Saturday, August 14, 2021

                                                                                                                                         Photo:  Maren Newhall

It suddenly dawned on me that agents want to fall in love with a manuscript the way people want to fall in love with a pet they hope to adopt.  It's something an agent or an animal-lover can't put into words.  It comes down to having a certain intuitive feeling that says this manuscript (or pet) is right for me and I can't live without it.  This emotional impression usually happens rather quickly.  

For instance, my daughter and I didn't know what kind of cat were looking to adopt at the Humane Society.  We just wanted a cute cat and we were going by gut-feeling.  Ollie made the choice easy for us.  As soon as he hopped onto my daughter's lap, I knew we'd be taking him home.  However, in the time he was our pet, he never sat in our laps again.  Go figure.  That's a cat for you.  

Eight years later, I was relying on the same gut-feeling when I returned to the shelter.  Ollie had passed away and I was ready for another pet.  The minute I saw Ozzie, it was love at first sight.  His sad-looking eyes stole my heart.     

I felt the same emotional tug for one of my neighbor's pets.  Upon meeting Beebee, I fell in love with her in a matter of seconds.  Beebee is a furry cat that lives a few streets from our house.  She's old, scruffy, and a bit deaf, but she is as sweet as pie and she lets me pet her soft thick coat.  She greets me whenever I take a walk in the neighborhood.  Beebee would be my pet if she didn't already have a home.
My furry friend, Beebee 

On the other hand, I have strong feelings about the cat breeds I wouldn't want as a pet.  One is the Russian Blue, a short-haired cat with a blue-gray coat. To me, they look cold and mean.  The only Russian Blue I've ever seen was a stray that had been to our deck looking for food.  This cat was intimidating.  Fierce and defiant.  In fact, he attacked Putty, a sweet stray I care for.  So, I'm doubly prejudiced against this breed. 

I couldn't own a Sphynx because, well just have a look.  My preference is for cats with fur.  However, Sphynxes were ranked as the 8th most popular feline breed in the country, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association statistics for 2018.  Without a doubt the Sphynx is odd looking, but this breed may appeal to those who have allergies.  

Yes, this is a cat. 

Then there's the Siamese.  And the reason why I wouldn't want one?  They are among the most vocal cats.  It has to be quiet when I write, so a chatty cat would be too distracting.  Thank goodness Ozzie is not too loquacious.  He may chirp or chatter when he sees a bird.  He may speak up when I ask him if he wants to eat or if he wants to be brushed.  If he comes by while I'm writing, he keeps the conversation short and sweet, a quick meow that sounds like "meh."  

Suffice it to say, I have definite preferences when it comes to cats.  Which got me thinking that this may be how agents feel when they search through the slush pile.  They are looking for something that grabs them.  And the catch is, writers have to figure out what grabs an agent because it is an important part of the querying process.  Luckily, many agents have profiles on the Manuscript Wish List, where they can express the kind of manuscripts they would like to acquire. 

Even still, trying to match a manuscript with the specific taste of an agent is tricky.  Not long ago, I sent an agent a humorous story about a cat because she said she was looking for funny cat stories.  My manuscript was rejected.  It's puzzling because I've sent her just what she was looking for.  Or so I thought.  

The whole submission process is so subjective and I can only guess that my manuscript didn't resonate with her.  Which is probably for the best.  If the agent doesn't get my work, then it could mean that we would have trouble working together on other manuscripts.   

It never feels good getting a rejection, so I try to make myself feel better.  I imagine that the agent has a Sphynx cat.  Or a Russian Blue.  Perhaps a Siamese.   I cross her off of my list.  Then it's back to querying other agents.  One day, I'll find an agent who will get a certain je ne sais quoi that will make her fall in love with my manuscript.  And that intuitive feeling will tell her this manuscript is something she must have and she can't live without.  

✌ and 

Photo:  Sphinx: