My grand daughter is learning to make mac and cheese the old fashioned way. She stands next to me on her cooking stepstool and lets out not one but three gigantic groans as she stirs the white sauce.
“It takes a while to thicken, but keep stirring,” I advise, first making sure it is impatience and not pain that has prompted her misery. “A watched pot doesn’t boil,” I add, feeling very old and wise.
Later, after the mac and cheese, she turns the table on me. I am doing some groaning of my own. I have sent out five query letters inviting agents to take a look at Graffiti Grandma. No response after two weeks, despite my hourly checking of my email. “Patience is a virtue,” Hannah says. “Remember?”
The thing is, although I know that some agents get a thousand queries a month and maybe ask for pages from three of those queries, and although the books advise submitting writers to make their queries so intriguing from the first word on that an agent’s finger will tremble as he/she reaches for the Send the Manuscript button, with the hope that he/she will be the first to read the whole thing–although all that, my response to Hannah is “I remember. And hope springs eternal, you know.”
But I do have a vision of my selected agents glancing at the first word, or even the subject bar, and bringing a whole fist down on the Reject button. “I’m sorry, I did not fall in love with your novel,” or the alternative, “We just aren’t the right agency for you,” automatically appear on my screen. Three seconds it takes to squash a hope.
But the springing part turns out to be true. Rejection #l. After a dark moment, a little green blade of hope pops up and cheers me. I still have four queries out there. Who knows? The Help had fifty rejections before an agent said yes. Also, I have a list of four hundred more agents. All I have to do is live long enough to contact them all.
Besides, a new story is percolating somewhere near my heart, making me wake up at night, dialogue from unknown characters ringing in my dreams. Something about an old man in a wheel chair.
“Be up and be a’doing with a heart for any fate, still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.” This time it’s my mother’s voice I hear. I open a blank page, decide to do a little laboring while I wait.