Here Comes The Jump
Monday, May 31, 2010
I had another post in mind for today. One filled with my usual moments of mortification. It 
involved entirely too much information, more than you would ever want to know about my 
choice in underwear and the ridiculousness that circumscribes my life. 

I had other plans, too. After a weekend filled with the debauchery of good food and wine, I 
was going to kill my muscles with a double workout and flood myself with fluids and sensible 
things like fruit and brown rice and steamed veggies. 

I was planning on catching up on the towering pile of laundry that constantly haunts my dreams. 
I was also intent on clean sweeping my house and lording over my children with my mom whip. 
I warned them yesterday, on Monday the good times were over. The Dung Beetle Dungeon was 
going to be sanitized and scrubbed free of all its mutant germs. 

It was going to be a Puritanical Monday. 

But, then someone dear to my heart took my arm and twisted it behind my back and upended 
all my big plans. 

I know I've hinted of things to come and so today I'll spill it all to you here, Internet. 

So, as you all know, there's this novel I've written. It sits patiently waiting for me in my Word Documents, just biding its time to see the light of day. 

I've kept it there because just when I'd completed it, in the impeccable timing of the universe, 
the publishing world came crashing down just like the rest of the economy. 

The word was, no one was getting a chance. 

So I sat and waited for better times. And as the light began to shine again, I made up more 

And then more. 

And that is exactly what they were—excuses.

Because, the truth of the matter is—I am afraid, very afraid. 

I am afraid of being found not good enough. I am afraid that my time and efforts will have 
all been a waste. I am afraid to step off this cliff and jump into the wild unknown. 

There, I've said it. 

For the folks unfamiliar with the publishing world, I'd like to fill you in on the daunting steps it 
takes to bring an unpublished work to the light of day, in a totally Laundry Girl spin on things. 

For those of us who dream of being published, the smartest way to grab for that brass ring is 
through a literary agent. Literary agents are the magical fairies of the publishing industry. Agents 
are Super Busy People who spend their days negotiating killer deals for authors, wading through 
their mountainous slush piles built out of the dreams of unpublished hopefuls, writing 
encouraging, chock-full-of-advice blogs and lots and lots of other Super Busy Agent things. 

In short, they don't have a great deal of extra time. 

Somewhere along the line, one of these Super Busy Agents discovered a much more efficient 
way to weed out the good writers from the "Not for me" writers. 

They invented the query letter. 

I'm not certain who that agent was, but I do know that sadistic, twisted soul laughed all the way 
to Hell.

These days, agents ask not to see manuscripts but query letters. A query sounds so genteel and 
elegant. "Pardon me My Lady, might you be so kind as to query me with your charming, 
winsome words?"

A query letter is anything but genteel and elegant. It is hardcore, formulaic and demanding. A 
query letter is a Bitch on Monster Truck Wheels. A query letter is your 30 second shot to dance 
while those gun-slinging Super Busy Agents are shooting at your feet. 

The query letter requirements of Super Busy Agents goes something like this:

Attention Wannabee Writer: 

Now that you've toiled laboriously and given your life over to your work, creating through 
your blood, sweat and profuse tears, a novel you hope will somehow inconceivably see the light 
of day, please sum up your novel in 3 to 5 sentences. Yes. You heard me, 3 to 5 sentences. Make 
sure your grammar, punctuation and spelling are utterly perfect. Wring your hands in angst over 
Every. Single. Word. Make each word powerful, concise and snappy. Is "the" really the best 
choice there? Come on, you can do better than that! Hook! Hook! Hook! And don't forget to fawn 
over me, the Super Busy Agent. Not too much in a creepy sort of way or I'll reject you and not too 
little because, (sorry, with a big smiley face), I'll reject you. Keep it single spaced with a double 
space in between paragraphs. 12 point font. Times New Roman. Left margins. One page only. 

Super Busy Agents do not have time to mess around and they can hit that reject button faster than 
my kids can empty a package of  EL Fudge Double Stuffed Cookies and leave the empty box on 
the pantry shelf. We're talking lightning speed, my friends. 

