Literary Agent Rejection Letter

Literary Agent Rejection Letter

I got my first literary agent rejection letter on Sunday, and I feel so alive. I’m not sure that’s a normal response for writers to have. I think I’m supposed to feel bitter resentment. But things have been pretty dull here for a while, which severely exacerbates bored depression.

I’ve counted ceiling tiles a few too many times already.

The agent’s email was kind, explaining how Who You Gonna Believe didn’t fit into her current list of working titles. But I still wonder how straightforward the rejections are. 

Like does she genuinely think the manuscript sounds intriguing, or is she just saying that because I have brain cancer and she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings?

I run into the hurt feelings thing a lot, as you might imagine. It doesn’t make me mad. It just makes me wonder. I appreciate that people are trying to be nice, but I also appreciate bluntness because it protects my energy reserves.

I’m probably one of few who would rather hear, “this is not marketable in any universe” than “it’s not for me.” Provided it’s true, of course.

Which is why I was trying to get feedback before querying in the first place. I thought it would save me the agony of deciphering. I was protecting myself.

By the way, I rejected all of those proposals I mentioned previously because I didn’t have the energy to interpret responses. (That’s not a reason listed in Reedsy’s drop-down menu, in case you were wondering.)

That’s the story of my first rejection letter, dull as it is. Maybe one day I will wish I could remember it, but for now it feels very forgettable. It was as impactful as a cookie-cutter reply from HR after submitting the first resume and cover letter of a job search.

The self-doubt comes later.

A Funny Thing Happened

A Funny Thing Happened

Not that long ago, I said I was letting Who You Gonna Believe go. I was tired of treating myself to the trauma. But then a funny thing happened.

My website was doing some serious numbers.* And that got me thinking maybe I should try to do something with this memoir I spent so much time on. Maybe I should try to make something of it. For the traffic gods.

I updated the digital cover, started promoting links and using excerpts to garner interest, and the next thing I know I was reading and proofreading the damn thing. Without angst, without feeling like I was waterboarding myself with toilet water.

I even thought to myself a couple of times that maybe I can write. I was barrelling through chapters like they were well-composed. Or at least well-enough composed. Maybe letting the work stagnate was a bad idea.

Then last night, I had a dream where instead of my ex-husband refusing to leave, he just walked away when I told him to piss off. That never happens!

I was laughing at parts of the story and remembering how much joy and laughter entered my life when Dan showed up.

I think I’m healed?

I’d still like to actually reach people with it. Have someone edit it. Format it for ebook. Turn it into an audiobook. But I’m not really in a position healthwise where I can accomplish any of that, let alone all of it. So I’ll just let those dreams simmer.

Anyhoo, I’m going to continue proofing today and think about how I can get more people to read it. I really do think there’s a there there, if I can just clarify the vision a little.

* Another funny thing happened. Turns out my search numbers were inflated by 4/20, and after everyone was good and high, things settled down some.

How to Write a Memoir in 10 Steps

How to Write a Memoir in 10 Steps

To be perfectly clear, I know this isn’t the most orthodox way to teach someone how to write a memoir in 10 Steps, but I submit that if you’re hung up on the literal how-to’s of writing a memoir, you aren’t really ready.

I don’t feel like diagramming sentences today.

That, and rudimentary how-to articles are largely about giving you the confidence to do a thing anyway. You can absolutely do this thing, but you should prepare first. Because if the surprising stuff turns out not to be a surprise, you’re basically unstoppable.

How to Write a Memoir

1. Get Thick Skin

2. Relive Your Trauma

3. Give People Fake Names

4. Find Enablers

5. Hold a Grudge Loudly

6. Be Discouraged

7. Read Other Memoirs

8. Feel Small

9. Write for Spite

10. Dig Up Your Past

The 10 Steps

1. Get Thick Skin

Forget what others have said about you (well don’t literally forget, you might need the fodder) and be prepared to look at your past self objectively. Lassoing that objectivity is even harder than it sounds, but it’s possible.

