this just in! more good news!

I received yet another request from an agent to read the complete manuscript. Hell yeah! Yes, and what's exciting about this is that he had already asked for a sample chapter. So he said they enjoyed reading that chapter and wanted the whole thing now. They want my bio and all that other stuff too. Cool. But "enjoy?" Yes.. insert drumroll here.. he used the word enjoy. Funny how I'm starting to hang on every word. Getting emo about it seems really stupid when I step back from it all. But, I mean, they don't say much, not much at all. Seems like the most popular word from agent rejections is "fit."

So forgive me folks if I'm somewhat excited. Maybe giddy? Silly? So what if it all comes to nothing in the end. For the time being, it's considered remarkable by writers that the manuscript has gotten this far in only four months and with only a handful of queries. For anyone in tall buildings and silk ties to even ask to read the beast is very cool indeed. I'm going with it folks. Santa is in my back pocket! Stay tuned.

Me Happy,


getting all suited up..

Well not exactly yet.  My birthday post noted that I'd sent out another little batch of query letters.  A day later I received two rejections by email.  Makes one think rejections are automated.  No?  Two days later, a very prominent fellow with a great sense of humor asked to read my manuscript.  This is a big deal, so I am told.  What do I know?  I've never done this before.  I'm thinking maybe the Simpsons stamps are working.  Anyway, there are now four copies levitating around Manhattan.  Did any of them go to lunch?  To the bathroom?  Away for the weekend?  And this latest guy, D., has an unbelievable roster of publishing deals with all the big guys.  It's a large agency in the works for 30 years or so.  I'll stop now before I get nerve sick thinking about it.  Tomorrow I go to class and pick up a class-load of final essays.  That will keep my heals from going too high in the air.  Actually, a stack of essays is quite like lead.

Stay tuned,

the memories & martinis hangover..

I still have a hangover. Unfortunately not from the martinis. It's nothing that a bloody mary can fix. The Memories & Martinis celebration went so well that, well, I'm a bit disoriented. What exactly happened that day? As a rule, literary events are not that well attended, unless of course the author is well known, has a book for sale, a big promo budget, it's a free event, or all the English majors on campus are required to file in to "report" on the thing as they would on the mating habits of opossums.

None of that is true about the Memories & Martinis event. For perhaps the first time in that town, lots of people paid to sit in a seat and listen to literature. They clapped, cried, and laughed. Yes, laughed. My intention with Frying Spam was humor. And to my amazement it was a success. I feel okay now about saying I'm a humorist. Nice. Going into it I had confidence in the work. But then, there's always a chance I was deluding myself. It wouldn't have been the first time I laughed at me when no one else did.

Some of the disorientation I feel is that I don't know what's next, outside of hunting down an agent. Maybe I'll land a few cherry reading gigs for the spring, start another book, drink some more wine, and teach and carry on as I have been. Perhaps the bitter ice of January will give birth to exciting things. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the photo video below of the event. Even if you weren't there, you might see yourself in the photos.

A big thanks to Pocono Comunity Theater, the musicians, the readers, and all who came out. We'll do it again in 2010!



a batch of a birthday..

it's after midnight.. the lonely hours have arrived once again.. the furnace hums past like empty subway cars down there with the pots of dirt that came in for the winter.. all i get is hot air from over there in the corner.. something strange coming out of some philly radio station too.. people chanting and banging on things.. don't have the mind to change the station.. always did hate changing stations.. could miss something they got planned.. you just never know..

there's a pile of query letters on the table in their envelopes all proper and all.. simpson stamps and nice addresses.. madison avenue, fifth avenue, west this and that on the 46th floor.. i only have two floors here.. just a few steps to the top.. anyway, those envelopes will be in the mail tomorrow.. my birthday.. then i'm off to teach two writing classes.. they have no idea.. no clue.. yet.

the query moves ahead.. a full report on the Memories & Martinis event last saturday coming soon too.. so stay tuned..


the megaphone in action!

Here's something you may have missed.  My friend Michael dropped this megaphone off 5 minutes before my reading at the Memories and Martinis event.  I just had to use it.  It was perfect for the preaching lines. Unfortunately there is no recording that we know of as of yet.  I'll be posting more photos as they come in.  Thanks to Gwenie for this one.
Stay tuned,


Pickled Nerves

Well, as you probably all know by now, the big read is days away.  Even while I continue to look for an agent that can wheel my book deal, I've made the decision to celebrate the completion of the manuscript in a public reading and martini reception.  Pocono Community Theatre, a local venue, volunteered to be the sponsor.  And I am humbled at the response.  Even those who can't be there, from Philadelphia, Connecticut, even in the UK, have sent their regrets and even made offers for me to come and read.  I can't even take that all in just yet.

