This morning I will get to battle the hordes to sign up for the lgbt reading, as well as the craft classes. Yesterday over 100 eager writers lined up for the craft slots, filling the lobby of what used to be a hotel when it was constructed in the late 1800s. Today, the first readings sign-ups go on the bulletin board.
I checked out the spot where we will line up for a go at the sign-up sheets after breakfast, even though I’ve checked it out at least five times already. After a few days talking to folks I have learned the number of people vying for the 15 queer slots will be considerable. Already I know that every letter of the acronym seems to be represented (except perhaps the A), a far, far cry from my times at Squaw Valley, where one year I was the only queer person of any description (that I could find). Here, there are dozens! Dare I say it: we are proportionally represented. It’s shocking. Same seems to go for people of color. I’m not sure about the proportional bit for POC, but the selection committee seems to have opened the doors. I feel a weight lift from my shoulders. I realize that I’ve been breathing shallow since I got here. (I have a CPAP machine that I find of doubtful utility. I left it at home.) I take a deep breath.
There are readings for contributors in general, and I debate whether to sign up for one of these, in case I can’t get an lgbt spot. I get to read about three pages, and I want to read. Or rather, I want to make myself read. I don’t actually want to be in the spotlight, so to speak, but I know I need to stretch. I’ve paid too much to be here to just slink around. (For those of us who are not on some kind of subsidy–that is not “Waiters,” “Scholars”, “Fellows,” or members of a few miscellaneous tiny categories, the cost is extremely high.) I am actually miffed to learn that the faculty and fellows can also sign up for the lgbt reading (though not the general contributor ones). Faculty and fellow already have readings of 15-30 min, while Waiters and Scholars get 5 mins, so why elbow us aside for the 3-min slots? The fact that there may be too many people for those slots is astounding, but true. I meet more potential readers over breakfast. I will never be able to talk about not be included again. My god, how will my shoulders survive without that chip!
Again over 100 line up for the craft slots, but I easily get a slot. In fact, I am #1, which works with the non-fiction piece really well. Score one for neuroticism! It’s about speaking at a meeting–entitled “Do You Have a Plan”–so it’s a good opener for a reading. I was there when the list went up. And I have circled back several times. Six hours later, the list is still not full, even with the faculty and fellows, so now I am not annoyed at all, just aware of how focused on this I am. 15 slots at a conference with 200 participants: why was I even worried? Now I am nervous about kicking off the reading with an audience of 100+, for I have learned it will not be in a basement room, as I had thought, but in the main hall, at 5:00PM. Under an actual, not metaphorical spotlight. And I realize now I could have put my name in any spot, not just the first available line. So I basically chose to go first. Gulp.
Just went to the editor/agent panel and man was it a drag. Same old, same old. I will later have one-on-one meetings with an agent and an editor; this wasn’t that. (In the online sign-ups with agents, I chose mine because she was the only one who hadn’t already rejected me. Literally everyone else has rejected one, twice, or even three times, and one of those in a rather cruel way. (I think about confronting him, but decide to let it go. You have to let these things go.))
So just to be persistent, because you have to be persistent, I did pitch to two panelists: an editor and an agent. The editor (Graywolf) said send the mss, but then I asked the agent standing next to her, behind the panel’s table, if I should bother with the new book considering she rejected the last two. The editor (the editor!) leaned over, abandoning her own conversation, and said forcefully “move on.”
I was kind of shocked. No, I was shocked, no “kind of” about it. But also relieved. It’s hard to know sometimes when to call it a day, and I was not looking forward to sending this agent another letter. [Note: Later, when I get home, I will discover that I never heard anything from this agent in the past, not even a form rejection, so I probably could hit her up again. There are only a limited number of agents that handle lgbt stuff. We don’t have the same choices a, say, straight white woman has, and I used that example because I checked, and this editor and agent are both straight white women and their lists are full of their cohorts.]
At that point I was honestly reluctant to even talk to the agent, so no loss, but now I feel I should move on from Graywolf, too, now that the editor has heard my tale of rejection-woe. Is sending the mss to Graywolf a waste of time? My time matters too, after all.
So I go back to my room and read my two potential pieces for the reading. I rewrite the non-fiction piece. I’m still carrying my marked up pages with me when I go to the afternoon faculty reading, where I learn Bread Loaf records everything. This includes the lgbt reading (Wednesday of the second week). So, no pressure. Afterwards I make it to the first basement reading by contributors (that’s us in the “all other” category) and notice the Random House editor (from the earlier panel) attending the participant readings. So, no pressure. At the panel, she said they only buy books that they think will sell at least 50,000 copies. I stopped listening thereafter.
At dinner, I stand in the dessert line. Besides the small plates of pecan pie line (incidentally, Vermont seems to be spice free), a woman wants to trade slices with me. (Mine is smaller.) Rather than bite her head off (I picked it because it was smaller!), I said Aren’t you the Graywolf editor? It was she! I asked: Since you said I should move on from the agent, should I also move on from you? She replied, Well we haven’t rejected you. Send it! I gave her the pie.
Yay! And sheesh. Emotional roller coaster.
[And for the record, I will later send her the novel, and I will never hear anything back from her, or anyone at Graywolf, in any way shape or form.]