On Bad Luck
Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 9/16/07
Iím depressed. Why? For the past ten months Iíve been having literary foreplay with a literary agent who told me she thought I was a Ďterrificí writer, had excellent credentials and that she loved my work. She loved it so much that throughout this time, we spoke twice on the phone, and I shared with her 3 of my manuscripts. It seemed like she was pretty focused on having me as a client. That is, until last week when she told me no. Her reasons? She didnít think she could sell my work to a major New York publisher, albeit admitting that it was a subjective opinion. So what did I do? I sobbed. I Moaned. Contemplated swallowing that entire bottle of Tylenol P.M. (Kidding). I bought a cheesy Hollywood movie on DVD that I spent too much money on, and ended up watching it as a means of trying to cheer myself up. Then I regretted buying it, despite sinfully enjoying it, throbbing head and all.
For the past four months, ever since I sent the 3rd manuscript (in April is when I sent it) Iíve been saying how I just want to know her answer so I can move on. Yes or no? I thought that once I got it I would feel better, but now I only feel shitty. One of the things writers complain about is how they can never seem to find a literary agent who can recognize the quality in their work. But what do you do when you have that already, in addition to Ďexcellent credentialsí (as she called them) and she still doesnít sign you?
You go back to the beginning. Trying to get published is by far one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Itís like trying to get into Harvard medical or law school x 1000. Unless you are a celebrity or a media whore of some sort, the unconnected masses have to struggle like hell. Iíve come to the conclusion that the only way to get published and benefit in the short term is through luck. Quality (as Iíve shown) does not matter.
The agent told me I should submit to some small presses, one of which published a client of hers. I did. But again, getting accepted by a small publisher can be just as difficult as getting accepted by a large one. What really tires me is how no one values the talent, only the ephemeral things like awards, who your publisher is, who blurbed for you. It does not matter if what you produce is shit, as long as you have these things. As proof, Iíll offer the fact that in his lifetime, Robert Frost won 4 Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry. I didnít know that until I looked him up on Wikipedia. Does it matter? Now knowing that, is his poetry any better? Emily Dickinson was ignored in her lifetime. Again, does it matter now?
One of the things Woody Allen stresses in his film Crimes & Misdemeanors is how the thing people fear most is randomness. They donít like knowing they have no control over certain things, and ultimately how success in life comes down to luck. Yes people will throw the whole Ďhard workí and Ďtalentí thing in there, but thatís not what decides in the short term. I have those 2 things but I lacked the luck. So now Iím back to where I started: sending to a small press that will probably reject me, despite my ability to advertise on highly popular sites and the fact that my book(s) are not dull and pretentious, but actually insightful, fun reads if they actually read them.
I have not been lucky enough to push forward. My life remains a series of maybes and almosts. But despite the ass crack of life looming over me with ready-made shit, I still have hope as I look up from the bottom of the toilet. Appreciate that now, (the hope) because in five minutes that could (and probably will) change, for another dump always awaits.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Van Der Galien Gazette.]
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