My husband, who for 25 years was prominent in the small, insular world of British cryptic crosswords, has been asked by Will Shortz (who is prominent in a much larger way here in the US) to give a brief 5-10 minute talk at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament next month. Ross's subject would be the differences between cryptic puzzles constructed by and for Americans, and the British style.
I immediately saw some wonderful possibilities: Craft a clue that yields a valid answer if solved by a Briton, and a completely different answer if solved by an American. Deconstruct one of Ross's classic British clues. Make a joke about how the way you know British cryptic crossword puzzles are hard: the pseudonyms used by puzzle constructors were, for decades, names of Spanish Inquisitors. Frankly, it wouldn't be hard to stand up and talk for 20 minutes.
But that's me. For Ross, it would be hard even to stand up. Speaking in front of 500 fellow puzzlers would be excruciating -- the actual Spanish Inquisition might be easier to endure.
I love my husband with all my heart, and it breaks that heart to see him sad with this lose-lose decision. If he tells Will Shortz no, Ross will probably have trouble letting that missed opportunity go by. If he says yes, he's got 5+ long weeks of anxiety to get through.
Coincidentally, the Saturday of the ACPT is the date of a writers' conference in Iselin, NJ. It's not specific to romance novels, but the workshops look good and there will be editors & agents accepting pitches. I don't participate in the ACPT, so it would actually be convenient for me to nip across from Brooklyn and go to this conference.
But I have not done well in my efforts to pitch at conferences. My pitch at RWA National last summer was to an agent who seemed interested, but never responded to the query. (I'm told that "silence" is the new rejection. Forgive me for a moment if I express a tiny bit of contempt for that. A form email,
Thank you for your interest in our agency. We do not believe we can represent your work. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
would do the trick. Isn't that a more professional and more courteous way of dealing with the situation? At the very least, have a cut-off on the website:
Due to the volume of queries we receive, we may not be able to respond to each one. If we have not responded within 6 months, we regret that we are not interested in pursuing a business relationship with you. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
That's just polite.)
I pitched to two agents in New Jersey in the autumn and never followed up with queries. I know: it's the one thing they tell you *never* to do. But by that time, I was reasonably convinced that my completed manuscript, "Love in Reality," was disadvantaged by some aspects I couldn't, or wouldn't, change. I knew, and still know, that I should have queried them anyway, but I also know there was a slim chance they'd be interested in "Love in Reality" in its old, clunky format. I did a complete rewrite and it's now much better, but by the time I'd finished that, it was December. Agents don't accept queries in December, and after the holidays, I rather felt too much time had passed.
Plus, I was on to the next thing.
My current work-in-progress, "Blackjack & Moonlight" does not have any of those disadvantages. I actually think it's pretty good. Strong characters, a unique set-up, valid conflict, and satisfying story arcs for both protagonists. I love it, and I think it has a much better chance for success than "Love in Reality" has.
Which should tell you that I lack a vital ingredient for success as a writer: courage. And you'd be right. I'm a coward. There's no good reason for that, just as there's no good reason for Ross's reluctance to give a very short talk at the ACPT. We both have something unique and valuable to share with the world. It's stupid and wimpy to be afraid of the steps necessary to get noticed.
And we know this. Which is why we're sad.