My nerves are pickled.  It's daunting to go naked with a big slice of myself in front of a live audience.  I suppose the trick is to hold it all together between now and then.  Is this what it means to live?  At any rate, to the many that are signed on to the experience, we'll do the best we can to present a class show.  We'll raise our glasses to the beauty of words, the sensuousness of music, and the martini gods.

Thanks for staying tuned. I'm happy to be meeting each of you. It gets really lonely out here in the cyberhood.

Be well,

If you haven't received your invite.. it's HERE


every play a Hamlet..

I said I'd be sending out another round of queries.  I didn't.  I was hoping for another request or two to read the manuscript.  But no, nothing this week.  Dead.  I've read a few more stories from other writers about the hell they've gone through.  Not a good idea.  One girl was asked by her publisher, "Would you like your advance in gas money or postage?"

That was encouraging.  Right?  So what she did was start her own promotional machine and hit the road.  She said it worked but still has no home to call her own. Said she needs a rich partner or maybe some endowment.   And yes, there are more stories.  Many.  You can imagine them all.  All variations on the same theme, as is every play a Hamlet or a Romeo and Juliet.  There are only a couple of stories.  The ones we all live and love or loath.

The author story is this.  If you are one in a million, you may end up on THE list.  Everyone else never sees their work in print, or, does see it in print with no support for a reading tour, advertising, promotion or the like.  So its as if the author published it themselves anyway.  One might even find a chunk of the expenses show up on their AMEX in the end.  So I'm wondering just what all those B,C,D book deals amount to in the end.  So far I see air.  Maybe fog.

Tuesday.  Yes.  Tuesday I'll get more queries in the mail.

Stay tuned.  See you on the 28th.  Yes?



design and lottery what?

To date, I've sent twelve agent queries.  Begging in high literary fashion.  They know I'm begging.  They know how many writers can fit through the eye of a needle.  I can sense it in the voice of their response or even worse, in their lack of response.  I sense it as I sit here with my head in my hands, staring at the query files in my macbook at three in the morning.

So far then, of the twelve, everyone in rounds one and two have rejected or never responded.  That leaves four without a heartbeat.  The ones that did respond from round two all sent the most pathetic form letters, as if they have no personality whatever.  They break every rule for the "bad news letter" that I teach my college students in Tech Writing class, bad fonts, no salutations, no formating and such.

One thing is consistent. They all wish me good luck.  What the hell is luck if not chance?  Some say getting a book deal is like winning the lottery.  It's not.  It is not a fortuitous transaction.  My manuscript is not drawn from a hat.  It is decidedly by my own design and skill that I attract an agent that in turn decides to use his/her skill to convince an investor to put it on a press.  The agent and publisher both decide that the book can turn a profit.  So the good luck nonsense is just a patronizing way of saying run along, swim in the sea of writer angst and pathos.

I'm not waiting on a respond from round three.  On to round four in a few days! They say not to draw conclusions before fifty "begs."  I doubt I'll last that long before a real lottery ticket seduces me.  But in the meantime I'll be celebrating my designed manuscript with a premier reading on the 28th.  I hope to see you there.

Thanks for staying tuned,


waiting for heels..

I waited for three weeks to send out my next batch of queries.  I was busy, lazy, and wasn't looking forward to more rejections.  I'd already queried my top three choices.  I reasoned it as, okay, maybe there'd be someone great underneath a vague website.  And I shouldn't hold the cheesy titles they sold against them either.  So I got busy again.  More research.  Verifying info as current.  Agents move around often.  I look for current interviews too, whatever I can find.

I dropped three queries on a Friday.  I never heard from two of them.  I heard back from L in five days.  That was a good sign.  Maybe because I'd mentioned M had read my manuscript.  M sold the late Frank McCourt's memoir for big cash.  Anyway, L sold the late George Carlin's book.  She wanted my first 35 pages.  I hate that.  I know the drill though from the music business.  If the first three seconds doesn't hit subjective pay dirt, you suck.  That person thinks so at least.

Even though she had addressed the email to "Mr. Balkin," I emailed the first thirty-five pages.  I heard back in six days.  She said it was "an interesting glimpse into a quirky life, but considering how many manuscripts I see and the kind of competition already on the memoir shelves, I really have to fall head over heels in order to want to take it on."  

Head over heels?  I would deduct massive points on a student essay for that cliche.  And anyway, I thought that selling a book was not about orgasm and emotion.  Isn't sales about judging the marketability of product?  Objectivity?  Not sure I even want a business partner to think in terms of emo.  Once, I saw on an agent's blog; "I am not interested in anything that contradicts a Christian worldview."  I doubt she'd lift a heel either over my Chapter 10: Gay Dude Gets Gay Demon Cast Out Ha Ha!  And as far as I remember, a Christian world view is, fuck it, God's gonna burn it up in fire soon anyway.  

