All alone in the moonlight

I had an epiphany yesterday, round about 2 in the afternoon, that I should be contacting LGBT agents for my memoir. Why, I wondered, have I been trying only the mainstream folks—that’s like dressing up in my nerdy best and asking out the lead cheerleader to a rodeo (no offense to cheerleaders who like nerds). Trouble was, I didn’t really know how to find them, aside from searching for them on Google, your friendly neighborhood search engine. And that approach was fraught with danger, read, the Big Bad Fraudulent Agent. Apparently, they lurk everywhere, in the corners of the interwebs, waiting to steal one’s money (I don’t have much, so I’m safe there) and ideas (hey, if they can do anything with them, more power to them!). So I figured that for every name I identified, I’d just double-check them somewhere else. This presumes, of course, that there is a long line of clearly identifiable gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender literary agents just lined up for writers like me.

Perhaps I was off the mark a little. Or maybe I can blame the search engine algorithm. I did get some lovely lists of agents, and then . . . then I had to do some text searches. In a list of 100+ agents, there were maybe three or four who admitted they worked with GLBT writers specifically, or who represented gay/lesbian work. This was going to take some time.

I did come up with one name, for the few hours of my effort, and I sent along a queery [sic] to her. And then it was bowling time. I made the hour-long trek, grumbling that my iPod strangely decided not to play about a quarter of the songs I’ve fed it over the years. Damn update.

My bowling mate asked me how I was doing and I said I’d figured out I should try to find GLBT agents. She gave me a look.

“See, and I thought you were all smart and stuff,” she said. I lovingly punched her in the shoulder.

I figured the hunt for an agent would be renewed in the morning. But again, it’s like looking for a four-leaf clover. I’ve already gone through the small gay presses and not heard so much as a ping back, but looking at their book releases I can see why. I don’t write about being drug-addicted, or living in San Francisco, or going through a string of abusive lovers, or being homeless, or anything else edgy. I do write about mental illness, but well, that’s been done by very good writers. I write about the wonderfulness and insanity of city living, and we all know that great writers have tackled that one, many times over. So I think to myself, well, being an Arab American formerly gay transgender professional city-turned-country dweller who survived a bout of major depression, a bad relationship, and a dozen years of Catholic school, and grew up in a mixed race and ethnicity, mixed religion household in New Jersey and somehow came out of it without a Jersey accent, well, there are some marketable things in there, somewhere.

I’ve been working on something like a short story a month, cranking out the ideas that have been crowding around for attention, and then launching into rewriting for a few versions before beginning another one. I’m sure I’ll go through and revise them again, but my point this winter was just to keep writing, identify my best simmering point of productivity, and play with all of the things I love about the craft of writing, until I either decided it was time to go back to the super/stupid power story (in which queer folks save the world) or I decided to tackle another long-form project. The superpower story needs a major rewrite/redesign, and I have to change one of the stupid powers because I really can’t allow myself to reference Dan Savage anymore, after he came out with that ridiculous column last week about the Washington State Attorney General.

I’ve got a good outline for a mystery novel I began a few years ago, and I’ve wanted for a very long time to tackle a memoir or close-to-real story about my childhood, centered on my epilepsy. Really, I’d like to try to relay the experience of having memory gaps and false memories that petit mal and grand mal seizures gave me. They each had their own strategy. The petit mal seizures (which no one calls petit mal anymore) stole time away from me, leaving me hanging in the middle of a sentence and restoring me, many seconds or half a minute later, either attempting to finish what I’d started, or leaving me disoriented about my thoughts. My mind was wracked with 90 of them a day before the doctors—who wouldn’t tell my mother what was wrong with me—got them under control.

The grand mal seizures (they’re not called that anymore, either) played a different trick. They filled in the lost time with whatever my child’s experiences could cobble together. Singing Thanksgiving carols around a grand piano my school didn’t own. Winning the Showcase Showdown in a bright orange t-shirt. Seeing buildings by Route 33 in Hightstown burn to the ground and feeling, really feeling, the thick wave of heat it gave off. I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about this book, even as the gender change story was more urgent for the telling of it. I want to write this book in a way that isn’t trite or cliche. Agents apparently loathe book openings with dream sequences, but darn it, false memories aren’t dreams. They’re closer to near-death experiences, in the way I’ve encountered them, like reaching to a different plane or a sticking one’s face into a parallel universe for just a moment and then trying to write down everything seen. I want to write this book.

And I’ll write it even if there are no agents for it. Because writers are supposed to just push on and write.

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Categories: ponderings, transplanted


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4 Comments on “All alone in the moonlight”

  1. March 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    The agent game is tricky, particularly if one wishes to align themselves with a shared identity/historical memory. For one thing, I wouldn’t have necessarily suggested actively seeking out GBLT agents, since like any marginalized group, each person will have their own tastes/interests/approach to the business of agenting.

    In my own struggles I initially sought out black agents only to find many didn’t find my work “marketable” so I was back to seeking out agents who work with artists/writers who are traveling a similar path as me.

    In any event, the agent game is not much fun, but I’m glad you’re documenting the process because it’s one folks really need to hear about.

    • evmaroon
      March 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

      Agreed on the agent search strategy. I really did start out doing comprehensive research: looking at their blogs, if they had them, searching writers’ forums, looking at their client lists and whatever they’d said in interviews since 1997. And perhaps the first few who I queried didn’t get the absolute greatest letter, but hey, I had to start somewhere and learn. There are only so many times you can read “don’t write a synopsis that ends in a question” and learn from it (okay, once). I’ve gotten some very lovely rejections, but every time, they’re cryptic when it comes to explaining what precisely kept them from wanting to represent me/this project. So I guess just to see if the trans thing was getting in the way, I thought I’d check out some people from my team and see if the story resonated better with them or if they wouldn’t feel like they couldn’t advocate for someone so different from themselves. It’s almost like a litmus test approach.

      Honestly, I just want to walk up to Bill Bryson’s agent and say, “It’s a funny nonfiction thing like he writes, just about queer life in DC!”

      And yes, I am happy to document all of this, because I also keep seeing little Tweets for doing X, Y, Z that seem to have no basis in my reality, at least.

  2. Gail
    March 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    So, what did Bill Bryson’s agent say? Seriously!

    • evmaroon
      March 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

      well, it’s just a daydream, I haven’t contacted him! I think I’d get laughed out of the room!

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