Writing a great query letter is a foot in the door. If the Super Busy Agent likes your letter, a partial manuscript is summoned. If the Super Busy Agent still finds you to their liking, a full manuscript is requested. Then, if the Gods of Publishing Dreams are smiling upon you, there might be an offer 
for representation. 


It's the same sort of odds-on-might as, "If you fish out a buck for that lottery ticket, you MIGHT 
win the ten million dollar payout." Or, "If you show up on Jerry Springer to air out your personal problems, you MIGHT just get everything worked out without any chair throwing, DNA testing 
or slug fests between your kin.

It is an understatement when I say that writing a query letter is an excruciating process. If my 
dentist would offer me a root canal without anesthesia in exchange for the perfect query letter, 
I would open my mouth, grip the arms of the chair and say, "Let's go, Doc."

And so I have put it off, storing my half written queries up on the shelf next to my novel that 
waits so patiently for me. 

Yesterday, I received an email from a blogger friend, telling me about a new, wonderful blog.
The Empress, at Good Day, Regular People, a great writer herself who always fills me with 
such bolstering confidence told me to go check it out. 

It's called, Writing Out The Angst: The Twisted Path Towards Publication. I think their succinct 
profile sums it up: "Two Bad Ass (when they aren't crying) writers here to help whoever needs 
it on this crazy ride." 

I think I love these girls already. 

And in celebration of the inauguration of their blog, they are hosting a contest. The winners will 
be given a free critique of their query letter by 2 writers who have made it over the fence and are standing there with an open hand, ready to help the rest of us jump over to their side. 

I dutifully went over to their site after The Empress pointed me in their direction. I liked what I 
saw and said to myself, "Yeah, I might have to do that . . .  one of these days." 

Because, I am a scaredy cat of unknown proportions and I have my back pressed up against this 
narrow precipice, so afraid of this vast, strange new world out there. 

And somehow, I have no idea how, but Empress knew this about me.

Her emails have turned from, "You should check out this blog." To "ENTER THE CONTEST, 

There are no words for friends like that. 

Amanda Bonilla and Suzanne Hayze, the writers behind this blog are picking 10 random winners 
from their list of commenters. My chances are borne from luck and luck only. 

But, no matter the outcome, I am a winner. Because, I am taking the leap thanks to a dear friend
who won't take fear for an answer. 

Thank you, Empress. 

And this new blog brings me great hope, the Bad Ass girls write, "Fear not weary travelers, 'We 
have torches'" 

I am less afraid, with those comforting words. 

So, My Lovelies, you probably won't hear from me for the next few days. I won't be visiting and 
I won't be posting. I'll be sitting here with my head and heart buried completely in the process of 
creating those 3 perfect sentences. 

But, please know I will be thinking of you. And if I may ask—wait for me? I'll be back with talk 
of underwear and tales of my humiliation at its best.

My Puritanical plans for the day turned into My Hubby informing the kids they were now all Cinderellas, Cinderellas of pre-tiara fame. I am shut out, away from the world to focus on what 
I should have been focusing on long before this moment of truth.

Oh, and in that moment of truth, when I realized this was my time to step off,  I looked at my 
poured bowl of steel cut oats and knew that this endeavor needed much more than bland horse 
food. A new journey should always begin with a heaping bowl of Captain Crunch. 

And so I go. Ready, Set, Jump. 

Today's Doooo Itttt Download: Colin Hay's, "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin."

Just a lovely, lush song by the former lead singer of the group, "Men At Work."

For Empress. Thank you for the arm-twist, Girl. I owe you big-time. These words are for you 
and for me as we take this gigantic step. 

Any minute now my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
And I'll stand on the bow
And feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down, down, down on me

And you said, "Be still, my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in"
Don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin.


Dee said...

I'm so proud of you! You CAN do this. And don't get discouraged. Remember, "I" have read this fine piece of work. ;) As an avid reader... your book ROCKS

Gucci Mama said...

