Won’t you cling to my Valentine?

in Bulgaria the day I got engaged

Valentine’s Day 1993 I decided to cook. I’d been dating my tactophobe boyfriend since September and had yet to cook for him. Maybe if I cooked, he’d finally kiss me. I didn’t believe that, but I wanted to.

In the morning I went to a wedding. The wedding took place in the bride & groom’s living room. Everyone invited stood in a circle. I stood next to the bride and held the flowers. That was closest I ever came to being a bridesmaid. Laughter and hope filled the ceremony though the marriage wouldn’t last. But when I said my goodbyes to the bride & groom, we couldn’t know they would divorce and then a while later he’d be dead. I left the party to cook lasagna for my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day.

I cooked in the skirt and satin blouse I’d worn to the wedding as if that would be the detail to charm him. He arrived late. Late enough for me to worry that he wasn’t coming, that he wasn’t really my boyfriend, and that he didn’t want to pretend to like me anymore. But when I opened the door he had flowers and chocolate. I took the six red roses thinking there was hope. The chocolates though… I loved chocolate, but the silly shaped seemed obligatory, predictable. “Thanks,” I said. He was never going to kiss me, I thought. I spun around to the oven. “Look! I cooked!”

He laughed. I unveiled the lasagna and it looked perfect. He had three helpings, and I hated myself for feeling proud of cooking. I didn’t want him to kiss me because I could cook. But, of course, he wasn’t going to kiss me.

On the sofa we sat the way we always did to watch a movie. He leaned against the armrest, I leaned back against him, his arms around my waist. A while later he left like he always did, I went to my room to cry, and when he called the next day, I agreed to see him again.

I think about the tactophobe whenever I wonder if I’m doing the wrong thing–as if trying to win an agent is like trying to win a kiss. And just as I cooked lasagna for the wrong person, I’m sending query letters to the wrong people too. It took months to accept that he was never going to like me, and when I knew it, I kept trying anyway.

I don’t seem able to pick the right agent. There is a right agent, isn’t there?

How and where do you search for an agent? What do you look for? How much rejection have you dealt with so far?

7 thoughts on “Won’t you cling to my Valentine?

  1. There is a right agent. And you will find him or her. I know there’s duptrope or whatever it’s called, but I wish there was something a little more like eharmony for writers and agents. There probably is but I don’t know about it.

    How long do you look? Well. How long would you look for the right mate? Would you settle for less than what you wanted? So, you look until you find the right one.

    It’s like Lincoln’s answer when someone asked him how long a man’s legs should be, and he said, “Long enough to reach the ground.”

    And just like dating, there will be fits and starts along the way. But the faith that you’ll find the right one will give you the courage and willingness and hope to keep looking no matter how many rejections. Didn’t Edison say something about there are like 795 ways NOT to make a lightbulb? Something like that. So, maybe if you think of it as you’re going to discover how many agents are wrong for you before you find the right one, maybe it’ll help it go down a bit easier. 🙂 Chin up!

  2. I agree with DF — however long it takes, however many you go through, if you’re willing and your writing isn’t the problem, the right agent will get it.

    How do I know that?

    Well, I don’t of course. I’ve never submitted a single query or had more than one rejection. So I guess I’ll be quiet.

    I hate missing those opportunities to keep my mouth (or fingers) shut. *Sigh*

    1. Somewhere I read about the upteen rejections by one successful writer or another and the writer noted that if he had quit at rejection X, then he wouldn’t’ve reached acceptance Y. Does that make sense?

      Blabber/type on all you want. It isn’t a problem here.

  3. I know–because you have told me–that your heart is with the long form rather than the short story, but one rather functional answer to your question about how to get an agent comes from having the agent write to you, having read a short story of yours that was published in some journal somewhere. A number of agents I know subscribe to and read as many as fifty different journals a year. Catherine Ryan Hyde found her then most successful agent as a result of a short story of hers appearing in a journal called Bottom Fish. And no, it is not particularly easy to be accepted in a journal, but it is relatively easier than finding an agent via a letter with a synopsis.

    P.S. Have you tried Betsy Lerner?
    Have you tried Nat Sobel?

    Just thought I’d ask.

    1. I sent Lerner’s agency a query last week. I’ll have to look into Nat Sobel. It seems this year may be devoted to the short story… though I’m still intimidated by the form.

  4. Your questions made me think of a Q & A I read about a popular pulp-ficiton paranormal romance writer named Kresley Cole. Copy & Paste follows:

    Q: What advice do you have for new writers looking to publish?

    A: If you’re set on publishing, then don’t dabble. Decide if you’re in or you’re out. Then do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. I had a “25” plan. At any given time, I would have my writing out in 25 myriad forms–either contests, critiques, agent queries, publisher queries, etc. I believe you have to jump in with both feet.

    I don’t know if that’s helpful. It’s just something that came to mind. I believe in you and your incredible stories. I’m sure there’s an agent match out there for you. Like Dory says, “Just keep swimming.”

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