There are some faults you’re going to want to absolve yourself of in your writing—for me, naivety and cluelessness topped the list—don’t do it. You have to be willing to let readers see the warts. If your story is going to be relatable—if you’re serious about memoir writing—you must be authentic.

Absolution may still come to you, but not by glossing over the bits you don’t like. Be ready to criticize yourself. A lot.

2. Relive Your Trauma

I wasn’t prepared for the buried trauma that writing a memoir would resurface. I thought I was, but I was kidding myself. I literally had to take breaks and ultimately end my memoir to stop the constant onslaught of PTSD triggers.

3. Give People Fake Names

This is probably obvious, but there’s a certain kind of person you’ll need to write about who still Googles herself 15 years later. To avoid the headaches, just change her name.

Because even your best attempts at keeping ties severed may be thwarted.

My ex-husband actually joined my Patreon even though I did my best to rename people and switch up identifying characteristics. That’s a real thing that happened.

There are legal considerations too, but I am not a lawyer. If you have qualms, hire an attorney, please.

4. Find Enablers

Aside from needing money to pay bills after having brain surgery, there were a couple of motivating factors that kept me writing:

A former employer (who I name-drop in the preface of Who You Gonna Believe) and a couple of online friends behaved in such a way that I believed I could write. 

All of them read my blog at some point and encouraged me to write a memoir. I channeled them when I doubted I could succeed.

5. Hold a Grudge Loudly

There’s a great quote that I have seen floating around the internet attributed to Anne Lamott. (I see it a lot without attribution too, so who knows?) It goes something like: You own everything that’s ever happened to you. If people wanted you to write nicely about them, they should have behaved better.

You might feel like it’s in your best interest to withhold certain facts, but you don’t owe anyone your silence. You hear me?

6. Be Discouraged

Some people will say that memoir writers just want revenge. I, for example, fit the divorcee and undiagnosed cliches, since so much of the story is about my lousy ex-husband and my subsequent long slog to a medical diagnosis.

The naysayers discouraged me, not gonna lie. But then a funny thing happened: I realized they weren’t my readers and weren’t ever going to be my audience. Caring about their opinions was like asking the guy who sells gym memberships if my dress made me look fat.

7. Read Other Memoirs

You might just learn stuff you didn’t know would help you write. My favorite reads while I wrote Who You Gonna Believe were by John Lewis, Jenny Lawson, Leah Remini, and Mary Karr.

By the way, I highly recommend The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

Shop Recommended Memoirs

8. Feel Small

The odd thing about memoir writing is that it makes you self-aware. You see that other people have profoundly different stories to tell and feel like maybe your life isn’t that big of a deal. I say that’s a good thing.

Not only did a sense of smallness help me see my trauma as a mouse and not a monster, it helped me relate to my audience in a new way and craft a better story for them.

9. Write for Spite

So maybe spite isn’t what fuels you, but it was a big motivating factor for me—knowing that the awful people who denied so much of my truth couldn’t stop me now. That was empowering.

Yeah, I can be petty. I wrote to spite them, but also to spite the person they imagined me to be. The person I knew I wasn’t.

10. Dig Up Your Past

As a practical matter, memoir writing can be hard because our memories are faulty. I found I could settle the timeline of events if I dug through old blog posts. 

You might also find helpful details by talking to friends and family, reading a journal you kept, or poring over pictures. 

Social media timelines and archived chats are also useful if you have them available.

So that’s it. How to write a memoir in 10 steps. Easy, right?

if you’re looking for memoir publishing services, try a company like Modern Memoirs.

An Epilogue for Closure

An Epilogue for Closure

To celebrate last night’s insomnia, I updated the cover image for WHO YOU GONNA BELIEVE and posted an epilogue for closure.

It’s funny, because I remember when Hank Green was promoting his first book, he said in a video something like, “You can just end a book wherever you want.”

It seemed kind of obvious to me at the time. Like, of course you can end a book however and whenever you want. But then I also stressed over wrapping up this memoir for months. So it’s also an epiphany. I get it now.

