How I Didn’t Get My Agent

2023 Update: This post was originally posted in 2019. It was the last post on my website before I shut it down. Now that I reactivated it to tell my very own How I Got My Agent story, it seemed fitting I leave this here as well, as a reminder. This is not always (or often) an easy journey.

Trigger/Content Warning: This post is sad. It is coming from a really dark place and is my mental illness speaking through me. If you’re not in a good place for that kind of dark content, please tread no further, I would never want the expression my mental health to hurt someone else’s.


You know the posts about How I Got My Agent? A lot of your favorite authors have them on their website. Most of them are stories of victory over adversity. They’re about the pains of the querying trenches all being worth it. They’re about how there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re really cool and often so inspiring.

This post isn’t that.

I’ve been crying for three days. I can’t stop. Every time I think I have it under control, it starts again. My throat burns, and I’m having trouble breathing my sinuses are so choked. I can’t sleep, can’t taste the food I eat. When I go to the gym, I end up sobbing so hard I can’t keep going. The other day after another unsuccessful workout, I curled into a ball on the yoga mat I was stretching on and fell asleep. Things aren’t good with me.

I’ve been rejected. Again. From Pitch Wars, again. For the third time. It’s a new manuscript but the same results. This book was a bright and shiny beacon I was so, so proud of. But I was proud of the last one, too. And it was rejected twice from Pitch Wars and received 27 form rejections or spots of silence after that. The last manuscript didn’t receive a single request from a single agent I submitted to. It seems like this one is headed down the same path.

After I was sure I wasn’t going to be getting into Pitch Wars, I braved the querying trenches once more. I want this so bad. And this manuscript, I assured myself, is different. It’s special. It’s so much of me that someone has to see it for what it is. I have worked so fucking hard.

Not hard enough. I received my first form rejection within 24 hours of sending the first query. Here we go again.

I laid under my desk at my day job where I work as a paralegal, surrounded by smart people I really like but who I’m so jealous of because they will always be more important and make more money than me because they have a piece of paper I don’t, and I wept. And when one of my coworkers found me, I blamed my period and ran to the bathroom to continue crying alone.

This isn’t my period. I haven’t gotten my period in three years. The doctors say it’s stress.  Stress I put on myself, or the world puts on me, I can’t be sure anymore. So no, this isn’t that. This is something else. This is the raw, ripe, stinging pain of rejection after rejection after rejection with no shining hope at the end of the tunnel. I am not good enough. I will never be good enough. I am what I am and what I am is not sufficient.

No one tells you about this part. No one records it. It’s not hopeful or pretty or tied neatly with an HEA and a bright red bow at the end. It’s bad for your look to look like no one wants you. But it’s the truth. And if I had a brand, which I don’t because you need to have a product to have a brand, it would be truth.

Here’s the truth. We aren’t all going to get agents and book deals. There are far more of us than there are of them. We aren’t all going to be able to live the dream and make enough money writing to quit our day jobs and pursue our passion. So we need to have contingent dreams. If I could give any young writer advice it would be that: Have another dream. Have something else to care about. Have something else to pay your bills and sate your passion. Search for it if you have to. Demand it of yourself, even if it doesn’t come naturally, even if you’re sure the only thing you’ll ever want is to be a writer. Find. Something. Else.

For me, something else is photography and fostering kittens. Sometimes, something else can almost be my day job. But whatever it is for you, don’t let writing become who you are. Let it be part of you, but not all of you. Save some of you for you.

And when you’re down, find a way to get back up, no matter how hard it is.

Take care of yourselves,

❤ Aimee

Do Audiobooks “Count”?

Woo! Something bookish (besides a book review) to talk about two weeks in a row! Look at me!

So let’s get right down to today’s topic. Do audiobooks count as books read?

Spoiler alert: Yes. They do. And to be honest, I’m not really sure why this is an issue I keep seeing come up, but I do, and it’s starting to get me a little feisty, so here’s my take on it all.

First off, “reading” a book basically means absorbing it, understanding it. When we’re tested on reading comprehension we’re not tested on can. you. read. each. of. these. individual. words. We’re tested on can you string these words into a sentence and understand them. You don’t actually have to physically read the words with your eyes to string them into a sentence and understand them. Simply put, reading is not a physical act you need sight to complete.

Which leads me to my second point which is: it is ableist as hell to tell someone that audiobooks don’t “count” as reading. What about blind folks? Do they have to get a book in Braille for it to count, per this silly rule? Do you know how few physical books there are that are produced in Braille? And how expensive they are? A copy of The Hobbit is $72.95. Want a more recent young adult book? A copy of Ash Princess is $97.95. Game of Thrones$239.95. Audiobooks are expensive, too, don’t get me wrong, but they’re more widely available, and there are many more library options.

It’s not only blind people who this nonsense excludes, either. “Not counting” audiobooks also hurts neurodiverse people. Audiobooks are often used as an alternative method of teaching for kids (and adults) whose brains aren’t neurotypical. Just because some people mix letters up doesn’t mean they’re not able to comprehend stories and information. It doesn’t mean they don’t count.

