It’s another week of writing and searching for an agent and a publisher for Boy At The Window. Many thanks for the comments and email over the past couple of weeks. I’m glad that folks are reading and are giving feedback on my ramblings. I do plan to continue to update and improve the website, including the blog section, so there may be a few glitches along the way. I apologize in advance, and hope that all of you can bear with me.
There’s not much news to report on my search for an agent. I received three rejections last week, including one from an agent who apparently is too swamped to take on another client but thinks that my work is “impressive.” I often don’t know what to make of rejections, but I assume that the fact I received a response is impressive enough. For the month, I’ve received twelve total rejections, mostly of the “your work is good but…” variety. Sometimes I think that there must be an easier way to find agents besides going to writer’s conferences and workshops or working the process as if it were a police investigation and a research project all wrapped together. I find myself thinking, “Maybe I should’ve gone to Harvard or Columbia, Oberlin or UMass, Morehouse or NYU, someplace where future literary agents and editors congregate before working at a publishing house or an agency.” But then I realize that I can only do what I’m doing now, and to keep doing what I’m doing until I either break through or until everyone tells me that my writing skills are about as impressive as an aging frat boy farting on my living room couch with my family present.
I did add an unpublished essay, titled “Shouting ‘Race’ in a Crowded Theater,” to the website today (under the “Other Writings” button). As I said in my cover letter to magazines for the piece at the end of last year, “I discuss an incident that occurred on my company’s volleyball team. It was subtle enough that if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would’ve missed it. Yet the more interesting aspect of this story wasn’t so much what happened during the game. It was after the game and after I politely raised the issue of bias that those subtle group dynamics became more obvious. Within this story is a message for us all around the nature of group (or societal) chemistry and how that can trump our more politically correct and conscious selves regardless of intent, as well as what to do about it.”
The larger story here is that we need not shout “Race!”—nor be in a “crowded theater”—to send people running in panic. One needs only to say “race” loud enough for a few folks to hear to generate a cynical or fearful response. But that’s the irony of race in America these days. In group settings, particularly ones in which there is a clear and significant majority, the issue of race is taboo, even when group dynamics indicate an unconscious set of attitudes and actions that those in the minority can interpret as bias. Now I’m no psychologist or sociologist. But I do think that these dynamics leave all of us with more questions than answers about race and about ourselves, about whether we actually act as individual or if we really are sheep.
It’s another theme in Boy At The Window, how group dynamics can heighten the insensitivities and cruelities of life in a program, school or community. I know, I know, I spend too much time thinking about things that make others’ heads hurt. Oh well. Someone has to do the heavy lifting here, so it might as well be me.