The Write Stuff
December 1, 1998
A writer is a strange beast indeed. In order to be successful, one needs the drive and endurance of a Tasmanian Devil, the protective coating of an Armadillo and the bladder of a small puppy to let all the creativity leak through. A writer needs all these aspects to sit down and write. But to write it all down, send it out, get the rejection letters and then go back to writing takes something else - like a good, long streak of masochism.
I don't seem to have all these qualities. Instead I am a bitter, insecure and compulsive woman who needs her emotional temperature checked every seven minutes. When I send something out into the literary world, I am filled with hope and the expectation that my dreams of success will actually come true. It's the same sensation I get from buying a lottery ticket. For those few days, that $45 million is hanging around, it could be mine - you don't know, it's a real possibility.
Recently, I sent some samples of Hear Me Out to an agency called Creative Syndicate. They syndicate comic strips and columnists like Ann Landers and Molly Ivens. I got a form letter back a few weeks later. It's never a good sign when you get a form letter. You can't even take it as a good sign if it takes a while to get back to you. They age rejection letters so the writer doesn't feel terrible about the lack of time spent on all her hard work. Only through exhaustive research can you be sure that your work was actually read. This time I could tell because the paper was bent at the staple on the first two articles.
Everyone says that I need to get over this sort of rejection without taking it personally. I'm not taking it personally. I simply think they made a terrible decision and missed a great opportunity to take me on as a client. If you believe, as a loyal reader, that they made a terrible mistake as well, you might want to let them know. They can be contacted at INFO@CREATORS.COM, although I never said a thing. Whenever I get down in the dumps like this and feel that I am wasting my time with all this writing hoopla, I have a recurring fantasy I escape into. I'm a guest on an NPR radio show, Fresh Air, which is hosted by the best radio interviewer of all times, Terry Gross.
I discovered NPR about six years ago when I had a job that required I drive all the time. I had a company car with no tape player, much less a CD, so I listened to the radio, all day long. At first I listened to music stations but then I realized that almost all the stations had a 50-song play list and I would hear any given song nine times in the course of a day. I needed something to interject into my music listening pleasure or I was going to experience real road rage.
Remember when people in LA were shooting each other of the freeways? I wonder if anyone ever studied the radio stations at the time. Maybe the only shows on were Rush Limbaugh or All-Manilow-All-The-Time.
Anyway, I discovered NPR and Fresh Air and my sanity was saved. You can always tell if Terry Gross likes the interviewee. She'll laugh a real laugh. Not some fake anemic squeak that passes for a laugh on the major networks. It's a sitting in a cafe sipping lattes on a Thursday evening and a turn of phrase hits you and you let out a laugh and a sign of relief at the same time because of the pure pleasure of conversation sort of laugh.
My fantasy is always the same. I'm sitting in an NPR sister station in San Francisco with ear phones the size of my dog sitting on my head and Terry Gross is in Boston. I overhear her talking to her crew about technical things like amps and diodes. Some blond Media Arts intern hovers over me asking of I'd like some coffee or tea or, maybe, some Chinese takeout from the place across the street.
Eventually the interview begins. I hear the theme music swell up and then her voice, silky smooth and a little breathy, drops in over the jazzy, intellectual melody, "I'm Terry Gross and this is Fresh Air."
Her questions are interesting and she knows my work. She even asks me to read from my book, Pictures of an Exhibitionist. We talk about Leslie and my family and my growing fear of cheese, Fromage-A-Phobia. She informs the audience about the phenomenal sales of my collection and that it outsold Dave Barry's first book. I simply let the statement stand, not wanting to sound either egotistical or falsely humble. (What the hell, if you dream - dream big!)
I'm charming the hell out of her and enjoying myself immensely until she brings up that unfortunate rejection from The Creative Syndicate. Even after all these years, it still stings.
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Copyright 1998 by Laura Jiménez.