, February 23, 2009

Prof. Ostrom Cheers Me Up

Chapter Two is now in the link above for those of you following Strachan's Attic adventures. I should have the third one here by Wednesday.

I came across an amazing blog site on the weekend, written by English Professor, Hans Ostrom, who must be a refreshingly fun lecturer. He posted this poem on literary agents' responses, "The Rhetoric of Rejection", that totally cracks me up, and beneath that is an earlier post about a novel leaving home and coming back again, "A Novel Returns To Live With Its Author." Below are extracts from each, but please go to his blog at Red:A Book to read them in their entirety, and also to find a link to his second blog, devoted purely to poetry. I hope he doesn't mind my extracts here (I did mention I was doing this) but I found them so accurate in describing how I've been feeling recently, and we need to lighten up a bit over the whole query experience. Anyway, I had to share them with you and introduce you to a nice new blog site.

"The Rhetoric of Rejection"

Forgive this form-response its sins,
but due to the volume of queries we
quaff, our belched rebuffs must be
uniform. . . . Loved the writing, but
I'm afraid this isn't quite right for us;
indeed, it is quasi-wrong. . . . I can't
imagine anything interesting about
this topic. Indeed, I can't imagine.
. . . . Thank you for sending
us the complete manuscript
we requested; it looked quite promising
a decade ago when we received it, and
we do apologize for the delay, but
we're afraid it (the manuscript, not
the decade or the delay), is not quite
right for us . . . .Your first idea is too
old-fashioned, and your second is too
unusual, and at our agency, the center
is what holds. . . . We can't help you. . . .
Due to the volume, the market, the
predictions of Nostradamus, our
location in Manhattan, London,
Toronto, and Los Angeles, your
being unimportant, our being well
positioned, there being many famous
writers we can cash in on..............."
(See the blog for the rest.)

"A Novel Returns To Live With Its Author."

"In manuscript form, a novel decided to leave its author, see a bit of the world, and attempt to get published. Life out there, the novel discovered, is rough.

To the novel, it seemed like everyone it met wanted it to be not what it was. Longer. Shorter. This story--not that story. Move this there. No, keep it here. Add. Subtract. Faster. Slower. The language is too literary. Not literary enough. More. Less. Don't start here, for heaven's sake. Start there. No, don't start there. Start here. Your characters, novel, are wooden. Your characters are steel. They are real. They feel. I feel nothing for these characters, novel. I couldn't stop reading you, novel. I stopped reading you, in disgust. You're dumb. I hate you. That would never happen. Can they do that?

These are some of the things the novel heard said about and to it.

"I've been to that town," someone told the novel, "and it's not like that there." (The novel had invented the town; the town was a piece of fiction.)

"Less persuasion," said someone, of and to the novel. The person was the most rigid, maniacally opinion person the novel had met so far in its sojourns. The person would not brook disagreement.

"I couldn't finish you," someone else said to the novel. "You bore me." The novel barely heard this because the person was, well, boring.

"I couldn't stop reading you," someone else said, "and I wish this sort of thing were selling, but it's not."

Someone else lectured the novel: "You don't know what you're talking about."

So the novel came back to live with the author for a while."
(See the blog for the rest.)

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this writing. It makes me feel better knowing that Prof. Ostrom is out there saying what we think, when we've been unable to truly express it ourselves. It's nice knowing we aren't alone in our grumpiness (I thought misery was too strong a word...).


  1. I enjoyed your blog very much. Thanks for visiting my secondary blog, and I'm glad you liked a couple of the posts. Good luck with the writing and painting.

  2. I'm indebted to you for putting a new slant on my efforts. I've been quite grumpy lately.

  3. Well, this one was particularly good because of the Professor's input. I wish I could have written it!

  4. As much as I like "fefared" as a made-up word, I changed it, and I added more things for which I need to apologize! Sdo thanks for catching the typo. On my other blog, Poet's Musings, I put in a good word for you and other writer/painters or painter/writers.

  5. Oh, no! I thought it was a new, terribly modern word. My dictionary is so old, like me.

    I liked the way it plays on the lips...


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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky