Sunday, August 21, 2011


If you follow my WACKY WEDNESDAY blogs, you've got a pretty good idea that I fly by the seat of my pants and usually have to sew a seam or two by the time I've landed. Been that way my whole life. I'm mentally "accident prone." I start out with the greatest of intentions, methodically planning my next move, overthinking every step along the way, and stewing about "this and that" until I finally decide I've made the right decision.

Then, I jump. Something always happens "mid air." The chute doesn't open (that's, of course, I remembered to strap the dang thing on), or if it does, the lines get tangled. Sometimes, it's simpler. My skirt blows up around my face and exposes my underwear. Either way, I'm plummeting toward disaster, and when I arrive, my blush is so hot, I self-combust.

Yesterday, one of my over-thought-cautiously-plotted scenarios misfired. I was left holding the grenade...without the pin. A week ago, I wrote what I believed to be one of my most "dazzling" query letters. I can write 350 pages of creative prose effortlessly, but I suck at the "one page query letter" that is my only tiny flag blowing in a breeze of thousands of other writers' flags, with the words "pick me! pick me!" scribbled across it. The query letter is my one first "bluff and dazzle" to getting an agent to actually rub their chin and ponder..."could this be the next mega-bust best seller?

Of course, I think it is, but...this one page, filled with names, addresses, contact information, writing credentials, contest wins, membership stats, not mention my attempt to woo and flatter the agent I'm trying to solicit, leaves me one paragraph that must be crafted with Hollywood style pizazz to sell the story that's plagued my thoughts and caused endless sleepless nights. A story my husband considers "my affair" and my children think I love more than them (and there are those times), and one I'm so anxious for the rest of the world to read. My "dream" has to be described and sold in a paragraph shorter than this, to keep within the required "one page format" submission guidelines. This paragraph...this letter...must outshine my entire story to get it considered, and I have yet to produce one that will get me "the call."

But this time, I really felt confident I'd got it right. I sent it to a couple of discriminating eyes and got the "thumbs up." So I frantically put the finishing touches on DESIGNER GENES this week, officially closing and saving with an elated sigh yesterday afternoon. I sat down to send off my one brilliant page letter to my favorite agent on my "A List."

In my chair, the letter open before me, I sat at the edge of my jump off station, ready to hit the SEND key and "soar" with confidence. First, I corrected the date to reflect the actual date of my submission. Saved. Decided to run one last spell check and "surprise!" Found a sneaky little flaw that could have ruined my perfected masterpiece. Fixed it, grateful I'd discovered it before sending. Did one last read through and saved again.

Then, I packed my "parachute." I made the decision to use my Gmail email address for business, because it contains my full name, instead of my cutesy Yahoo email address. I've never used my Gmail email account, just set it up so I could create my blog. So to be safe, I sent myself a test email. Covering all the bases..."tucking in all the corners of my chute." I opened it, and it looked great. Wanting it to look "fresh," I copied the letter and dumped it into a new email and smiled. It was ready. All my "lifelines" appeared coiled properly. I smoothed my "skirt," mentally taking note I had on my good underwear. Time to jump. I hit SEND.

Feeling the weight immediately lift off my shoulders, I took flight. Of course I wanted to forward a copy to my Yahoo address so I could file it in my query letter folder, along with the past experiments and attempts that had yet to bring me fame and fortune, knowing this one would work. It almost sparkled in my SEND box. I opened it to forward to my other email address, and....

  The lines "tangled," my skirt flew over my head, and my screams could be heard to the planet Jupiter! Did you know that it is impossible to retrieve an email on any format outside of OUTLOOK? Keep this in mind. Place it in "important facts to remember." Once you hit the SEND key, it's like a shell shot out of Howitzer Tank. Your message has a homing device that will take it to the intended, or unintended target with lightning speed, and explode. Irreparable damage. My grenade detonated.

Many times I have mentioned my challenges with technology. Just as I think I've mastered it, I'm "shut down and rebooted." I made the mistake of thinking one format in my cyber-possessed world, Gmail, worked just like Yahoo...the format I've been using for years. A "fatal error" occurred. You see, when I did the simple task of highlighting the last, perfect letter I formatted and placed into the new email, apparently...the other two letters I'd corrected attached underneath! Yes, that's right. I sent ALL three letters in one email, end-to-end, to my sought after agent!