I couldn’t just say “the end” and wave my proverbial wand at everything. I had to come to terms with being done, I suppose.

Because, I don’t know, I have a brain tumor? Because finishing might mean I can go ahead and die now?

I almost included that Hank Green anecdote in the epilogue, but since I name dropped the other Vlogbrother in the preface, I opted to not be that kind of weird.

Shut up. Name dropping here is different. It isn’t weird.

While I was checking WYGB links, formatting chapters, and double-checking the Table of Contents page last night, I also realized I stopped writing in an okay—maybe even artsy—place anyway.

So read it. It’s free. It’s sorta funny. It’s my revenge or something.

In other news, congratulations to me for getting 500 pageviews yesterday! And after just hoping for that very thing on Monday!

I’m not going to repeat that success today, unfortunately, but it was fun to watch my counter go up after someone big apparently shared my How to Make Cannabutter article on Facebook.

Facebook is good for being seen, but it’s not great for sustained traffic. Once your link slides down the news feed, you’re basically just a hunk of Velveeta in someone’s lactose-intolerant colon.

At the risk of being (more) annoying, I gotta plug this GoFundMe crap again too. I got bills. They’re multiplyin’.

The End

The End

It’s my birthday! I woke up earlier than usual this morning from a dream. That dream included a figure from my past, and my early morning mind went down a rabbit hole of thoughts including this one:

I’m not going to finish my memoir, because I don’t want to.

When I started Who You Gonna Believe a few years ago, I did a little research on memoir writing. One thing that came up frequently was authors saying how emotionally raw writing their stories left them.

Pfft! “This isn’t that hard,” I said to myself, digging in for another chapter.

Reader, in hindsight writing that shit was brutal. I’d dive into a story, trying to think about a scene and how to write it only to discover a year or two later that I was ruminating on terrible things not in the chapter. Things I didn’t include in the manuscript, but things that were essential to remember if I wanted to convey anything meaningful.

Then I’d have to think about the terrible things in the context of how to anonymize the written details. Then I’d have to read what I wrote for editing.

However well I thought I’d done, it was not a labor of love.

But I felt obligated to keep going for reasons, and I genuinely thought one day I’d write “The End” and walk away mostly unscathed.

In doing meditation and introspection regarding my anxiety, though, I recognized two things: 1.) writing a memoir requires living in the past, at least sometimes, and 2.) healing trauma requires being present.

Others might be good at moving back and forth between moments in time, but I am not. And so as a birthday gift to myself, I’m just walking away from this thing. Not a quitter, but—as always—a fighter.

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Fucks Are Finite and I’ve None Left

Fucks Are Finite and I’ve None Left

For Patron fans of Who You Gonna Believe, I have some good news: I’m really, really close to dropping the next chapter.

For non-Patron fans and the morbidly curious, I have some bad news: that new chapter is not going to be available to you right away.

There are a lot of reasons for keeping the upcoming chapter Patron-only for now. Mostly, though, it’s because Patrons have always been given early, ad-free access to new content as a thank you for financially supporting me while working on myself and Who You Gonna Believe.

Chapters 1–25 of WYGB, I have decided, are so old now that they will remain free to read. (Also putting them back behind the paywall is tedious, and I don’t feel like doing it.)

Some might call this next installment my Me Too* story. The abuser’s identity, like Rodney’s, is masked by the obfuscation and omission of details. For my sake, not his.

Chapter 26, debuting in September, comes with a content warning for sexual and psychological abuse of a minor. It’s not graphic, but I understand the benefit of avoiding this kind of stuff until you’re ready.

There’s an introspection in memoir writing—mine anyway—that leads to new understanding, and as a writer I’ve had to decide how to handle that. I think the option-weighing is what stymied me for a bit.

Anyhoo…

Fucks are finite, and I’ve none left.

* This movement was founded by Tarana Burke. Please support Girls for Gender Equity.

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Have you seen the video for the new Dixie Chicks song Gaslighter? Here, watch.