That's awesome. You rock. I'm so, so happy to hear this!

Lori said...

I had no idea it worked like that. Well, you go girl and wishing you lots of inspiration and genius to help you form those three perfect sentences!

Alexandra said...

Look behind your shoulder.

That's me there, the one with both fists in the air saying "get to that next level! play that game till your thumbs bleed!! ala "women with torches" style!"

There is no perfect time, no perfect timing, no perfect circumstance.

There is no tiptoeing to the cliff, only running and jumping off.

There is no landing without jumping first.

And, best of all: Ya got nothing to lose. Nothing...except a pile of paper sheets getting dusty up on the shelf.

Go, fight, win, Joann.

And now I'm left speechless for the rest of the day from your words that have reduced me to a crumpled heap on my laundry piles over here.


Good luck! You stand as good a chance as anyone to be randomly picked!

Lisa said...

You can do it, Joann!! I have been wondering what the status of your novel was - thanks for keeping us informed. I am sending positive thoughts and lots of love your way!! Good luck!

Shell said...

I'm so happy for you. I hope that you can find your magical three sentences. Because I'd read a novel that you wrote!

One Photo said...

Hi Joann - first of all The Empress is one of those incorrigible (in a good way) people who does her utmost to encourage the best out of all of us. She has surpassed herself I think this time in getting you to this point, which is wonderful news to hear.

So do, go for it, write your magical 5 sentences and step off that cliff, your wings are ready and you will surely fly....

Katie's Dailies said...

Oh, Joann!! You know that we'll always be here for you and we'll always be cheering for you and we'll always be at your back.

Maybe we'll be helping you take that collective breath as we all help push you onto that NY Times bestseller list.

As I was typing this out I accidently wrote "lust" instead of "list", stopped and thought for a second and decided there wasn't much difference: you do have a lust for That List!!:-)

Julie said...

So very cool!! Can't wait to hear how it all plays out!!

Anonymous said...

Step off that ledge my friend! Just jump...I'll throw you my favorite quote..quite fitting for this situation: "Those who fear the thorns, will never pick the roses."

Those roses are TOTALLY yours!!! Fingers crossed for you!

Tracie said...

Best of luck to you! I can't wait to buy your novel. I'm sure it's fantastic - just like you and your blog.

*fingers crossed*

Natalie said...

Yay, yay, yay! Can't wait to hear how it all works out...and it will!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I love this blogger friend of yours. Perfect. Go Joann! I promise to buy your novel and read it cover to cover, the very first day. Blogger promise. (you know it can't get more serious than THAT!)

Big chance, you have! ALL THE BEST.

Take the LEAP and COME BACK to tell us about the thrill you felt when you landed!


Bossy Betty said...

Go get 'em, Baby!!!!

Cheeseboy said...

Hope you win. Every (decent) blog deserves to have a commenter like you. Sounds like a good idea for a blog actually. Maybe I will check it out.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, I'm hoping it turns out wonderfully well.
I've given myself a month deadline to get a query letter done so if you happen upon a "for dummies," version please let me know.

pieters said...

Oh my dear Joann,

My the good Lord above grace your mind and your pen. May the paper rise to greet you and the wisdom of words always be at your back. God's speed my friend and I'll say a little prayer for you...forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart...Lauren

Unknown said...

This post is so good, I can't imagine a little bitty query letter's been standing in your way. Bejeeeehsus girlie! Thanks for entering. Thanks for posting. Thanks for lifting up your hand, because you know what? Without all us writers, there wouldn't be great books. And I don't know about you, but for me... a world without books is NO world at all.

Here's to you. Suzy. (Of Mandy and Suzy)

Jen said...

I have said a little prayer for you. I haven't prayed for that most perfect query letter but that you will actually be able to sit down and move it from you head to the word processor. I am praying that you find the ability to focus even thought The Hubby has done all he can to eliminate the distractions in the house. He will be unable to eliminate them from your brain. That is my prayer for you. That you find your muse. Good luck, I know you can write an awesome letter with just the right amount of ass kissing. You go girl!

