What a weird week it's been. All About Romance has a blog post on Modern Romance that is deja vu all over again. When I married for the first time in 1999, there had been a decade, it seemed, of dire news items on how rare it was for women over 40 to marry for the first time. I've now done it twice.
But then so much about me isn't statistically relevant these days. I have lived virtually every minute of my life in the narrow-end of the bell shaped curve; it's a wonder I don't have a permanent stoop (I'm 5'11", which is in the top 1% or so for white women my age, I'm obese and thus also in the top 1% on that scale). So -- old, tall, fat and still unmarried at age 40: it was a bloody miracle I could get married at all. For all those reasons, I didn't even bother leaving a comment at AAR -- I figure I'm just too odd to have anything useful to say.
I'm still not sure if my comments at Jessica's blog, Racy Romance Reviews, have helped or hindered the discussion on feminism. I have gotten a lot out of it, and really appreciate the various points of view that have been expressed. Jessica will forever go into my pantheon of people who taught me something absolutely essential to my understanding of the world, myself, and my place in the world. And she did so, I think (I hesitate to suggest another person's internal motivation) because she realized that I wasn't there to argue but to learn. It's generous of her, Laura Vivenco, Sunita, Liz, Ann Somerville, Diana, and Lynn Spencer to take the time to read my long anecdotes and comments, and respond thoughtfully and with their own perspective well-expressed and illuminating.
There, too, my oddness is a factor. I'm odd because I come from an odd family (dominated by strong women who are all well-educated, well-employed, and accomplished; I give some examples here), because I had an odd childhood (the abuse I suffered is, sadly, not that odd, but the details of what was done to me, by whom, and what I did to survive it combine in a way that is, undoubtedly, unique). So I look for oddness in the world. I don't look for patterns and similarities because, by definition, all the people in the wide part of the bell-shaped curve are unlike me.
This week has taught me that I need to see the patterns of sexism, and an independent study of feminism will be valuable toward that goal. I'm not the same person I was a week ago; it's a cliche, but change is good.
Last item: I blogged a while ago about how I was writing romance fiction but didn't really want to talk about it because like all difficult and lengthy endeavors, having people ask how it's going isn't always fun. I don't blog about my writing, and I don't tweet about it. But a funny thing happened a while back that resulted in my being asked to send an agent my work. I'm months away from where I thought I'd have to be to query anyone, so this was both a surprise and a huge opportunity. And a bit of a risk.
The agency in question has passed on my work. That's not entirely surprising, but it does leave me with those feelings of doubt and uncertainty, both large and small. I know I'm being irrational even to question my decision to write romances, but that's a hard thought to expel from one's mind. A more rational question is whether there are deficiencies in my writing, and if there are, are they always going to be seen as deficiencies? In other words, did the agency reject my writing because it doesn't fit their preferences, or because it won't fit anyone's preferences?
Look, I know this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. I know I'm still in the early stages of this process. I know I shouldn't take this personally. And I know I need to continue to believe in the quality of my work, even as I accept and benefit from all constructive criticism. I know all that and I'm doing all that. But rejection is still rejection, and we're not properly plugged into the world if rejection doesn't sting a little.
At the end of the week, I've been educated, engaged, exposed to new ways of looking at the world, and I've endured the first tiny "ordeal by market," as my grandfather called it. And I had a sad realization: A friend once told me that her mother had made lampshades out of all her rejection letters; what can I do with rejection emails?
(Crossword Man just said: You can make e-lampshades. Can we tell he's a software compiler?)
This is what the ACPT looked last year, when I did compete. I'm the second from the left in the front row: white shirt, black cardigan, knitting. Yeah, so that's not exactly like the bar exam, where knitting would not have been allowed, but look at that room. That's 650 people all solving puzzles under test-like conditions: just like the bar exam!