We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s like herding cats.” Its referent is typically a group of squabbly women. What I’m about to relate is a 2020 version of that conundrum.

I attending a high-value writers conference in late February. I’d signed up in advance for personal interviews with two NY agents… and received requests for partials from both. Let me interpret the insider slang: Each liked the 20 pp. I’d sent in advance and requested more.

I was ‘over the moon!’

With the assist of several online courses and two highly literate friends, I crafted a query letter to match my dreams and copy-pasted 50 pp. of my manuscript, now titled The Jailbird’s Jackpot. I had achieved a milestone in my encore career and already envisioned my book on a bookshop shelf.

After some serious research on the Manuscript Wish List, an online database of agents and their story interests – and a list of amenable agents from writers I trusted – I submitted 20-30 query letters plus pages of my manuscript via email precisely following each agent’s instructions in the first week of March, 2020.

However, this was the week that was, when New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus, a disease which set out to conquer the world. The virus’s force was fiercer than my desire to secure a NY Agent. The city was shut down and all publishers and agents went on hiatus…

I received two polite rejection emails – likely fielded by an intern as the last task before the office closed. Then nothing.

Friends urged me to send the follow-up email on April 1, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t handle the April Fool’s Day trick of learning any among the two dozen were hospitalized or dead.

So, I carried on, independent. I’d gone down this path before and I could do it again… Two more polite rejection emails trickled in… and in June, when the cover had been approved and the manuscript edits were underway, I received a fifth polite rejection…

Thank goodness it was a NO because I was already in love with the Jailbird’s Jackpot cover and the winning process on indie publication… in California.

I liked being my own book shepherd!


P.S. ISWG topic: Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?
As I began to write as a hobby in 2010, I quickly mastered flash fiction, 250-words or less. As my writing matured, via critique groups and online courses, it morphed into short story and personal essay form. In 2012, I was encouraged to muscle into novels… and the rest is history!