Anonymous said...

One more thing...

Anonymous said...

You have such a distinct stle to your writing that draws the reader in, I know you will nail it and PLEASE let me read it when you are done!!!

Miss you too!

twelvedaysold said...

Thank you! I am the self-professed biggest fan of a good friend of mine who is also an aspiring writer, and I have given her this information. I don't know anything about the story you have written, but even entering yourself into this contest is giving you valuable experience. Writing, writing, writing. You can do it!

ProudSister said...

Go, go, go!!! Don't worry about what sort of a mess the house is or what the dogs are eating and do it. I can't wait for everyone to read what an amazing book you've written. People get ready, it is fantastic!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...


Good for you! Way to take that next big step and stick it out there. You are an inspiration to me to finish re-writing my novel. I'm not even AT the query letter writing stage yet. So go forth and be awesome, girl!

Unknown said...

THis post is awesome, I think you've summarized the process in a HILARIOUS manner...
Just so you know, query shark is an awesome blog, Janet Reid takes queries and shows what is good bad and ugly with them...check it out!

A. B. Keuser said...

I love this post, my friend Katie sent me this way and i couldnt stop reading :)

I myself have long since gotten over the sting of rejection, I look at the pass for a brief moment and then keep on writing. I hope that you'll find the thing that helps you climb over those fears and lets you squish them into the mud as you hop to the other side. :)

Lula Lola said...

I hope the magic of the random number is with you! Because the writing isn't going to be your problem! I look forward to everything that you put out there! I know your book is going to be a tremendous success!
Write that letter! They're going to love you!

MrsBlogAlot said...

Joann, if anyone can do this YOU can.

I'll be first in line for that book signing!

Find those sentences... They are just waiting to be unlocked with your very own unique key.

purplume said...

Best luck to you. My wish for you is that this or something better will happen for you.

I love your writing style as seen in this post. Even though it was long, it held my utter interest and wouldn't let go.


Unknown said...

New Follower!
I believe you can do it! You took the first step and that is the hardest one! Keep it up!

liz said...

Go, Joann, GO! With the way words flow so freely onto the screen, I'm quite certain your 3 sentences will be spot on. Good luck!

Judie said...

When I buy your book, which will be published, will you autograph it for me?
You could write something like, "To my dear friend, Judie, whose continued support spurred me on to greatness!" Or words to that effect.

I am back, and I am soooooo glad!

Cupcake Murphy said...

Is there any way you can just take a deep breath and know (even if it is for one half moment in the morning when everything is still) that you are a VERY GOOD AND GREAT writer and just go forward? Because I know I would LOVE to read your novel. I can't wait to order it on Amazon or go to my fave bookstore, Vromans, in Pasadena just to purchase it.

Katina said...

Love it! Best of luck!

Ash said...

Oh my word - you're bad ass.

Go get 'em girl!! Because soon, I'll be begging you for pointers.

(here thanks to Shell at Things I Can't Say. Getting on the horn to order her flowers right now.)

Pat said...

Seriously. What do you have to lose? You don't know until you try. There is a famous writer, (sorry I have an awful memory) - who received 200!!! rejection letters before getting published! Look at it this way - you'll have a much better chance of getting published if you try than if you don't, right?

Good luck!

And, what an accomplishment to have FINISHED a book! Yahoo! You should pat yourself on the back for THAT!

Unknown said...

you are invited to follow my blog

alicia said...

Um, you are so mega talented. I think you could just take your blog posts and string them together and get them published. No need to doubt girl.

jayayceeblog said...

May the query fairy be with you to provide dedication, inspiration and, most of all, publication!!! Put your big girl panties on and write that thing!!!

Mom vs. the boys said...

ooohhhh Good luck girl!!!!!

Terr said...

May the glow from the bridges you've burned light your way home. Just do it!

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