It was a depressing weekend.  Next up.. Round three..

Stay Tuned.. Hope to see you on November 28th!



first trip to the PO..

I was on my way to a reading.  Convent Station, NJ was on the way.  I'd mail my first query letters from there.  For newbies, a query letter begs an agent to, in high linguistic fashion, please love my book idea so much that you run to the biggest publishing house and prostrate yourself in front of their mahogany desk until they promise to print a million copies and line them up in the windows at Barnes & Noble. And while you're at it, make them promise a fireside chat with Oprah. Oh, movie rights and a Sarah Palin advance too.  

So then, traditionally, an agent gets the author a book deal.  I picked three.  I'd read interviews with the agents. I'd combed their websites.  I'd hashed and mashed my query letter to what I thought was perfection.  One day for each paragraph.  Three paragraphs, one page.  No more.  I'd printed on fancy paper.  I arrived at the post office with three minutes to spare.  Is this the way it would be, I thought.  Four years in the making and I was rushing and had cramps as I wrote my return address on the Priority envelopes.

I plan to frame the receipt.  Credit card numbers on a strip of paper meant I was crossing over.  I was now a risk taker.  The whole thing could fail.  "What ever happened to that book you wrote," they'll say.  Or I could, some day, be framing a page of the NYT.

My first choice agent was M.  She'd sold a memoir for the most famous memoirist.  My favorite memoirist.  The query landed on her desk on a Monday morning.  She emailed compliments to me the next day.  She said she'd love to read my manuscript.  Holy shit. One of the most well-known agents in the world wants to read the very thing that I sat at this very table working on for four years.  I felt naked, too.  As if I were allowing someone into my head, free to inspect all my private brain cells. Regardless, I had chills. I jumped up and down on the back porch.

I rode that feeling out of anxiety and depression for a week.  Food tasted better.  I played jazz.  Even my old Volvo rode smoother for a week.  But I couldn't take it anymore.  I sent her an email.  "Just want to keep you in the loop," I said.  "I've sent off two more manuscripts."  Seven minutes later she returned.  "I was just getting ready to write to you about FRYING SPAM."  She found my voice charming and the project appealing but didn't think it was "quite right" for her.

The other two queries? G returned a half sheet of paper that read something of the sort, "Due to the current market, we are not taking on memoir projects at this time." J ask for the first thirty pages.  I never heard from him. Nothing. 

Query round two?
Stay tuned,


in the beginning there was a manuscript..

I don't want to roll back to the real beginning. Childhood experiences. They're horrific. I'll start with being riddled with anxiety, thinking of readying the manuscript for agent shopping. Would they laugh? And I don't mean because Frying Spam was funny. I imagined agents wondering who the ass is that thinks he's a writer. So I worked the manuscript over and over until I thought I could get "naked" and still keep my composure. I have a lovely line editor, so that helped a bit.

Still, fearing the inevitable onslaught of rejection slips, I put off researching for the right agency. And that's the thing. I had nothing to compare it to. I'd tried not to read too many memoirs. I didn't want to cop an auto-voice from another writer. But with what I know is on the shelves, humorous religious abuse themes didn't show up. Who would want to advocate for Frying Spam, even just read it? And nobody was there to prod me either. I had to muster on my own. It's lonely, folks.

I settled after twelve drafts. Fuck it. It would be thirteen chapters. Not for any unlucky number-voodoo reasons, please, I just thought it was enough. And I have a short attention span. I'd been pecking at it for four years on and off. Besides, there's probably plenty of readers that can't sit still for long either. So I figured I was ready to buy postage. Either way, publish or pass out, my life would change, at least my view of it. I could very well end up having a very depressing year, or worse, life. Compression or depression, I had to move on it. I was in the way of me. Around then, a copy of Poets and Writers landed on my writing table.

Next up.. First trip to the Post Office..
Stay Tuned..


the manuscript adventure

Hi Everybody..
Are you easing into fall? I have my hickory all stacked up and ready to go. It would be very nice if someone was jealous. I'm hoping that it keeps me toasted on all sides and inspires me to write something new soon.

On "frying spam." First, I may have to take down the excerpts on the blog here soon, especially if it has anything to do with shopping the manuscript. Most likely though, I'll be able to keep at least one or two slices on my website until the thing is published.

So then, I'm excited that the "frying spam" followers have grown fast over the summer months. The hits on the site are in the thousands now too. And lots of you want to know what's going on with the agents and New York and all that jazzy jazz. So, while I'll be taking the excerpts down, I'll be continuing the blog as a regular update on all the dancing it takes for me to get a publishing deal. I'll even let you know when I get a rejection letter. Hopefully I won't moan and bitch too much.

So stay tuned, I'll walk you through it from day one. At least I'll have something to do before the rapture.

Happy Pumpkins,