ocean, walking on whale shit. Call me Alys. There were five of us there. My piece was critiqued first. I had planned it so that I’d get specific feedback on my query letter to the Wales Literary Agency – I told all present that they were members of the board, and to give me any and all reasons why they’d reject my request that they represent me.
Only one person spoke up – a woman who I call Bean Counter. She well knew the formula for query letters, and she let me know what it was – one page, use action words, say in your intro what your relationship to the person you are addressing is – she was good, really good. And I was glad to have gotten her feedback. She knew what to say without even reading my letter.
As Bean Counter was talking, a woman walked into the bookstore. I recognized her – she is the local writer who has made the big time. Her book was so well received that she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I asked her, before she became famous, if she’d read my book proposal and she said that she was too busy. She recognized me, and gave me a pitying look.
We all next gave feedback to an older fellow who thinks very highly of his work. He’s been working on a memoir, but this week he submitted a fictional account for us to read. It was the recollections of a fellow who lived through WW II. What he read to us read well enough, but it didn’t grab me. At one point the narrator writes about the main character shooting a sick cow. I don’t recall exactly, but he told us the caliber of the gun he used. In the next sentence he said that before he shot the cow, that it was “happily chomping on grass.” I couldn’t refrain from saying that “sick cows don’t happily chomp on grass.” The writer got pissy about this – said he had worked with many cows, and many cows that are dying “happily chomp on grass.”
Another fellow read yet another installment of his book about his ongoing conversation with a walking/talking tree. I said it was (in places) not quite believable. He said that what he’s written is a farce, satire in the spirit of Jonathan Swift. I said that he needed to reread Swift. Others had similar concerns.
I was really amazed at how upbeat this fellow was. He did not get irritated – he simply continued to defend his work in a chipper, upbeat fashion. I think that he was pleased to have people respond to it – the adage that negative feedback is good feedback, to him was most appropriate. Either that or he was on anti-depressants.
As we were finishing up, the bookstore owner brought a published writer over to our table. She was thin, young, beautiful – and just had yet another book come out. I about died. It occurred to me that I could have been her, many years ago. I guess that I too would have looked down upon the lot of us not quite good enough washed up washed out wannabee writers. What she couldn’t tell is this -- I’m past my writerly prime, and obviously going downhill fast. But I’m older, wiser, and infinitely more humble than I was many years previously.
There was a lull in the conversation – one in which I headed out the bookstore door at the speed of light. The fellow writing about trees was right on my heels. He handed me a CD with his 272 page memoir/travelogue, and told me some about it. What he said went into one ear and out the other.
I didn’t say that I’d look at what he wrote. I might. Then again, I might not. My writerly end is near. Or, nearer my dog to thee.
Next: 57. 2/27/15: The Writing Life: Only Connect