Camping with Aliens


I went camping with the Beavercreek Alien last weekend. Actually, the Alien and I had sense enough to rent a hotel room, seeing as it was getting down into the 20s at night. Four of her friends, however, decided to live on the wild side, roughing it in a primitive campsite where the water had been shut off for the winter. No hookups, no showers, and a pit toilet with a seat cold enough to inflict frostbite.

We stayed in Camp Sherman, which is about 2 miles north of where the Metolius River slips out from under Black Butte.  I expected it to be some big, burbling wonder, but it’s pretty unobtrusive. Just a couple of quiet little springs that don’t seem big enough to supply all the water in the river. Still, it’s pretty cool, the idea of a river springing up out of the earth.

Headwaters of the Metolius River

Headwaters of the Metolius River

One thing about this area is that there’s no cell phone service and no wi-fi.  For the first time in probably five years I was completely cut off from technology.  Though I’d left an enormous to-do list at home, I had no way of completing most of the tasks on it, so I didn’t. It’s amazing how liberating that is. As long as it’s possible to tackle my responsibilities, I feel obligated to do so. I honestly didn’t think it was within my skill set to switch off my brain and chill.

Because there was no agenda, I managed to get some writing done. I revised a scene near the end of In the Blood and plowed through about three-quarters of the technical edits provided by my friend Linda. (You elusive comma, I curse you!) I’d been stressing a little about getting back into the creative mode, but it was surprisingly refreshing to sit in a dark hotel room Saturday morning as the Alien slumbered away. She’s not the type to be pried from her bed before ten AM.

I came home to find another rejection letter.  I hadn’t expected this agent to take me on, but you have to try all the possibilities. As far as rejections go, it was the “good” kind, “Though I am impressed with your writing and creativity, after careful consideration, I feel that this project is not quite right for us.  I enjoyed your story and your characters but ultimately didn’t fall in love with it enough to take it on.”

I’d spoken to this agent at the Willamette Writer’s conference, and she’d made it clear that she has to feel a strong connection to the work.  In fact, unless she sees the potential for a long and fruitful career with an author, her agency will turn that person down even if they’ve already sold a book. That was a bit of a wake up call, but it makes sense.

I went into my agent search with the idea that being a good writer was enough.  It’s not.  You also have to find someone who absolutely falls in love with your book.  Consider it this way: in a tough market could you sell a product that you didn’t feel passionate about?

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2 Responses to Camping with Aliens

  1. The camping trip sounds marvelous. I admire that you got writing accomplished–that’s dedication!

    “Consider it this way: in a tough market could you sell a product that you didn’t feel passionate about?”

    This is spot-on. The way I think of it is, when I walk into a bookstore, do I fall in love with every book? No, it has to resonate with me for me to buy it. Once I realized that, I understood better why agents and publishers reject manuscripts even when they’re beautifully written. It’s a heart-thing.

  2. Roxie says:

    Where did you stay and which campground did the masochists use? That’s my childhood stompin’ grounds, you know. I have played in the waters of the head of the Metolius till my legs were blue and my teeth chattering in 100 degree August days. The folks who used to own the property were my Godparents.

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