Native Tongue: A Post for Literary Agents
"Living in a city of sleepless people
Who all know the limits and won't go too far outside the lines
Cause they're' out of their minds."
"Generally the agents seem to dislike anything too violent or depressing, and stress that writers should "sell a solution, not a problem." This is a comment under a literary agency's information. A few days ago I expressed over Twitter and Facebook how I find it troubling that agents shy away from topics such as suicide, rape, and drugs because these are real issues that happen to real people. We all don't live in a fairytale land where the leading character finds love in the end and the only issue she had to deal with was bullying (not that bullying isn't a serious issue). No one wants to go there. Everyone wants to play it "safe" and not cross the line that will possibly cement them a spot in history.
Another troubling aspect about the comment above is how do they know if the author is selling a solution or a problem if they're not reading the material? I sent in a query letter along with sample writing at 11:51 am and by 12:12 pm I had my 12th rejection letter in my inbox (by the way, I received #13 a couple of hours later...one more and I'm tied with J.K. Rowling). You would think these literary agents would have learned their lessons by now. If you were to go to www.literaryrejections.com you can see how some of the most iconic writing pieces were rejected and slammed by literary agents and publishers only to leave them kicking themselves on their backsides in the end. Want to know the real problem? They don't know what the people want and they only go by the "standards" they were taught in school. A true visionary and writer can see past "school standards" and know that crossing lines is necessary sometimes. Sadly, all of my rejections have said the same thing: "I'm not enthusiastic about the concept", "I can't grasp the concept", "You deserve an agent who is passionate about your concept".
HOLD UP ONE MINUTE!!!!!!!
So you're basically telling me that my writing skills, plot, setting, OR character development are NOT the reasons you're rejecting me but because I choose to share a personal experience in a fictional manner that touches on issues needed to be spoken about? See, I can write the generic love story and get bashed by "the people" and I can become a basic "writer" like most but I choose to take risks because I believe in building my own voice. I'm not here to write about what you want me to write about, I'm here for MY art and eventually someone will like it (actually NOT ONE reader has been disappointed...and that's what matters most). I refuse to change my topic or story because the world is simple minded and unoriginal. You see, I can be generic...but that's not me! To quote my favorite band, "I got a light that won't go out, been burning since the day I was born! So I cry just a little then I dry my eyes 'cause I'm not a little girl no more!" Basically, basic isn't in my vocabulary and neither is generic or safe. I always liked the wild rides anyway.
"They think we’re crazy ‘cause it sounds like noise to them. Ain’t it strange all the things you hear when you sit and listen?"
But really, imagine all of the things you can hear and learn when you sit and listen? Maybe if these agents gave something a little outside of their comfort zone a chance, they would love it. Or maybe they just don't speak the same language as some of us. I wrote this for myself but I also wrote it for all of the broken ones out there. A Tragic Heart was meant to give others something to relate to. There weren't (and still aren't) many books that talk about self-mutilation, depression, or any mental illness for that matter. Why should I change my story because they can't speak our language? Maybe if they read more stories like it, they can speak emo too (hahaha, but in order for them to read those stories they would have to start accepting them...oh, the irony!).
We feel like no one understands us, like we're the only ones in the world going through it even though we know logically it's not true. All I can say is that it would have helped a lot if I had more books like A Tragic Heart, Scars, Impulse, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower growing up. Haven't these people heard of Cheryl Rainfield and Ellen Hopkins? They're best-selling authors who saw success through writing about some of the most touchy subjects. The reason why they were so successful: people related. It's simple, really.
Nicholas Sparks is a great writer but how many of us can honestly say we lived The Notebook or The Last Song? I'm sure more people felt the way Charlie did in The Perks of Being A Wallflower. If everyone accepts the same things how can anyone find room to be different? Rejecting taboo topics is like rejecting life and people's personal struggles. It's like saying "your experience isn't good or interesting enough". It's like saying "your hardships and conquering isn't something worth writing or telling about". It should be common sense that feelings of rejection, loneliness, and unworthiness are things that should be written and spoken about.
Now, I'm not saying that all literary agents are generic and close minded because there are a few that speak my native tongue, I just have to find them (or maybe they will find me). As Paramore says, "...if you give up, you get what you deserve!"