A Querying We Shall Go

So, my middle-grade fantasy book Mab Ipswich, or The Wickedest Witch is done. Beta-read. Rewritten. Edited. Polished. Querified. And now out in the world in the hands of literary agents who will decide, based on the book’s strengths, if they want to sign me as a client.

It’s nerve-wracking. We spend so much of our time as writers controlling the fates of our books and characters ourselves in the plot and writing choices we make, and it’s jarring to realize the book’s fate is no longer in my hands. It’s in the hands of agents and if all goes well, it will eventually be in the hands of editors, then publishers, then readers. I have gone from god of my carefully-cultivated little universe, to worried bystander. My writing friends and I once compared sending writing out to watching one’s kids apply for college. Well, Mab is currently taking the SATs and I’m a wreck. This does not bode well for me when my son takes the SATs.

I have checked my email about 35,000 times a day since I hit send on the queries. It’s comforting knowing most writers go through this, but not that comforting. A friend advised me that booze helps, but with an infant to look after at home, I can’t indulge enough to numb the query worries.

At my job I’m often on the other side of this table, in the position of evaluating people’s applications for scholarships and exchange programs. I know people pour their hearts and souls into their applications and that, often, they are applying to achieve a long-held dream to study or work abroad. I know I leave people in similar agony as I evaluate their applications and interviews, and that there are not enough positions to go around and there are always people to whom I must say “I regret to inform you…”

It’s the worst part of my job, and I’m sure it’s the worst part of any evaluator’s job (I mean, unless you’re a sociopath), including literary agents and editors. It’s never personal and it’s often less “you are not qualified” as “you are qualified but these other people are *marginally* more qualified and we have to make a choice.” So, it’s good for me to remember that while I am a wreck waiting for emails, other people are wrecks waiting for my emails.

Mab is applying to colleges. I hope she gets in. In the meantime, I have some acceptance letters to begin to draft myself. And no matter what email answers come for Mab and me, I know that in a month or so I’ll be hitting “send” on letters that begin “Congratulations!” and that is something to look forward to.


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