Electric Lit Ball

I went with my friend Eveline to a party thrown by Electric Literature. The party was themed "Masque of the Red Death," after an Edgar Allen Poe story. Guests were required to wear red or black. There were masks at the party, free drinks and free books. 

I showed up promptly at eight. There were lots of books available and no one was really taking any--early party shyness. I got a tote bag and filled it with books after seeing one other person do the same, then checked my tote bag and coat, grabbed a mask and a drink and waited for Eveline.

I ran into this guy who I guess is the official photographer for New York literary scene stuff, because I saw him at two PEN events previously. Each time I address him as if he knows who I am and each time he responds as if he knows who I am, but I always have the distinct impression he does not remember me. And also that he knows I know he doesn't remember me?

Literary scene photographer who may or may not recognize me or both at once like Schroedinger's Cat.

Literary scene photographer who may or may not recognize me or both at once like Schroedinger's Cat.

Bemasked literary people.

Bemasked literary people.

While I waited, a young writer struck up a conversation with me. She worked for a tech company but wrote on the side. Her personal essays sounded really interesting, and I encouraged her to write more of them. 

Eveline arrived, checked her coat, and put on her mask. We stood around talking to the younger writers for awhile, who told us about a networking group for women that they're in called the Valkyries, but how they might have to change the name due to a right-wing nationalist type group also being named the Valkyries.

Then, we hit the dance floor. The music was an enjoyable, pop mix including "Faith" by George Michaels, "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, and "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order. I was impressed by how the DJ seemed cool and calm, and then realized later that he wasn't actually the DJ but the sound and lighting guy, so the reason he was so chill around the music was because he wasn't involved in playing it. I think there's a metaphor for my love life in there somewhere .  

Note to self, expressionless does not equal Zen transcendence.

Note to self, expressionless does not equal Zen transcendence.

Party at its height.

Party at its height.

Eveline and I stayed on the dance floor for a long time. The last song playing as we left was "Vogue" by Madonna. At this point, I was filled with trepidation about bringing all my books home on the subway, but it actually turned out to be pretty easy. When I woke up it was nice to have a stack of books to look forward to reading to. I'm probably most interested in Olivia Sudijic's Sympathy. It's about a young girl . . . who comes to NYC . . . 

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Five Key Tips for Getting a Literary Agent

You typed in the magic words “The End,” and it’s true, your final page is one sort of end, but “to be continued” may be more appropriate in terms of your writing journey. Where will it continue?  Into the publishing blogosphere, into immense tomes that contain information on agents, into the pages of writing magazines, into the post office, into new files on your computer, with carefully personalized query letters addressed to dozens of strangers—strangers who hold your destiny and dreams in their hands.  Strangers known as literary agents.

Getting a literary agent is an intimidating process, and the world is rife with information on how to lure in one of these mystical creatures.  In this blog post, I’ve distilled my myriad observations from time spent as a literary agent and as a writer down to five key tips that should inform your actions throughout your search.

Tip 1: Write Something Amazing

Too obvious? If you’ve ever had to read the slush piles, you’d know that it actually can never be said enough.  Too many writers are so excited by their bestseller wishes and National Book Award dreams that they end up skipping over the many steps necessary to perfect their manuscripts.  Getting a literary agent in today’s hardscrabble publishing environment is difficult enough when you have something stellar in hand.  Don’t lower your chances by sending out anything less than your best, which might mean having a trusted friend or skilled editor assist you in revisions.


Tip 2:  Choose Your Targets Wisely

You have the next big thing in historical romance.  You read an interview with a Phd making a splash with the latest neuroscience-meets-your-life wherein the author praises his agent effusively.  This agent might be a perfect match for the good doctor, but will he really appreciate the hours you spent mastering the intricacies of 18th-century hairstyles?  More to the point—does he know the editors of your genre?  By making sure the agents you approach are the right fits for your work, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, rejection, or worse–acceptance by someone who doesn’t really know how to market your book.

Tip 3:  Follow Submission Guidelines

A synopsis and a letter.  A letter and a synopsis and two pages.  A letter and a synopses and ten pages.  Only a letter.  A  partial. A whole.  You can’t keep track of the everyone’s preferred submission format, and you would get your submissions out so much faster—in seconds, really—if all you had to do was replace the name after the salutation and hit send.  However, it’s worth it to take the time and tailor your submission to what the literary agent has requested, since deviation from the requirements might lead them to ignore your submission.  Do your research and also pay attention to whether the agent is even accepting submissions right now—you could save yourself a lot of time in your path to getting a literary agent.

Tip 4:  Create a Good Query Letter.

I’ve written before about the importance of query letters—and one of my most popular service is editing and refining query letters.  As the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression.   This is actually true for literary agents, who you cannot query twice. So labor over that query letter.   When a document is short, it’s even more vital that every word is carefully chosen, every paragraph polished to its highest potential.

Tip 5:  Be Patient.

The time between when you send your material to agents and the time in which it takes them to respond may feel like an eternity.  But agents are plowing through tons of material, so don’t take the delay personally or let your imagination run wild—Perhaps it got lost in the mail!  Occupy yourself with a new project, or catch up on all the television shows you missed out on while writing your book.