I’ve been listening to the song on a loop since its premiere yesterday. ON. MY. BIRTHDAY. It was preordained this song drop right now—while I’m running a promo for my serial memoir and still firmly entrenched in the Rodney chapters.               

I don’t consider myself a country music enthusiast, but I’ve been a Dixie Chicks fan since coming of age in a smothering small town while “Wide Open Spaces” topped the charts. Natalie cemented my adoration for the trio in 2003, though, when she took a whole lot of shit for her anti-war, anti-Bush comments at that concert in London.

In addition to placing “Gaslighter” at the top of my feminist anthem playlist, I’m writing it into my will that I want it used in the soundtrack for Who You Gonna Believe when I become famous for dying of brain cancer and they make a movie based on my memoir.

[Singing]
You’re sorry but WHERE’S MY APOLOGY

Damn, that is some fucking relatable-ass shit, but it is also so empowering. I’m just like, get all the 15-year-old girls in a room right fucking now and play them this song so they know what we want them to know: One day a woman WILL be president and the patriarchy is going to have its little excuse-making lips sewn shut with a backstitch. Put a pamphlet in my pocket and pay me what I’m worth, because gaslighters can’t eat the sandwiches NO ONE MAKES FOR THEM.

Sorry. Getting a little carried away.

Of course, the-you-can’t-touch-us-with-your-feminazi-bullshit-because-we’re-in-V-formation aesthetic is glorious too. Taken as a whole, this video reminds me that when my story ends one day, it will not end with me being a victim.

Of anything.

Friendly reminder that my memoir is unlocked for everyone (even Rodney, lolz) the entire month of March. However, if you want to be a rebel and support me JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, new patrons are always welcome at patreon.com/EmilySuess.

Dixie Chicks Gaslighter Lyrics

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father

We moved to California and followed your dreams
I believed the promises you made to me
Swore that night ’till death do us part
But you lie-lie-lie-lie-lied
Hollywood welcomed you with open doors
No matter what they gave you, you still wanted more
Acting all above it when our friends divorced
What a lie-lie-lie-lie-lie
You’re such a-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You thought I wouldn’t see it if you put it in my face
Give you all my money, you’ll gladly walk away
You think it’s justifiable, I think it’s pretty cruel
And you know you lie best when you lie to you
‘Cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat
And, boy, that’s exactly why you ain’t comin’ home
Save your tried story for someone else
‘Cause their lie-lie-lie-lie-lies
Look out, you little-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You just had to start a fire, had to start a fire
Couldn’t take yourself on a road a little higher
Had to burn it up, had to tear it down
Tried to say I’m crazy
Babe, we know I’m not crazy, that’s you
Gaslighting
You’re a lie-lie-lie-liar
Oh, honey, that’s you
You made your bed and then your bed caught fire
Gaslighter, I’m the mirror
Standin’ right here until you can see how you broke me
Yeah, I’m broken
You’re still sorry, and there’s still no apology

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

I turn 40 Wednesday!

To celebrate, I’m taking my webserial memoir out from behind the paywall (Pay-treon wall?) for the month of March. So, not only can you read all 12 chapters of Who You Gonna Believe through the 31st, BUT you get to read chapter 13 in real time when I publish it at the end of the month!

Scroll down to start reading.

Or bookmark the Table of Contents if you want to read later.

I think turning 40 would be a pretty big deal for me anyway, but it’s monumental reaching this kind of milestone while toting a brain tumor around every day. I’m glad I’m here, and I’m thankful for all the people here with me—both virtually and IRL—and I wanted to give you all something to show my appreciation. Having cancer means there isn’t always a whole lot I can do to give back. Money’s tight, energy is low, and anxiety is high. But that won’t stop me from trying to say thanks.

Whether you’re a long-timer follower of this blog or you’re visiting for the first time, I hope you enjoy!

And of course, I’m so grateful for the support of my patrons who help keep me, this website, and the WYGB project going. If you enjoy reading WYGB this month (completely ad-free, I might add!) please leave a comment thanking these lovely people for making it possible.

