Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fast breaking agent news!

The agent wrote me back. She says she loves the book!...So she wants me to write another draft [simmering smoke drifts from the top of my frustrated head]. She wrote a long email of suggestions, only a couple of which I have a problem with.

In the book, my main character is a tomboyish, androgynous kid who gets made fun of a lot. Actually, a few of my characters have this problem. A lot of my writing (go figure) has gender confusion themes, and the agent says that she likes the questions I bring up about gender roles and sexuality, but that "androgyne seems a little too complex for 15 year olds." She suggests "raising awareness of stereotypes instead." I cringe at this idea. The whole thing about Judy is that she is NOT a stereotype. She's a boyish girl who wants a boyfriend, but other kids keep lumping her into a stereotype. Tricia, one of my other characters, has a different struggle. She IS more of a stereotype. She's a boyish girl who likes girls, but she's trying desperately not to be. The theme that links these girls is that there's nothing wrong with either of them. Some people are a bit stereotypical and some people aren't. The important thing is that they're themselves.

This theme, the whole people-are-complex-and-difficult-to-define theme, also goes along with the obituaries that Judy and her friend Ana are writing. They write them because they're angry and frustrated, and they want to lash out at these other people but they're too timid to do it in a confrontational way. They don't really want to hurt anybody. BUT when the obituaries are discovered all that the principal and the school's superintendent see is that they are two girls writing stories about other students and teachers dying. The stereotypical Trench Coat Mafia, shy and quiet but deadly, school shooter kid pops into their minds. But the girls are NOT this way.

This is a very long winded way of saying that there are too many stories and after school specials that debunk stereotypes and I don't want my book to be another lame shot at a tired issue. Also, androgyne is not too complex for teenagers to understand. Even a grammar school kid knows what a tomboy is, and a tomboy is an androgynous person. Besides, I'm basing Judy on the way I was as a teenager, and believe me, I knew that sexuality was complex. I didn't understand it, and I didn't like it, but I knew it wasn't simple.

Plus, I don't want my book to dumb things down for kids. Yeah, kids can be stupid, but they understand more than we give them credit for. When I was a kid I read books that challenged me, not books that assumed I was dumber than I was.

So enough about that. That was the only one I had a big problem with. One of her suggestions that I dug in a major way was putting graphic art into the book. Judy is an artist, and Sarah (the agent - I might as well just use her name) said WHEN IT'S PUBLISHED [squeals with girlish glee] it would be good to have Judy's drawings next to the obituaries. I love this idea.

I apologize about my payphone absence. My facebook account has tumbleweed blowing across it as well, with a profile picture of me on the back of a milk carton. Things have been busy and frankly kind of shitty. But for my next blog, which will hopefully be later today (fingers crossed!) I will discuss my Grandpa's eulogy poem, and the way I feel about the term "It is what it is." No, my grandpa didn't die, but he had major surgery a few days ago and he gave me a poem he'd written to be read at his funeral. It's...interesting. Stay tuned! And until then refrain from saying "It is what it is." It causes some of us to go nuclear.


melissa bastian. said...

Firstly let's focus on the good: this agent seems to have every intention of publishing your book! I think the proper vocal response to that is spelled, phonetically, something like this: Eeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

But now to the aggravating part. She wants to turn your very intentionally non-stereotypical character into a stereotypical one. Obviously something you need to take a stand on. My suggestion would be to tell her, just like you just told us, why you feel that that would be the wrong move for this book. That she's intentionally not stereotypical, that you clearly remember dealing with these issues at that age (no need to get personal), that you don't want to dumb things down for an audience that, let's face it, constantly gets talked down to in their daily lives. In case you can't tell, I'm totally with you there.

The drawings thing? Yeah, totally awesome.

And Jonathan says "it is what it is" all the freakin' time.

Libby said...

Excitement abounds.

Im sure there is a way to explore androgyne without killing off the selling points of your main character. For example, the children who make fun of the main character could be slightly stereotypical (and Im assuming they already are, so it wouldn't be that hard). But really, who do you know that really fits a stereotype?

Your agent thinks your readers wont understand androgyne? Oh please, she's not giving them enough credit. Although I haven't read the book I can tell its not the Sweet Valley High type. Who learned any life lessons from Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield? Give the kids something they can relate to rather than feeding them crap.

PS, I work until six tonight.

Genevieve said...

Mel & Libby, the support is, how shall I say...nadtastic. I have more (good!) agent news that I'm about to dish out. But I agree with you both.

Tom said...

Many yays(!) and woohoos(!!!) on the enthusiastic response from the agent!

I don't know anything about these thigns, but it sounds like the plot is getting dumbed down here, as you say. I wouldn't be jazzed about that myself. But I'm still jazzed about your positive response!

Tom said...

I read the very last sentence of this post again today, and for a second it looked like it said, "It causes some of us to go unclear."