Something weird happened last summer. I don't really have an explanation for it. Perhaps it's like what occurs to a super-saturated solution. Some seemingly imperceptible disturbance perturbs the solution and—zap!—it sudden crystallizes.
Anyway, something similar happened to me and—zap!—I became a novelist.
The notion had been kicking around in my head for years, goaded by various family members. We have dozens of stories in my extended clan. Happy stories, funny stories, sad stories, bizarre stories. All kinds of stories. (Some have appeared on this blog.) I'm sure this is true of all families, but my relatives are certain that our family's stories are more fascinating than most. Retellings of family legend and lore are often followed by a canonical couplet:
“Whoa! Someone really ought to write that down!”
“Yeah, but it would have to be as fiction! No one would believe it really happened!”
A seed was planted in my brain, watered regularly by family gatherings at which I'd hear that closing couplet after a raconteur's storytelling. A critical point of some sort was reached last summer and I wrote my family's story—with all of the names changed to protect the guilty. I became a novelist!
An unpublished one, that is.
After some dithering and some encouraging feedback from friends who read the manuscript, I shopped the novel around a little bit. I sent some sample pages to a big-time literary agent in San Francisco. After a few weeks, I got my first rejection notice. She doesn't want to represent me.
You might naturally assume that I was crushed upon reading the rejection notice. Actually, I was richly entertained.
Yes, I was disappointed. The disappointment, however, was mitigated by my enjoyment and appreciation of the rejection letter itself, which struck me as a masterpiece of its genre. Here's my favorite part:
[R]ejecting manuscripts that become successful books is a publishing tradition. Assume we are wrong. Persevere until your books reach the goals you set for them.Isn't that splendid? I was breathless with appreciation. Surely she was talking to me and was admitting that my book was fated to be one of the successful books that she would someday rue having rejected!
I had not expected to laugh out loud at a rejection notice, but I did. Perhaps when I have the experience of more of them, I'll find that they are all similarly clever and the novelty will wear off.
And then I won't be special anymore.