A year or so ago, clicking on the desktop folder that housed my manuscript THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM, written under my pen name Nora England, released a few personal demons I was still battling. The book itself was finished, but the disappointing attempts at getting the book published, and then failing utterly, was not yet laid to rest. I was still choking and sputtering about the “what could have been” in my life.
Great expectations, when not met, will do you in…but mediocre expectations when not met destroy you even quicker.
I originally wrote the tweener’s novel (age 10 and up) in 2006, over 6 years ago. I asked a friend to read it, now a New York Times bestselling author, to read it. Not only did this author read my unpublished tome but suggested it to their own personal agent, something he rarely did. I was thrilled, humbled and speechless to the point of immobility. All I could do was to sit around and wait for his agent’s response.It would surely be positive, wouldn’t it? After all, this was of the agencies bestselling clients who praised my work.
The agency was bound to say yes.I began to daydream, and soon fantasies of success enveloped my every day. To be honest, daydreaming is something I never allow myself to do, to feel good about my future. I am usually consumed on a daily basis by the failures of my past. Color me doom and gloom because any fantasy of mine is likely a nightmare of the inevitable personal destruction. And I have a lifetime of observation to prove it (as Abed so wisely pointed out about himself on the television show Community.)
So, thinking about the possibility of being successful was new to me. Although I do well in corporate comedy, I don’t actually work a lot…usually my agent has to track me down and ask me a few times if I’d like to do a show. I either have my head in the clouds, in a book, or sometimes, up my ass. But if THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM sold to a major publisher, I could finally pay off my car and be debt-free. It took me to my mid-forties to pay off my student loans. Why not be able to pay off a car in my late fifties? Wait a minute! Maybe it would even sell to the movies! (By the way, this thinking positive thing is very addictive and likely dangerous). Or maybe I could prove everyone single person who had said I had no talent or told me “to be quiet and not talk about my writing” even at family events, was wrong. Maybe I would finally look good in their eye. Maybe I would …
How naïve I was. Most authors are. It’s why we writers are able to write stories in the first place. We unconditionally believe in happy endings.Around a year after I submitted it (it took that long for the agent to finally tell me her agency was not going to sign me) I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Supposedly, it took that long because the agent was dealing with business issues, reduced staff, etc. My manuscript was at the end of a long list of To Do’s. But the real reason, in my opinion, I was dropped? I was asked if I would change it to third person in case a publisher asked for that to be done. Foolishly, I said no. I wrote it in First Person for a reason. I couldn’t see it in another voiced than the one it is and I had all these books planned. I now realize how pathetic that made me look.
Here I was, an unknown writer saying no to a suggestion. If I had it to do all over again, I would have said yes, and prayed that the publisher would even think to ask something so stupid. And if they did, I would have rewritten in third person until I was so famous I could tell publishers everywhere to go do to themselves what many couples do for pleasure.But I didn’t say yes, I said no. The relationship with the agency ended and that was that.
But my pity party doesn’t end there. Almost immediately I signed with a very large New York agency. I was assigned a young agent, around 23 or so I think by the sound of her voice who called me and thanked me for writing such a ‘brilliant book’. She said they never get ‘books like the one you sent.’ I truly believe she was convinced that the book would be snapped up almost immediately, maybe even go into auction.Actually, it didn't go anywhere except to a few publishers. When it was rejected by 5 or 6 of the top publishers my agent, who was younger than many of my shoes, immediately dropped it and refused to send it smaller publishers, or even to the other larger ones. In my opinion, she was more devastated than I was. If I remember correctly. I had to console her on the phone after each rejection…or that may be just the memory this aging brain has created. All I know is that I didn't feel consoled, at all. Finally, I received an email stating she felt it wouldn't be worth it to continue to try to sell the book.I never heard from the young “agent” again until a few years later when out the blue, I received what I was assumed was a mass emailing to all of her email contacts in her online address book, informing anyone who might be interested that she was now working as a freelance editor.I wasn't interested, at all.
At this point, I didn't know what to do. So I did what I normally do when stressed, nothing. And yes, I realize now that making a mistake is better than no action. Just like I know that it would have been better to say yes to the third person rewrite. And I should have knocked on every door out there. Instead, I put the folder into another folder on my computer and didn’t look at the manuscript again. I didn't want to self-publish it, not this book. Not after all the hopes and dreams I had had for it.
Now self-publishing has been very good to me, especially my book HOTDISH TO DIE FOR, but, like a lot of authors, I wanted the big guns behind me. Maybe if for nothing else than the bragging rights that come along with saying, “Why yes, I've been published.”And finally, years later, I am publishing the book on my own. With the help of Marilyn Victor who did the incredible cover illustration on THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM, and Donna Seline, who formatted the book, THE WITCHES OF DORKDOM is now for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in one book store in the United States, actually the best bookstore in the entire world, Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis.
Maybe it’s because of my pesky brain tumor that was discovered this spring, or that the fact that I survived a mild stroke a few days before, that I have this urgency for this book to be out there is the universe, not just sitting in a file on the computer. I want this sweet and funny story .to be a legacy of sorts. It really is a good book, and would make a terrific gift (insert smiley face here)…but by getting it out there it allows me to not only bury my past, but to begin to believe again in possibilities and happy endings.I need to let it be the book it was meant to be, a pretty darn good tale that will entertain and daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers and grandmothers…something I have been trying to do all my life.I published “The Witches of Dorkdom” under the pen name Nora England, a combination of my grandmothers’ names. If I can’t make me almost famous, maybe I can make them.And in case you're interested, The Witches of Dorkdom is available at Amazon and Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis.
Fiction --- Humor --- Whatever
From my blog at patdennis.blogspot.com
A TALE OF TWO AGENTS and GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Pat Dennis is an award-wining author and comedian. She is a veteran of 1,000 plus performances in comedy clubs, Fortune 500 special events, woman's organizations, and church basements across the country. She has worked with such notables as Phyllis Diller, David Brenner, Tommy Chong, and Lewis Black. Pat is the author of HOTDISH TO DIE FOR, a collection of six culinary mysteryshort stories where hotdish is the weapon of choice (18 hotdish recipes are included). Her travel memoir FAT OLD LADY IN LAS VEGAS: GAMBLING, DIETING AND WICKED FUN reached #1 on Amazon in travel memoirs. She is the author of the Betty Chance mystery series which includes: MURDER BY CHANCE, KILLED BY CHANCE, and DEAD BY CHANCE. Her short stories have appeared in ANNE FRASIER’S DEADLY TREATS, The Minnesota Crime Wave's SILENCE OF THE LOONS, RESORT TO MURDER, ONCE UPON A CRIME ANTHOLOGY AND WRITES OF SPRING. Her fiction and humor have been published in National Public Radio's Minnesota Monthly, FMAM, Woman's World, The Pioneer Press, and The Sun Current newspapers. Pat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(AKA Nora England)