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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sephardim and Rejection Management: The Muse and the Marketplace

On Friday, May 2, I attended my only day of the three-day writers extravaganza, The Muse and the Marketplace, in Boston. I had to get up insanely early and take the train instead of doing my usual routine. I would have loved that if not for the sick-to-my-stomach feeling from lack of sleep and, yes, the separation anxiety from my husband. But as the train passed some of the monuments to the fond memories of my past, when I worked in Boston, my aching love for the city overwhelmed any lingering anxieties and I determined to make the most of this opportunity.

I got to walk a few blocks from the train to the conference, and even the traffic gave me energy. The sunlight coated the Public Library in swathes of brilliance while the Hancock Tower glinted across the way. By the time I arrived at the Park Plaza Hotel, I was thrilled to be there.

First order of business: take advantage of Kobo’s generous offer to have my “author photo” taken by a professional photographer. I had figured I wouldn’t look any better as the day went on and I got sleepier, but then the Park Plaza that day was like a tropical greenhouse: humid and in the mid-80’s, despite whatever efforts the staff was making to fix the air conditioning. All the more reason to get a picture ASAP! I chatted with the people in line — we have writing in common, after all! — and got ready for my close-up.

Michael Benabib, the photographer, takes pictures for The New York Times, so we could now all say we’d had our brush with fame in that capacity. He was efficient at taking as many shots as he needed and at getting his subjects to look as natural and as beautiful as possible. After a thorough powdering to mitigate my sprouting “glow,” he asked me what I write. I said, “I’ve written a historical epic set in medieval Spain.” His enchanting reply was that he is a Sephardic Jew! He added that Spain grants citizenship to people who can prove Sephardic ancestry. So of course all I could do was wish I had some Sephardic ancestry. (I patently do not.)

The pictures will be emailed to all the participants. If it's not as disastrous as I fear, I'll debut mine here.

When the photography session was that much fun, I had the funny feeling that it was going to be the best reaction to my subject matter all day. A self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps, but at breakfast and lunch and all other social opportunities of which I took advantage going forward, I somehow ended up talking to people writing memoirs. I’m sure there are common elements to writing a good memoir and a good fictional narrative, but since I’m so firmly a fiction writer and pay so much close attention to the fiction market, I was largely left out of the conversations. Except one thing we certainly had in common: rejection.

I've now had more than 100 rejections or "non-responses" from agents for my Seven Noble Knights query. I'm starting to feel just a tad unwanted. 

At the sessions I attended, I asked some hard questions and got some hard answers. I’ve been chewing on them ever since. I also came up with some brand new ideas. Watch for posts about them, coming soon!