Sunday, August 9, 2009

Query Fear

I have written longish short stories in less time than I've been working on an almost two page query letter. There are so many things the tiny query letter must do. It needs to make me sound interesting, smart, talented, and marketable. Not just my book needs to be marketable; I must be marketable, too. Everything but the writing and the story depends on marketing. Well, I take that back--the story needs to be marketable too. Once written the handling of a book is all about the marketing. I have very little confidence that I am capable of marketing myself in a two page letter. In a couple of paragraphs I need to say an awful lot. I have to pack into as few words as possible why I chose to write about a crazy family, and why that might be a good thing to read.

I do believe that the novel I've written has something that almost everyone can relate to. We all have crazy families. Maybe not this crazy, but crazy enough that almost everyone can relate to a mother like Maggy, the mother in my book. Almost everyone has been through some aspect of divorce and the fracturing of a family. There has to be at least one narcissist in every family. Doesn't there? I'm betting on it.

The other kind of universal experience that I tell in excruciating detail is the care and feeding of a parent with dementia, on the long slow slide to brain dead; perhaps a parent who potty trained you and who now needs you to change her diapers for years, and is like any toddler, surly about giving up the shit. However, a toddler and a grown up the same size as you, are not the same to change. And if you are the least bit phobic about grownup's poop, it will turn your stomach and test your patience long past your patience's limit. Somehow a mean parent just gets meaner with dementia. Odd how that works. The very sweet seem to just grow sweeter. The marginally mean can turn into remorseless sadists, slowly, over a too short time that seems to never end, until you are changing the diapers of a person who has no idea who you are, but knows he doesn't like you, in fact hates you, and the struggle to keep his shit seems like a matter of life and death to him.

I won't say Maggy is a how-to-book on surviving taking care of crazy momma. But it is a book about a very dysfunctional family told from the point of view of the baby who is saddled with the worst jobs of all. I'm betting it doesn't hurt to know what's coming down the road as momma and daddy start going batty, giving the farm away to scam artists, and crapping their pants in public. And my generation, the baby boomers, are now going batty at an alarming rate. We are the most populous of generations. Think about that my darlings, while you ponder your future as you lie in bed worried about your children's education, their prospects for a job, your ability to keep your job as the economy goes to hell and the next generation is bringing its freshly minted graduate degrees to your boss, offering to work for less, and your daddy is now alone and not doing so well. Sleep well. Then tomorrow, tell me Maggy isn't a horror story.

Smile, Like I've Never Heard It Before