I’ve just returned from three days in new york, publishing nexus and writers’ nirvana. on sunday evening, I walked past the simon & schuster building, noting all the lighted windows and cluttered desks, walls, and shelves I could see from my position far below on the street. the biting wind swept romance all about, as I considered junior editors slaving away, stacks of manuscripts piled on every available surface, visions of discovering bestsellers and having their own manuscripts published dancing behind grimy eyelids and living in hearts.
I know, no one uses paper anymore, and there was probably not a soul in that building, but my heart created a dozen dreams of what might lie behind that stone facade.
I still have a dream of being found. being discovered, being asked to come to new york to meet with my editor. and I’m not giving up: I’m being courageous enough to put my dream out there into the universe.
for years—off and on, as projects moved through life cycles and inspiration swooped and floundered—I have sent off queries to agents located in the new york area. many via snail mail, and these days, most all via the astounding and amazing internet. snail mail is more work but more creative, as I addressed envelopes and envisioned the streets, the buildings, the lobbies and elevator operators in creaky metal cages in old brick lairs. some addresses were office suites in tall structures, some were doubtless apartments in brownstones. many went to young agents, some to established names, a few to those top agents that are so busy with their best-seller-writing authors that it was surprising they still accepted queries. but always, inevitably, I would picture the building, the office, the desk, the credenza behind it, the person seated on the chair, the coffee mug on the blotter. the person wading through dozens of queries, coming upon mine, and pondering. can I sell this? do I care about this? will anyone else? can this person really deliver what she promises, and does it intrigue me at all? is my coffee cold? do I need to take a break, go check in with margaret down the hall?
I’d like to be inside their heads as they read my queries. I’d like to read the other queries they receive, I’d like to know where the agent works who will fall in love with my project. I’d like to see her building, her office, her chair. are the walls bright orange and lively, or worn and weary ivory like the keys on my century-old piano? are reviews and cover proofs pinned alongside her desk, and is her bookshelf crammed with every book she’s ever loved? is she too warm, too cold, hungry, anxious about an upcoming release, nervous about a commitment she’s just made? I’d buy her a hot coffee. and a bagel.
manhattan is filled with hundreds of thousands of people focused on their own lives, projects, pets. a million stories rest upon a million stories, separated by walls and floors and sidewalks, by metal doors and elevator cages. I send my queries, they flutter on cyber breezes and magically appear on computer screens, they are stuffed in canvas mail bags and slipped into slots then unearthed by slender letter openers, unfolded and, like those which transversed the country in a split second, perused by eyes that have read a thousand other queries. somewhere, sitting in some kind of a chair, perches the agent who will read my words and find within them a sliver of illumination, a curiosity, and a chord deep in her soul will be strummed. her heart will warm, she will feel a pull, and she will want more.
I picture this, I see her office, her glasses pushed atop her hair as she lets her eyes rest unfocused upon the far wall, wondering, considering, feeling that tug that says pursue this, see where this goes, follow your heart. she types on her keyboard, quickly, efficiently, and makes her request. please submit manuscript.
I might have walked past her building last weekend. I might have passed her on the street. I don’t know her stories, only that she has them. her own hopes and dreams, frustrations and qualms. so today, I hope someone treats her kindly. holds open a door for her, moves out of her path as she walks down the sidewalk. smiles at her. compliments her, gives her faith in her own abilities to weed through queries and find the one that inspires her, that intrigues her, that has the potential to become a book of import. and whose author would gladly, if given the chance, buy her a cup of hot coffee. and a bagel.