• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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An Ocean of Violets in Bloom

 

0491d83ae06af501b9a4075e2d3877ccWHen I left the world of editorial to become an agent, the most asked question I received was: where are you going to find clients? All the usual places: under rocks, in dives, in Nova Scotia, in their parents basement smoking crack. Or like Wallace Stevens in Hartford, or Paterson NJ, or the Keys. Don’t kid yourself, writers are everywhere, like faeries, you just need to know how to look. And then you have to have the right blend of blossoms and honey to get them to come out and play. How do you get clients. #1 way for most agents is referrals. #2 write letters to interesting people who you think have a story or some message #3 writers conferences and MFA pogroms. You could also steal other people’s clients. I worked for a man who read every literary magazine there was and wrote to the writers whose stories he admired. He called them friendly fan letters and that’s the kind I write. Sometimes you hear back, often you don’t. That never stops me from trying again. Sometimes, like many things in life, it’s a matter of timing.

Where can you be found?

Tomorrow Part III: How do agents put a submission list together?

10 Responses

  1. Right here under this “leave a comment” rock.

  2. I am late to personal writing and very late to agents and ambition.
    I started writing publicly on the newly opened Open Salon. I got an Editor’s Pick with my first piece, and was encouraged. After more EPs I joined a local AWA writing group, to improve myself and to listen to/be with writers. After a career as illustrator for the New Yorker, and CLIO winner/judge as art director, I found my one true art as a writer in my forties. I had two short plays produced, one off-Broadway. Salon itself picked up a few of my pieces, notably one about my Parkinson’s diagnosis. One of my OS pieces, a rightwing/leftwing Violence timeline, was a huge hit, and attracted a dozen comments from rightwing loon Jonah Goldberg of the National Review. He complimented me in that mag for my fairness and sincerity. Ha.
    I started to think about setting aside my big tech projects career (Yale, etc), for full-time writing.
    I wanted, needed, to write a particular thing. I have book/screenplay outlines, stories, poetry, and essays, because I am driven to write every day—but there was one project that mattered above all. I had 100,000 words already, in various forms.
    I came from a horrorshow family. I ran away as early and often as the sixties permitted. At fourteen, corrupt guards left me in a cell with three older boys, who raped and humiliated me for five days. I required surgical fixes, afterwards. Despite this I became a single father at 19 and raised my oldest daughter alone until she was almost ten. She, and my two younger daughters, are grown, and ferocious, fearless successes now.
    I am answering your prompt. Wait for it, please, and forgive my delay.
    I have my share of ambition and writerly vanity. But writing is what I do, what I will always do, because it sorts me out and saves my life. Until I got Parkinson’s I was indifferent about being published. A diva thing, it seems, as I felt pursuing publication would break the spell, dull my talent. That’s real enough—it happens to others—so I bought it.
    But my essential project—a memoir about how I broke the cycle of my family, and did not let trauma ruin my life or my children’s—is done now, so I confront at last the need to get an agent and get published. About seven months ago I queried you, Molly Friedrich, and a shortlist of a dozen others. You gave me a civil turndown, Betsy; most have not responded. I will continue the effort.
    I know who I am and what I have. Over a hundred writers, avid about my ability, crowdfunded the book when I was in my most difficult phase of movement disorders a few years ago. Talented and even famous writers, like Ellen Meister, Steve Weinberg, and Lea lane, among scores of others, have read my finished memoir, all or some, and champion my work, aid me with the query, etc. Steve has offered to help me with investigative journalism expertise, to bring daylight to the facility I was in and those guards. (I confess the idea that my book would bring approximate justice, for the boys who preceded and followed me in that cell, is a compelling reason to pursue publication, for me.) The detailed, articulate praise I’ve received is heady, and insofar as it points to publication of the memoir, I welcome it, but if I could have my dream life I would write in a tower by the sea, be safe and want for nothing, and write write write what my heart insists upon.
    Severe trauma distorted me. I deferred my own pain, for others sake, my whole life. My abilities are likely to fade, with PD. I cannot now diminish my art for commercial success, as insipid as that sounds. But my art is great, and all I have. My oldest daughter, the lovely woman I raised, had a ten-hour surgery two weeks ago for a cancer that will shorten her life considerably. I edit her book now, edit books for others with special stories to tell. I start an hourlong radio show, as co-host with a trial lawyer, about trauma and recovery. I am driven to dispel my grief and pain with tikkun olam. It is not closure, but it heals.
    I will either be read by an agent or not.
    It is liberating to write this here, since you have already said no. To tell the whole truth to someone with your experience, and to experienced fellow writers. The angling/maneuvering game is exhausting.
    If there are lessons here, the most essential is: love your art, and do what you love. And this: there is no limit to how good writing can be.

  3. “Writers are everywhere…”

    Boy are they. Just mention you’ve written a book and every single person in the room is a writer. And that’s okay. The more the merrier.

    “Where can you be found?” I don’t venture too far. Right here, at my desk, most days.

    “Sometimes, like many things in life, it’s a matter of timing.”

    That is the truest of true sentences. Timing is everything. It’s not knowing when that drives us crazy.

  4. “Where can you be found?”

    I’m right here. And in this Internetted age, neither I nor pretty much anybody else in the post-industrial demimonde is hard to find.

    Here’s a story of a story: I once had a story published in a reputable litmag and some weeks later received a letter from an agent who had read it and wondered if I had a novel. Did I! It was a novel mess. I sent it to him and sorry, but he didn’t agent novel messes. The moral of the story? A writer’s not going to get a whole hell of a lot of invitations to the ball. If your fairy godmother’s next door poofing that bitch Cinderella and you’re still on your hands and knees trying to figure out how to get the grout clean, you may as well invest in some knee pads and rubber gloves.

  5. Look for me in all the usual places: standing towards the back of the room, seated against the wall, lingering by the door. Did you see me wave?

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