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Querying — why I’m now nervous about it

I’m no stranger to querying literary agents — I’ve been in the ‘query trenches’ on and off for nearly six years now, I think.

It started with naive, three line query letters that told agents hardly anything about the book, sent to one agent at a time. And I’d wait, and wait, and wait before sending off again because I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the agency’s submission guidelines — which not only stated it was fine to query multiple agents at one time (at other agencies) but also that if I didn’t hear back within the stated time, I should consider it a pass. Sometimes I did get responses, polite rejections that it never occured to me were simple form responses.

I wasn’t too upset, because I had other books to work on. And the more I worked and improved my craft, the more my desire to one day see them in print grew from dream to goal. Quite suddenly, it seemed, I realised no agent would take me seriously unless I was serious. Partnering with a literary agent is a business partnership much like any other. Sure, they love books and want authors to succeed, but they’re not there to babysit. So I researched the querying process as much as I could. Through books, Youtube channels, agency websites, talks by agents at literary festivals and many other resources. And I’m still doing it.

Now, I’ve queried at least seven different manuscripts over the years, and my query packages (letter, synopsis, writing sample [usually the book’s first 3 chapters]) have gotten better over the years, as have the responses. I’ve had a few full manuscript requests on some, and most recently, I got a revise and resubmit. And though they eventually resulted in passes, I feel that I’ve upped my game enough that getting an agent is definitely achievable. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other querying authors who have put in just as much work as I have, with every bit as much drive. So the competition is very real.

Which is why, having polished one of my most recent projects and prepared my query letter and synopsis ready for submitting, I’m more nervous about it than before. I have huge faith in this book — not only do I love the characters and story, but it’s my first ownvoices (I know I mentioned some of my characters in previous books are autistic, but this is the first that outright states it and is set in the real world). I’ve also been very strict with myself not to send it out too early, which has been one of my biggest mistakes with previous books. Usually, I’m too eager to get them out there without taking the proper time over them, so they’re rejected on things easily fixable.

I’m not convinced there’s really a point to this ramble, other than to express my jitters. But I’ll end by saying going the traditional route in publishing takes a lot of time and drive. Each rejection hurts, some more than others, and have kick-started bouts of depression. But I’ve seen other authors achieve the things I want to, so I’m not giving up. And I think that’s the key to breaking into this industry: the people who do keep pushing, no matter what.

Poetry

Imposter

The pages of drafts and edits could decorate my walls,

each finished book a paperweight, a door stop,

decoration for the shelves

and hideaway for the mind after a long day.

Above all, evidence.

 

Surely I can’t dispute clear fact?

 

The voice of blank bears down on me,

drawing up every negative:

comments, remarks, comparisons,

the scattered and scribbled notes in my journal,

scratched out because they weren’t good enough.

 

Weren’t good enough. Weren’t good enough.

 

Do I prove it right? Or plug my ears,

gather my notes and map them into sense

just like I did last time?

Poetry

Your attention, please!

And standing, I take a breath

and place the last piece of the puzzle in place.

The click shakes the ground

and reorganises the entire picture

into a montage of how I got here

and the effort it took: the hours

of┬ástudying, crafting ’til midnight,

brainstorming in the shower,

putting on armour to shield myself from every rejection

and fighting for my voice to be heard.

 

The film keeps running,

I’m not done yet.

Poetry

Waterfalls

The pick strikes the ice and shatters the fragments

out into the air. Down they go, hearty lumps,

past my feet as I cling to the side.

 

I stretch up, pick ready, and strike again.

My chest hurts – I’m too eager, I know.

Fragments fly.

 

A routine: pick strike, ice diamonds

pick strike, ice diamonds.

Just frozen water playing rain.

 

So why am I bleeding?

Poetry

A wish

A wish is all I need

said the star to the girl.

A wish in your heart to fill

the expanding void. Stitch

it shut so that you, yes:

you in the sheet who

becomes the sheet when legs

appear around you,

folding you up into a neat

package presented with glitter

and string. You can’t disappear,

fade out from their faces.

You can remain, bold,

outlined and real.

A wish is all I have

said the girl to the star.

A wish in my heart, small

but waiting to expand.

Poetry

Bound.

I jumped over a hill today.

One of those great rolling ones

that merge with the ocean

just out of sight.

 

I did it in one spring.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

 

I don’t want to talk about the chains.

 

They wrap around my arms,

squeezing

the flesh

so that it bulges.

 

I used

to point at them,

rattle the links in their faces.

But always

they would claim

they couldn’t see.

 

Now I stare into the distance,

leaping across fields

and dipping my toes

into the cool water of the lake.

 

They can’t see the chains;

they can’t see my escape.

 

The air

might not

be fresh on my journeys.

I don’t mind.

 

There’s freedom there,

and I claim it.

 

 

Poetry

Opening credits

Pretending it’s okay

not to be cast

as the main character,

to always be left behind

while others race to the moon

and bathe in its shimmering

light.

 

That’s you all over.

 

I’ve watched you

calmly accepting

year after year

day after day

hour after hour

that you’re second best.

 

I can’t hold back any longer.

 

I reach for the mirror,

grasping it firmly,

and force you to look

into it.

 

You do.

 

Your eyes meet mine.

You realise that you don’t want

to

race

to the moon, anyway.

 

You strap rockets to your feet

and fly

instead,

capturing its light

in your hands

to sculpt

the moon’s tears

one by one,

each different to the last.

 

People pick them up where they land,

marveling at their uniqueness.

 

Finally, you’re proud

of who you are.

 

Finally, I’m proud

of who I am.