I’m taking a class on how to attract a literary agent. I know I told myself that I wouldn’t put myself through this again, that I would be content self-publishing, but this opportunity came about, and I said, “You know what? I’ve got nineteen finished novels. I can take one off the schedule and shop it around.” So here I am. And it all went well until the back half of my first class, when the agent-teacher asked us to read our draft query letters to the whole class.
STUDENT: My book is a collection of literary short stories.
STUDENT: My book is a semi-autobiographical novel about fleeing Romania at the close of the Cold War.
STUDENT: My book is a biography of my grandmother, who came to this country and ended up in a Coca-Cola ad, and everything that happened after.
STUDENT: My book is a series of essays from the perspective of a comedian who has seen the talk-show circuit up close.
STUDENT: My book is a memoir of being a music video director of indie bands in the late eighties/early nineties.
STUDENT: My book is literary horror. [Literary horror is currently the hottest genre in publishing.]
STUDENT: My book is a scathing indictment of Reagan’s War on Drugs and how it permeates through our modern culture.
ME: My book is a superhero romance. [Record scratches. Someone drops a wine glass to the floor. The piano player stops playing. Crickets can be heard clearly in the distance.] I’ll see myself out.
The teacher, to her credit, treated my query with the same seriousness and focus that she treated the others, even the literary horror novel that she was drooling over, and I got a lot of great advice.
But I felt so, so silly, like I went to a big Halloween party, and I was the only one wearing a costume. I have, literally, no idea what I’m doing.