I tried not to get excited. I really did.
When a small publishing house in Brooklyn asked to see the first 40 pages of my novel, I immediately told myself, “take it easy. They just want a peek. You’re a long way from the New York Times bestseller list.”
But it was something.
It was some kind of positive energy after all the rejections, all the form letters that apologized for being form letters while telling me to take a hike, all the “it’s not quite what we’re looking for” e-mails that had me screaming up to the rafters “what in the holy transmogrified hell are you looking for?”
This email was actually written by humans. And they were interested.
I don’t care how calm and relaxed you think you are, when a publisher asks to see your manuscript, you’re going to be thrilled.
Your mind will blast into the future perfect tense and you’re going to see your book in print, picture yourself giving readings and autographing copies of your masterpiece. You’re going to imagine being interviewed on NPR, recognized in the supermarket, and jetting out to LA to meet with movie producers.
For days after receiving that request, I did everything I possibly could to push those foolish fantasies out of my head.
No, I said, you’re not there yet. They must ask writers for samples all the time. How many of them actually get published?
But it’s impossible to shift my imagination into neutral, despite my desire to be more mindful and to stay in the real world.
I still saw myself holding a hardcover book with my name on the front and a picture of my beautiful mug on the back.
And on Tuesday I got a response.
Now before I go any further, I must tell you that Tuesday was also—and most importantly—the birthday of my beautiful niece Kristin. I made sure to post a message on her Facebook page as soon as I got up that morning and then I called to wish her a happy.
We spoke later that day and I still marveled at how quickly the time has gone by and how my niece went from being a little baby in my arms to a lovely young woman taking on the world.
I was feeling pretty good after that, so I decided to check my email. And that's when I saw a response for the small publishing house in Brooklyn.
I paused, prayed, and then clicked the thing open.
Use Your Mentality...
“Thanks so much for the prompt reply!” the email began. “We greatly enjoyed reading the first forty pages of your novel. The writing was sharp and filled with intriguing questions and motifs.”
Yes, exactly--sharp and filled with intriguing questions and motifs. These people love me! Where do I sign?
“We especially found the disjointed narrative interesting, and it created a very unique piece,” the email continued.
Not just unique, but very unique--couldn’t have said it better myself. Do you think we can get Scorsese to direct the movie? DeNiro could play the heavy and for the lead, I’m thinking we should get--
“Unfortunately, this is not quite the genre we are looking to publish right now. Be sure to keep us in mind for your future projects! Best of luck.”
I stared at my computer for what felt like several hours. Best of luck?
You mean you don’t want to publish my book? I’m not going to be a famous author? I won’t be doing the talk show circuit, partying with movie producers or summering in the Hamptons? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?
I know those people said a lot of very nice things about my work, but there’s a part of me that almost wishes I had gotten the mass market kiss-off or maybe even a screaming “your writing sucks monkey balls!” response.
To get this close and strike out, to get such high praise and still walk away empty-handed, to see what I thought was the end of the struggle and then realize that I still have miles to go before I sleep, oh, mama, that’s just tearing me to pieces.
Now there is certainly enough good news in that email to keep me going a little while longer.
It’s really very encouraging and I know that all I have to do is find that one publisher or agent who feels the way these people do and are willing to take that next crucial step.
But I’m also very disappointed and angry with myself for getting so worked up over what turned out to be yet another dead end. How could I have allowed myself to get so twisted like that?
And then I started thinking about Kristin again.
I remembered that day a quarter of a century ago when my mother called me at the weekly newspaper where I was working and breathlessly said “Robert, you’re an uncle!”
I remembered how I pounded on my desk, punched the air, and ran out the door to get a present for this newest member of our family. I was the happiest man on earth that day and that hasn’t changed one bit.
Yes, that writing dream is still eluding me and I know there’s a good chance that it will never be anything more than a dream.
But this is the day that Kristin came into our lives and both she and my other niece, Victoria, prove that I already have the best luck in the world.