I think this is really why this issue fires me up, to be perfectly honest. Because by saying audiobooks don’t “count,” it feels like people are saying those for whom audiobooks are the only viable (or affordable or accessible) option don’t “count” when they in fact do. Very much. They’re just as much a part of the literary community as everyone else. I want them as part of my audience. I want everyone as part of my audience. I want that tent to be as wide and welcoming as possible. I don’t care how you absorb stories; I only care that you do.

Ableism is point one and the most important, but point two is time. Some people don’t have time to read as much as they’d like (or at all). Single parents, workaholic types, people having to hold multiple jobs, people doing school and work, those with long commutes, the people who might make up this category are endless. As you get older and take on more and more responsibilities, you have less and less free time. And what free time you have is precious. Maybe you’re trying to get that side hustle going. Maybe you need to spend more time with your partner or children. Maybe you’re just too damn tired from struggling that you can’t make the words turn into sentences at the end of a sixteen-hour day. Audiobooks give you back a little bit of free time because you can read and do other things. I listen to audiobooks on my long commute, at the gym, while I’m cooking dinner, taking the dog on a walk, cleaning my house, etc. All things that need to happen, all things that cut into the time I have to read a physical book. To have the luxury to have so much free time that you can choose not to “count” audiobooks is a privilege, plain and simple.

Final point on why audiobooks definitely count as books read: because not counting them is silly, really. I recently listened to Furyborn by Claire Legrand on audiobook. I wasn’t taken with the narrator, so I read the sequel, Kingsbane, in hardback. Shockingly, I didn’t have to go back and read Furyborn in hardback to understand Kingsbane. I simply picked up the book, opened the cover, and started to read. This is because I’d read it by listening to it. I mean, this is not that complicated.

So, at the end of the day, this is my word problem: According to Goodreads, Aimee has read 55 books this year. If 27 of them were audiobooks, how many books has Aimee read this year?

Answer: Aimee has read 55 books this year.

As always, be kind to yourself, and keep at those Goodreads goals, however you reach them!

❤ Aimee

Mamas Last Hug
Bookstagram photograph from @writingwaimee of audiobook version of Mama’s Last Hug by Frans de Waal surrounded by red butterflies.

Agency

When we talk about “agency” in literature, we are usually talking about the protagonist of the story: (1) having the ability to act in his/her/their environment, then; (2) acting.

Simple, right?

Well, as it turns out, not for me.

Agency is something I always have to write into my manuscripts after multiple drafts. My critique partners and beta readers always come back to me telling me my characters don’t have enough (or any) agency. The character is supposed to move the plot, not the other way around. It’s a concept taught in every 101 creative writing class.

Yet… it always eludes me.

Struggling with agency is a common problem for a lot of writers, but recently, I’ve been thinking about why it’s such a reoccurring problem for me. You see, it’s not one character or one book or one series that lacks agency for me. It’s all of them. Even though I should know better. Even though I write thinking this time I’m not going to have to edit agency into my character. Thinking this time I’m going to get it right. But I never do, and I have to wonder why.

I think the answer comes from another definition.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape

[Emphasis added]. Source.

I’ve written about my C-PTSD and how it relates to my reading and writing experiences before, but though I’ve previously connected the two things, I never made this particular connection.

It’s hard for me to write agency, because my mind is wired to believe I have none.

My C-PTSD stems from childhood abuse. That’s all I’m really willing to share about that out here, exposed on the internet, but for purposes of this post, I think it’s important that it’s understood this trauma occurred when I was very young and went on for a long, long time. It shaped the way my brain behaves. Seriously. Physical changes in my brain happened and those things impact my worldview. Deeply.

Though I’m older now, and I have agency, and I go to therapy to unravel and unpack all this trauma, I still struggle. I have an extremely difficult time making decisions. I get overwhelmed easily. When I’m in a dangerous or even mildly upsetting situation, I freeze or disassociate. I have the ability to control my environment, but I struggle to do so. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes me nauseous and anxious.

Because deep down, I don’t understand agency. Agency is, at its root, having some kind of control or influence over your life situation. Something I never had. And if I’m honest with myself, it scares me.

My reactions to the world taking hold of the reins for me are much better. When someone dies, for instance, I’m the most level-headed person in the room. Not being in control is something I’m intimately familiar with and have learned to navigate beautifully. Which is… different.

I started to write unhealthy there, then changed it. Because maybe it’s not unhealthy. Maybe it’s simply different. Maybe it’s how I operate. And maybe that’s okay.

And maybe this is all to say that while I believe agency is important (and I do write it into my manuscripts where it’s needed), lack of agency might be just as important with some characters, and is something I would love to see explored further.

Can you tell a compelling story if your character has no agency? And how should we even define agency? Can’t agency be taking actions to survive, even if they’re not active actions? What if agency, for some characters, is not acting but freezing? What if agency is not striking back, but appeasing? What if agency is looking at a hopeless situation from which there is no escape, but hoping for one anyway?

What if agency could be rewritten?

indoors-3278291_1920
Even Rapunzel, locked in her tower, had the agency to let down her hair. But her prince had to find her first. What if he never came? Would her story still be worth telling? Photo courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Emily_WillsPhotography-8096214/

❤ Always,

Aimee