Learning the trade (or the cat ate my manuscript)

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Healthy cat looking silly

I had a marvelous month in Italy completing my personal writer’s retreat.  I revised, wrote, revised again, wrote a query letter and obtained feedback, learned to use Twitter, learned to pitch a book on Twitter and sent in my first queries to agents.  I had no idea how much work it all entailed.  I thought the writing was the hard part!

The process of looking for an agent has felt similar to my earliest efforts at seducing a man.  Sometimes you chased without a hope in hell of success.  One of my first crushes already had a girlfriend.  That didn’t stop me from trying.  Well, agents these days are the popular kids; they don’t really need the geeky, awkward virgins of the writing universe.

Most of the rejections I received were form e-mails.  They were pleasant but uninformative.  I was therefore over the moon when I was rejected with feedback!  Many thanks to that particular agent.

In the meantime, I became somewhat fluent in Twitter and actually have a number of followers, some of whom aren’t trying to sell me a product.  I proudly know how to use a hashtag although I still fumble with some of the more nuanced aspects.    I met a critique partner and we exchanged first pages.  And then it sank in.  I need to do a major rewrite.  Not just a detailed line edit, which I have done and am doing again, but something more structural.  Be brave, I told myself.  You can do this.  Don’t mind the full time job.  It’s only a minor nuisance, after all.

Then my cat got sick.  I noticed she seemed a bit mangy a day or two after returning from Italy but she perked up a bit and I thought perhaps she missed me while I was gone.  A few days later it became evident something serious was wrong.  Loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, in a 14 year old cat doesn’t need a vet to diagnose.  Even a highly trained Child Psychiatrist (me) could figure that one out.

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Sick cat looking scared

A couple of vet visits later it was confirmed by ultrasound and biopsy; she has cancer, lymphoma.  She dwindled visibly over only a few days.  So did my interest in writing.  One day I may decide to write an essay about getting sucked into treating a desperately ill pet, but it is too long a tale for a blog post.  Suffice to say, my dear cat is getting chemotherapy and to our amazement it seems to be working.  After two weeks of refusing to eat and nightmare struggles with syringe feeds, subcutaneous fluids, and forcing pills down her throat, she is looking much better.  As the designated doctor of the family, I was delegated to “torture the cat.”  She may never trust me again but it may have been worth it to both of us I tell myself as she sits purring on my lap.

Now I need to suck myself out of the black hole of self-medication with computer games and get back to work.

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