Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Part 40 of "Miracle Boy": Join the crusade!

Over the past few days, I've been Twittering (tweeting?) excerpts from favorite rejection letters of the past.


Gosh, I'm glad you asked!

I do this not to elicit pity. Let's make that clear from the get-go.

Rather, I'm posting the rejects because…

1) I think they're funny, with their pretentious self-importance, the way they struggle to say "no" ever so humbly and graciously (they never "reject", they "pass");

2) they illustrate the overarching, vexing conundrum--namely, What the hell do these publishing gatekeepers want anyway? Or: Why is it so hard to get my book published?

I'm not alone in this.  I know many, many struggling writers share a similar pain.

Some of whom no doubt suck. But many of whom are worthy.

I contend that publishers and agents often don't really know what they're talking about. To be fair, they're in a tough spot. Publishing is a profession both noble and storied. In that, it's a lot like the dinosaurs. Grand, but probably on the way out.

Look, many of these people want to be instrumental in putting great works out there but feel constrained by the bottom line. So they contort themselves in amusing ways trying to justify their existence.

There is a paucity of and desperate need for risk-taking. Or something like that.

Let's face it: You've read excerpts from my memoir (a new piece of which follows). My potential market would seem pretty vast: NPR is reportedly broadcast on 900 U.S. radio stations, transmitted to more than 150 other countries via satellite, and heard by countless more over the Internet; Americans with disabilities number some 50 million, not to mention their families and the professionals who serve them (one group, Friends of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, boasts 70,000 members!); the Harvard community is pretty sizable; and even readers of the financial magazines to which I contribute should figure into the mix.

So again I ask, What more do these people want?

Speaking of more, I'll post more rejection notes soon. Meanwhile, here is more MIRACLE BOY.
When time comes for me to take the S.A.T., Mother—as I've taken to calling her, to show my maturity—gets me tutored. She knows I haven't had Alec's academic training. Mom has become happier, except for the weekends of chemo- and radiation-induced nausea, during which she hides herself in her bedroom. She's become an item with a man named Bob, another writer and Harvard grad, like Dad. She's also working full-time at a small publishing house. Though she complains that it doesn't pay much, she insists she enjoys the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation. She's even trying to write her own book about having cancer. She says when it's published she'll take us to Europe.

For her, seeing me grow up and managing a degree of independence is a relief and a joy, she says. As if she doesn't want to leave this world worrying about me.

She doesn't even get mad when I tell her I was smoking with friends in the Park. I think she's just glad I have friends, have enough autonomy to be a little naughty. Fitting in has always been important to her. Being well socialized. Maybe it's a case of boys will be boys. But I knew she would feel that way, which is why I told her. I was almost showing off, like smoking with the guys was a badge of acceptance I had achieved.

It's very nice that Mother and I now have this kind of understanding and honesty between us. I'm glad I didn't "divorce" her and move to Stamford. The shrink knew what he was talking about!

When I at last take the S.A.T., Mother makes sure a proctor goes over my answer bubbles. I'm able to handle a regular pencil (or lightweight pen) and paper pretty well, but she's worried I don't press hard enough to make my answers register.

Soon all such standardized tests will be required to make accommodations like that for students like me. But at the time, we have to take accommodations into our own hands.

That's all for now! I need to write more. I have outlined the rest of the story, but I'll spare you that. Leave some suspense. From now on, let's talk about what we need to do to get this thing published. Really published. Old-school-style.

Hope you'll keep riding with me...

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