On planning and patience
Or, why the writing (and publishing) life can be a tricky personality fit for me
My daughter is very interested in personality tests, especially the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She keeps a note on her phone of the MBTI types of people she knows, from family and friends to celebrities and characters in books. She’ll tell you I’m an ENFJ (along with Jennifer Lawrence, Barack Obama, and Malala Yousafzai. Word has it they all cite me when they’re listing their fellow ENFJ’s).
Let’s talk about that “J” in ENFJ. It stands for “judging” (which has always rung negatively to my ears, compared with the alternative, “perceiving.” Would you rather be perceptive or judgmental?)
In practical terms, my “J” quality means that I:
prefer to have matters settled
like to make plans
prefer to have rules and deadlines be respected
prefer to have detailed, step-by-step instructions.
If you know me, you
might definitely see me in the above descriptors.
But while Jill is a J, publishing is a P. There are no step-by-step instructions, few rigid timelines. So much ambiguity and guesswork.
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If you want to have your novel published traditionally (meaning, through a publishing house, represented by a literary agent), you start by sending out “queries” to those agents. They might respond to you immediately, or within a few weeks, or within three months, or never. If they respond favorably, they’ll request to see your full (or partial) manuscript. Then, they may get back to you within a few days, or weeks, or months, or never.
Hah! What fun for us writers! Especially the J’s among us.
I do have a secret P in my arsenal: persistence. I’m not giving up. More to come in future newsletters!
I wrote a recipe-shaped story about grief. This one might make you sad, fair warning. I don’t know how to classify it- creative nonfiction? Auto-fiction? In any case, it’s reality-based.
Read: Recipe for Overcoming Your Grief After Your Father Dies in Leon Literary Review.
Readers (and literary agents, and editors) place a high value on a novel’s opening pages. If you’re a writer, you might enjoy my recent blog post about what makes the start of Writers and Lovers so effective.
I’ve read some fantastic books so far this year (as well as a few duds, but I won’t say anything else about those). Here are three recommendations.
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. Adult sisters who were raised in a Mennonite community; themes of depression/suicide and euthanasia. Yes, you will cry, but this book is so beautifully written, and sometimes we could all use a good cry.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. A better choice if you’re in the mood for a feel-good book, this novel centers a widow, a thirty-year-old man who’s still trying to figure out life, and an octopus, and the way their lives intersect. Fun and original.
Johanna Porter Is Not Sorry by Sara Read. This debut novel (by a writer friend and fellow Virginian) is about a single mom who decides to fight back against the former mentor/lover who painted her likeness and robbed her of her artistic dreams. I loved the feminism and mother/daughter relationship in this one.
Have you read any great books recently? Let me know in the comments!
Other fun links
Rotating Sandwiches just for fun (h/t Jane Friedman)
Song Exploder - I love this podcast (and yes, I’m years behind the times on this one) in which musicians recount the story behind one of their songs- a great way to find new music or to learn more about some of your favorite artists.
Covid commercial from SNL - husband and daughter got some laughs from this one.
If you have any recommendations for me- silly sites, useful hacks, shows or podcasts etc- let me know! Happy April, and I hope your garden is blooming.
Jill I am so sorry to hear about your dad. that was beautifully written
Jill-I love this newsletter. The ENFJ / publishing being a P activity really resonates! I am also ENFJ, and finding the process daunting. Thank you for sharing this and bringing us into your world. Your recipe made my eyes tear. The covid commercial cheered me up. Feeling all the feels here. Mer