Monday, August 29, 2005

These Are The Pearls That Were His Eyes.

Um. Well now.
We are advised that, among other things, a list of previous publications will lift us out of the sea of queries that surge against every agent's and editor's breakwater. That they will allow us to emerge, like Venus, from the heart-break of the slush pile. Previous publication indicates that someone, somewhere, thought we were marginally good enough to print.
Publishing credits?
~rubbing hands ~
I have them.
But wait. WAIT.
Unfortunately, these credits are non-fiction, not many, and, worst of all, not recent.
Oh, way back when, there were some nice cheques from decent American magazines. There was even the book that made it as far as galley proofs before the publisher ran into money troubles and released it. And then the next publisher who snapped it up promptly went bankrupt.
And there was the commissioned article that got reprinted by a terrorist think-tank and is still knocking around on the internet somewhere.
Like the little aliens in an old Sesame Street skit who got all excited about a ringing telephone, I can't imagine them saying yepyepyepyep. I imagine them saying nopenopenopenope.
I've written all along, but just haven't sent the piggie to market. If I mention these "credits," no agent or editor is going to be impressed. At best, they will think "hobbyist." At best. More likely they will think WTF?
Contests are also sometimes indicated, as a good uber-intertuber to float you above the bilge. You know, things like the Hugo, Nebula, Rita.
As I remember, the only contest I ever won was the one run by a Canadian newspaper to write the best opening line for a novel about the Mulroney years. "Mila deliberately squeezed the trigger" got me a yard of books.
Well, there was the major item I won twice in undergrad. But it was for poetry. Poetry. I can see them cringing now. More WTF. Even the Fiddlehead wouldn't cut it. Sorry, Atwood.
Important People You Might Know (OF).
Does your best friend's uncle play golf with a publisher? Do you babysit for a very important author? Things like that.
Let me see now. There was the Governor- General prize winner who fantasized about my picture - or so he said. But he's decently dead. And then there's...nope, dead. What about?...dead, too. My whole contact list is a dusty morgue. Totally ancienne. Maybe I can sell their letters someday...
So far, I'm 0 for 4.
Where's my snorkle?


Muse said...

I, for one, think that's a pretty impressive list, even if you left out at least two awards. And I think it would only be fair to acknowledge that any gap in your publishing record coincides with the two (+) decades you spent raising your recalcitrant and sometimes incontinent children and reading and supporting *their* work.

It's a question worth considering: how does one account for gaps in one's writing career, particularly those associated with parenting or caring for others (not to mention prison, pauperism, politics, or years spent following the Grateful Dead). How do editors and agents view such interludes? Certainly one must emerge with a wealth of experience, which hopefully finds expression in subsequent work.

Muse said...

Oops; me sees them awards on second reading. But me still thinks you're too modest.

Bernita said...

They might view such interludes pertinent IF they applied to the submission you presented.
Such as "Life on the Inside." or "Secrets of the Hill" or if it were a self-help guide for "Writers Who Are Also Mothers."
Actually, saw a blog by someone who worked on her ms during a hurricane. It was her ingenuity in jerryrigging power that amazed me.
Thing is, many, many writers deal with the usual tragedies and disasters and still produce. While I produced, I didn't submit.
Agents and editors do NOT want to hear some apologetic, exculpatory story about why a writer does not have current credits.They don't have time for that.It probably shrieks "amateur." Better to be tabula rasa than lame.
No weaseling.

Onsmi Welcol said...

I've linked to you on my blog. Keep making great entries! Modesty is overrated, you know. I haven't had a modest thought in years.

Bernita said...

Thank you. That was very nice.

Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks for the nice comment over at Miss Snark, Bernita.

Okay. It's driving me nuts. "These are the pearls that were his eyes" -- is that from The Tempest?

Bernita said...

You are very welcome.
The source line is through Eliot's "The Wasteland" > The Tempest- Ariel's song.

ScaramoucheX said...

You're only telling us about your relationship with READERS...what's it like to be Bernita the Writer? is what I want to know...who cares about what other people think of you? What do you think of yourself, how do you feel when you write, when you have written, when you contemplate writing...tell me that, and I will read your words and smile.

Bernita said...

You smiled when you wrote that, didn't you?