Wow, Joelene, talk about impressive! You go girl! Not only did I hit the ground with a deflated parachute, I walked through the imaginary door to my favorite agent's office with my shirt shredded and my underwear torn. I'm guessing my hair and makeup are in slight disarray, as well. Yep, hell of a first impression!
So here's the thing. I could curl into the fetal position and cry miserably, vowing to burn my writer's pen and never turn my computer on again, or I could laugh. Yes, that's right laugh. Boisterous, "wet-your-pants," laughing. One of two things are going to happen, neither of which I can control. First, she will receive the email. That's a disastrous given. She may gasp in disbelief, stare at my torn underwear, and slam the door in my face without so much as a reply, and life will go on. Or, she could actually be impressed by the first letter, see where I took the initiative to correct the spelling error on the second letter, and notice my professionalism in displaying the correct date in the third letter. But she'll see my magical "paragraph" three times! She may truly be curious enough to want to read more about the story I've described in six short sentences, now burned into her memory! I might be asked to take a seat in her office (covered by a sheet of newspaper first, most likely).

Agents say they want a query letter that will dazzle and impress them above all others. I think I've accomplished that. Yes, this may be just the letter (or letters) to get me noticed. I will be "noticed," of that I'm quite confident. I'm just hoping (praying actually) she, too, will have a good laugh, but in the end, will look past my embarrassing gaffe and ask to see more. Or, she'll check out my blog and understand what really happened!

I hope I've taught you a couple of valuable lessons so you don't repeat my mistake, not that there could possibly be another person as mentally accident prone as me. If I have a twin out there, I hope you'll find solace in knowing if I can can you! Life is going to fall apart at the most inopportune moments, some by our hand, some by others. Allow yourself a momentary pity-party, then laugh. Find the positive in everything negative, and you'll make it through life sliding into the grave with a smile on your face and your favorite cocktail in hand saying..."Wow! Thanks for the ride!"

Here's to laughing over spilled milk...the cat's going to lick it up anyway! 

Joelene (Harley Brooks is walking around with a brown bag over her head and eyes cut out. You'll recognize her by the smile on her backside where her underwear is torn!).


Cindy Nielsen said...

I love it! I've done a very similar thing, and what can you do but laugh? Thanks for making me smile today.
Cindy Nielsen

ladystef said...

Hey sis, glad your able to smile about it.

Lani Wendt Young said...

Youre right. We all need to laugh (maniacally)when we jump and our chutes dont open. Life is too short and too full of exciting things to look at as we hurtle past them at 200 miles an hour - for us not to laugh, sparkle, enjoy it.
Im going to get my cocktail now...

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Ah, Joelene,
I have nightmares like this.
I've heard of stories worse than yours and the writer has survived.
Most agents have a sense of humor.
This will tell you if your target does.
Lets hope she laughed and asks for a full.

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

I don't think she's going to do anything but laugh. That's just a tech glitch. Even agents make those--I got sent someone else's rejection letter, followed by a request for more, thank goodness.

What you don't want to do, after getting a rejection, is email a friend and complain that the rejector wouldn't know humor if it bit her in the face---and then not realize the friend and said agent have the same first name and maybe you'd better make sure the correct email addy had popped up.

Oh, yes, I did.

I got an email from the agent a few minutes after sending her slap in the face. She just said, "I think you hit reply instead of forward."

After I sent the apology, she responded with a simple, "It happens to the best of us."

Now you know. My underwear is not pretty.

J. Coleman said...

Argh! I'd die, go underground! Thanks guys for making me feel "semi-normal" or at the very least, human. Appreciate you stopping by.

Sandy said...

My computer sent a query letter before I had finished typing it. I tried again, and it actually let me add two sentences before sending it again. The third time I managed to finish the letter and hit send with profuse apologies for the first two.
Got a rejection anyhow.
Maybe she had no sense of humor?

Clancy said...

Oh, Joelene - I do adore you and your voice! It will all be okay and as it is meant to be :)

Calisa Rhose said...

I want to laugh- really I do- but I have these dreams, Doctor...

And Lesli! Oh my!!!

Oh Joelene- if your query is anything like your blog- your voice alone will make her laugh (3x harder) before she requests the full ms. Good luck and I await the successful announcement!

Ellie James said...

Joelene, I think we could be soul sisters...or at the very least great friends :) terrific blog post!

And worries on the query. When your agent is dazzled, she's not going to let a techno glitch stand between her and the story she wants!

Ellie James

J. Coleman said...

Hey for anyone checking on the status of my gaffe?? It worked!! She asked for a partial, asking me to send just "one" of my query letters for reference. She's got a sense of humor...she'll need it if she works with me! Also, BOTH my manuscripts are finalists in Heart of the West contest AND they both also are finalists for the Golden Pen! Laura Bradford AND Harlequin will be reading the first 30 pages of my work! Flying...totally flying without a chute!