Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tiara Trouble, Query Entropy, Trolled by a Knife Set

This is fading news by now, but the monumentally awkward gaffe that Steve Harvey made when he announced the wrong winner in the Miss Universe pageant still haunts me. My first reaction, after sweating and cringing in sympathy, was relief that Miss Colombia handled the situation gracefully. But in retrospect, it would have been way better if she’d round-house kicked the woman who tried to detach the tiara from her head, screamed “You’re going to have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers!” and took off running. That’s certainly what I would have done. They would find me hiding in an alley, hunched over my Precious, rocking and mumbling about how I will never relinquish.

I’m still working on the query letter. It’s become an entropy situation, where the more effort I put into it, the worse it gets. But I’m undeterred, as I am certain that at any moment, query letter genius will strike, and the world’s most compelling hook will flow from the Heavens through my fingertips, and it shall come to pass that the first agent who puts eyes on it will immediately demand the full manuscript and an exclusive contract. It’s just a matter sitting here re-writing the same three sentences another seven million times.

Speaking of glorious moments, on Christmas Day, Mr. Typist and I opened a big present from my mom. When we lifted the item out of the box, the heavens opened, angels sang, and sunlight broke through the clouds. It was a beautiful new set of sleek, silvery kitchen knives! We were so excited! Yay, new knives! Then excitement turned to mild puzzlement as we noticed a clear square of hard plastic with mounting holes had been fastened to the bottom of it with screws. Mr. Typist shrugged it off as a “shipping thing” and unscrewed the plate. Then he reached for the butcher knife…which did not come out of the holder. Nor did any of the other knives. We stared at each other in complete befuddlement. “Is there a release mechanism or something?” I asked, squinting at it and feeling around for a magic button. Had our muscles somehow atrophied overnight, rendering us too weak to remove a knife from a block? We pulled, prodded, rattled and yanked, but those knives were not coming out. Those knives were Excalibur.

Finally, Mr. Typist flipped the whole thing over, peeled the protective rubber off the bottom, and discovered the crux of the problem: The knives had holes punched in them through which wire was looped and used to permanently attach the knives to the holder, so it could be safely wall-mounted for display in a store. Apparently, Amazon was so short on product, they yanked this model straight off a wall somewhere without stopping to think through the physics of the situation. And that is how Mr. Typist and I got trolled by a knife set. Every time we walk past it, we’re convinced that it’s laughing at us. But’s that’s okay. It shall soon be boxed up and summarily returned to the prank-knife hell from whence it came, and a new, non-trolling set shall replace it. Thanks to my sister for facilitating the return! (Waves.) And Mom, as we discussed, I really hope you are not reading all this wracked with guilt and feeling bad. It’s given us the gift of having something to look forward to!

 --Kristen McHenry


Frank Moraes said...

I'm reminded of a short screenplay I had written. I was very happy with it. But Andrea (who was my co-writer on an earlier screenplay) was not happy with it. And I kept making changes to it, trying to please her. Over the course of 20 drafts, it only got worse. It makes me wonder whether you have been poisoned by the opinions you have been given in the matter of book proposals. Remember William Goldman's sage advice, "Nobody knows anything."

Is it possible at the Miss Universe thing that they've trained all the women to have no personality such that it is easy to mistake one for another? I'm not too keen on contests in which there is a single ideal. That's one of the problems with chess over the last 30 years: little room for creativity. At least feel good that your novel is very much you. And if the bastards want it crammed into a pre-fab box, they can screw themselves.

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, Frank! I think you're right--I got too much feedback too soon, I have read way too much advice online, and now I'm completely crippled with fear and frustration. I need to de-program myself and just start again, writing it in my own voice and being sincere about what I think matters about it, rather than slaloming through the "hook them with the first line" Olympics.

I haven't watched a pageant in a really long time--they're boring and embarrassing--but I think you're spot on about there being a single ideal and not a lot of wiggle room for quirks. I imagine eventually pageants will fade into obscurity altogether. They just don't make any sense as a thing anymore.