5.06.2006

When Casting Bread

I've chronicled here the funk I fell into after I completed my first novel. Actually, writing those things was cathartic (perhaps that's one benefit to blogging). You may recall that the joy of finishing said book was quickly doused by the realization that I must now sell it. Somewhere between trend analysis, researching comparative titles and fudging selling points, my creative arteries hardened. Yikes, I can feel the darkness looming just speaking about it.

Anyway, several things kinda converged to buoy my spirit. As I mentioned, one was just talking about the gloom (funny how that happens, huh?). Another was hearing from all you wonderful people -- Dineen, Gina, Kelly, Noel, Janet, Sandy, suz -- may God bless you all for the words of encouragement (and rebuke!). Stephen Koch's, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop, rekindled the fading embers (thanks Mark Bertrand for the recommendation). And that six pack of Guinness helped too (just kidding). But something else happened that was really... weird.

I had a dream.

Now I'm not easily enamored with visions and words and premonitions, nor people who claim to have them all the time. But I believe God spoke and God speaks; He still interacts with His people on a personal level. And sometimes this involves oddball intrusions.

Well, that's what happened last weekend before dawn. I woke up with a Scripture blaring in my brain.
Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. (Ecclesiastes 11:1 NIV)

Hmm. This is not on my list of "life verses," or something I read recently that was shuffling about on my cerebral sidewalk. But there it was, standing at the curb of my consciousness, tapping its foot, waiting for a ride. What do you want? I asked. Let me in, she replied, and I'll show you.

So I scratched the verse on an index card and taped it over my desk. Coincidentally, I had vowed to finish my Proposal package that weeked... something I'd vowed to do the previous four weekends. But between Koch's book, my pushy writer friends, my desire to get on with another project and now this peculiar Scripture-dream, I was able to squeeze the pitiful turd out.

So it's done. Now what? "Cast your bread upon the waters..." You mean...? Yeah. Just cast it, fling it, scatter it. You know, mail it out, doofus. So I did that. I'd gathered names of literary agents I wanted to contact, started at the top and mailed a query letter to four of them. In the next hour, four things happened that left me rather stunned.

* I received a rejection letter on a short story I subbed almost six months ago.

* I received an acceptance letter and contract from a semi-pro sci-fi print magazine for another story (more on that later).

* The agency at the top of my list contacted me, said they found my premise and writing style to be intriguing, requested a full proposal and sample chapters.

* Another agency contacted me also requesting a full proposal and sample chapters. (They've since requested more chapters.)

And this all happened within the first hour of submitting my stupid Proposal. No lie.

I always tell my kids, Expect the worst and hope for the best. Pretty pessimistic, huh? I'm under no illusion that the interest of these agents will actually amount to anything -- i.e, I'm expecting the worst. But all my moping seems pretty silly now. And that odd little verse has suddenly taken on a world of significance.

Casting means letting go. And in a way, that's been a difficult thing for me. I labored over that story for a year and half, and now it was time to fling it into the unknown. The editorial abyss has been known to swallow stories and leave aspiring authors shipwrecked. But God promises a safe return. I've got a long way to go but I'm slowly beginning to believe that. Perhaps you find yourself on the shoreline today, watching the surf, wondering if the "bread" you cast will ever return. Take heart, dear writer, "...for after many days you will find it again."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

And I want to know why your PW groupies weren't the first to be informed about these developments?

Noel

P.S. Oh, congratulations.

Janet Rubin said...

Mike,
Now THIS is exciting. Remember all those crits I did for you? LOT'S OF UM BUDDY! I didn't do it so you could have a nice little story you could just read to yourself. I wanted to be part of something bigger- to see Mike Duran's book on the shelf at borders and say, "I helped with that." I am proud of you for dragging yourself out of your melancholic pit and sending that stuff out. Even more proud of you for listening to God. Seeing Him actually "show up" and give you a verse and then show you that, yes, that was from Him and throwing all kinds of evidence at you is just as exciting as the interest of literary agents, isn't it? Not only is some agent possibly interested in you, the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE is definately interested in you. Rejoicing with you!!!

Ane Mulligan said...

Good for you, Mike! I'm proud of you.

Gina Holmes said...

Mike, you're one of the most talented writers I know. Published or unpublished. That's the truth. Melancholy or manic, it's not about the way you feel. It's about obediance. And I'm proud of you for following through.

Now, what's with the skull on your desk?

Mike Duran said...

Hey, thanks for all the kind words. Noel, I got tired of tooting my own horn at Penwrights. I figured one toot is enough. Janet, thanks so much for your encouragement. You really did put a lot of time and energy into making that story better. I won't forget it. Tell you what, if it ever makes it to Barnes & Nobles, I'll... I'll... I'll probably need defribulated. Ane, thanks for dropping by. Great talking to you the other day. And Gina, the skull's name is Carswell. He reminds me of my mortality, the type of cannister that houses my brain and doesn't interrupt when I speak. Blessings to all ya!

Elaina Avalos said...

Thanks for this encouraging word, Mike.

Ame said...

You GO Mike!!! I'm proud of you, too!!!

And . . . Carswell??? A little pessimistic??? You're too funny!!!!!!!

michael snyder said...

Way to go, Mike! Cast away.

And I always love it when commentors pull out a single quote and illuminate it some further bit of wisdom. But this one stands alone and needs no further emblellishment...

"...squeeze the pitiful turd out."

I'm going to put that on an index card and tape it by my monitor! Maybe when you're famous, you can author your own Modern Workshop book-on-writing...you already have the perfect title.

Seriously, congrats. I'm not at all surprised by the response. (You did use my name in the proposal, right?)

Mirtika said...

YIPPPEEE!!!! I think I need to get on the "memento mori" bandwagon. I want to call my skull Yorickito. :)

Congrats, babe. I posted a link hereaways.

(PS, let me know if you got my answers.)

Mir

Mike Duran said...

Thanks for the visit, friends. Elaina, it's equally encouraging hearing from you. I'm glad I could reciprocate the glow. Ame, I hope you're not laughing at my pessimism, cuz that would confirm its validity. Just kidding. I ain't really that bad. Michael, of all the quotes you had to reference, it had to be the "turd" one. But you may be on to something. "Turd-Squeezing Made Simple" would definitely turn some heads. And Mir, thanks for the linkage. But Yorikito?

Kelly Klepfer said...

Mike,

Read your post - could almost detect a lilting soundtrack, or maybe even the twitter of cute little birdies.

Carswell couldn't quite dampen the -- dare I say -- near Perryanna undertones of your words (Pollyanna just won't do for the male gender).

It's really okay for you to say "Jesus loves me." and "He's given me a gift of gab and the ability to use multisyllabic words with a straight face." I don't know if I can spell multisyllabic correctly or even if it is a word - but I'll bet you know.

Glad you're getting there. Don't forget the bread you're casting is His, in all the hidden and obvious nuances.

Congrats for taking the huge step that puts you into the next category.

Mary Yerkes said...

Mike,

What wonderful news! However, I'm not surprised. You have a special gift for writing and a unique voice.

Remember me when you end up on the New York Times bestseller list:>

Mary

Sandy Cathcart said...

What a timely word! I needed to hear that. I am sending out my novel today! Been up since 4:30 a.m. printing stuff off and scared as all get out. So, thanks for sharing about flinging it out there . . . I can do that.

And congratulations on a job well done.

Thanks also for the reminder that God keeps His promises. Duh! I really know that, but somehow I keep forgetting.

siouxsiepoet said...

yes, just wonderful.
suz.