# of literary mags submitted to: 1
# of agents queried: 2
Nikki is currently reading the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at my suggestion. If you haven’t read this book, you’re really missing out. Don’t let its commercial success or the bad movie starring Julia Roberts fool you into thinking it’s no good. Elizabeth Gilbert is a wise and warm-hearted writer, and I found this book to be inspirational, funny, and informative, as well as a page-turner. I don’t know many books that can be described using all of those attributes at once.
There’s one part in the book where Gilbert talks about every city having a word. Rome’s word is sex, for example, and New York’s word is achieve. Gilbert wonders what her word is.
“Eva, here’s a fun game for you,” Nikki said the other day as we were taking Zeus for a walk in the woods. “What would your word be? Nate and I thought of ours.”
I remembered reading that part in Eat, Pray, Love, and I remember pondering this same question years ago, but I don’t think I was ever able to come up with a word for myself.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I have no idea.”
“My word came to me immediately,” Nikki said. I wondered if that meant she understands herself much better than I understand myself. Maybe if I truly understood myself, my word would come leaping out at me. On the other hand, maybe I’m too much of too many different things to be summarized by one word.
“I’ll have to think about it,” I said.
“By the way,” Nikki said, “when do you think you’ll hear back from that agent?” (Recently an agent requested to see the full manuscript of my novel.)
“I don’t know. I should check and see how long ago it was that I sent it to her.”
When I got home and opened my computer, creepily enough, I had an email from the agent. She wasn’t interested in my novel.
* * *
I was expecting this to happen. It would have been way too easy if the first agent I queried wanted to represent me. I was planning on having to query a hundred agents, or more, before finding one. And normally I don’t mind rejections. I get rejections on my short stories all the time.
The difference, I guess, is that I feel confident about my short stories. I don’t feel so confident about my novel.
As soon as I got the no from the agent, it seemed to confirm all the fears I’d been hiding from myself about my novel. Well, I thought, she didn’t like it, and that’s proof that it’s no good. I need to just write something better.
Of course, I should start on a new novel and aim to make it better than the last one, but for myself, not because of this one rejection.
“My novel’s not very good,” I told my friend Jeni on the phone. “I mean, I think it’s a good idea, but I probably didn’t manifest it very well.”
“I bet it’s better than you think it is,” she said. “Besides, agents aren’t looking for perfection. All they’re looking for is a spark. Something that catches their eye. And that’s so subjective.”
* * *
The other day my okcupid penpal, Paul, said in an email, “you worry a lot about what other people think.”
It’s true, I do.
When we were seniors in high school, Nikki and I, and our other best friend, Degra, decided to fill out self-made questionnaires about each other.
Degra, who is one of the most intuitive people I know, said the following about me (and I know because I saved the questionnaires and have them sitting right here in front of me):
Eva: You’re concerned with others: their feelings, what they think of you, how they’ll treat you. So you try to act in a way that everyone will like you. Your hair, face, clothes, exaggerated stories, funny gestures, cute little laugh, are all for other’s enjoyment. You want others to feel special and to be happy and feel loved.
Lately, when I’ve pondered about my purpose in life, I’ve thought that perhaps it’s exactly what Degra said: to make others feel happy and special and loved. I guess I worry about whether or not I’m making them feel that way.
This worry about what others think and feel can be detrimental when it comes to my writing, though. I’m always looking for confirmation from others about my writing, and not always trusting myself.
“Write the agent and ask her for feedback,” Jeni suggested. “Ask her where the material lost her interest.”
I did so immediately.
“Eva, have you thought of your word yet?” Nikki asked me this morning.
“No.” To be honest, I’d pretty much given up trying to think of one.
“Well, I thought of one for you right away,” Nikki said. “I wasn’t sure if you would want to hear it before you’ve thought of one on your own.”
I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to think of one on my own, and besides, I was curious to hear what Nikki had come up with.
“Tell me,” I said.
“The first word that popped into my head when I thought about you was sparkle,” Nikki said. “Because you are exciting and energetic and you make people happy. And yes, a sparkle is something that’s on the surface, but it makes people wonder about what’s underneath.”
“Hmm,” I said. “I don’t think I would have come up with that for myself.”
Of course, if that is my word, then I can’t see my own sparkle. The sparkle is what other people see when they look at me. What I see is whatever is shining on me – the sun, or the spotlight. After all, nothing sparkles in the dark.
* * *
I sent out a few more queries to agents today, hoping that one of them might see a spark, or a sparkle, in my manuscript. I can’t worry too much what others think of my writing, but I also can’t help hoping that someone will see it in the right light and like it.
I got an email back from the first agent yesterday. She said:
It ended up being a bit darker than I expected it to be and it just wasn’t really to my taste. Of course, it’s all so very subjective!
“It’s good to know,” I told Jeni. “I tend to write with a rather macabre slant, and whoever represents me is going to have to like that.”
They’ll have to be able to see my sparkle in the dark.
1. Watch this amazing TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity.
2. Come up with a word for yourself, or, if that’s too hard, for a loved one.