Amiee S.
Angela R.
Becky Y.
Bonnie C.
Beth R.
Chris P.
Elizabeth G.
Emily A.
Geoff O.
Heather G.
Heidi D.

Ilene K.
Jeff G.
Jennifer G.
John P.
Judy L.
Karen D.
Kenneth R.
Kimberly C.
Kristin D.
Len B.
Mahesh M.

Melanie S.
Rachael U.
Rick K.
Stephanie A.
Stephanie K.
Susan K.
Susan M.
Tara A.
Tina J.

My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

Someone emailed me Thursday:

What happened with the whole Rodney thing? I mean, not *in* the memoir, but with him reading it. Is he still harassing you?

I replied, but later it occurred to me a formal update on the blog might be appropriate. So here’s where things stand at the moment:

I haven’t seen anything from Rodney since this happened in December. You’ll have to decide whether that’s because he gave up or because I’ve mastered the art of blocking the asshat.

Not only have I blocked every known account of his that I can think to block and blocked him from commenting here, I’ve also set up a filter for his emails. The filter intercepts his messages and auto-replies with this message:

551 4.7.2 Unauthorized email is not accepted due to domain’s FOH policy. c96ock49325875156wad.56 – gtfoh

Messages from you have been flagged by the recipient as low-priority and may not be received. For priority consideration, the administrator at info@emilysuess.com requires a minimum $15 payment.

Proceed Cancel

I have no problem establishing boundaries. In fact, I enjoy thinking up new, creative ways of telling people who drain the joy from my life to fuck off. So a while back I decided to spoof those mailer-daemon thingies you get when your email can’t be sent for some reason. The “FOH policy” and “gtfoh” in that seemingly random string of characters at the beginning of the message are made up, but they are not arbitrary.

Now, I can’t tell you for certain whether Rodney has attempted to contact me and received this message. But I can tell you that he has not paid the $15 fee I charge to let him waste my time.

So, what happens with this system I’ve set up is that Gmail filters email from him, auto-replies, and then places it in the spam folder, which automatically deletes emails after 30 days. And because I only check spam if I’m expecting an email and don’t receive it, it’s possible an email from him got flagged more than 30 days ago and I just never knew about it.

After taking a quick glance at the current state of my spam folder for the purposes of writing this update, what I can confidently tell you is that he hasn’t emailed me in the past 30 days.

So, if you had been wondering why I hadn’t written any more on the subject, now you know. It’s because there wasn’t anything to write.

“But what if he pays the $15?” you might be wondering. If PayPal notifies me of a payment from his account, I might check my spam folder.

With all of that cleared up, a programming note: Chapter 12 of Who You Gonna Believe will be available to patrons on February 29.

Give It Some Consideration

Give It Some Consideration

“Give it some consideration,” he says. At first you think maybe Rodney’s trying to do me a favor by playing up the whole garbage person bit. But then you remember: This is not an act.

After I announced that I’d be sharing Rodney’s emails—but before I got around to publishing Rodney Writes a Ruse—my ex-husband jumped back on my contact page and wrote me again on Wednesday, December 11. Presumably because as a Certifiable Attention Whore™ he was jonesin’ for his next bad publicity fix.

And cripes what a trainwreck his email is. Even people who question my decision to deal with a narcissist by putting his work on display must be having a hard time looking away from this one.

I’m going to take the line-by-line approach again on this for two reasons 1.) repeating the email text in the body of the post makes the content accessible for people using screen readers, and 2.) it worked well for me last time. Once again, Rodney’s words are highlighted with a gray background.

Emily — Like I mentioned in my last message. This is very good writing (the memoir, more precisely). Am I a narcissist for reading it? Yes, in your story I am.  Someone’s got to be the villain, right? All good storytelling has a villain.

Remember in the last episode when he praised me for how well I “showed his scumbaggery” and then I explained that he wasn’t truly accepting his faults? Right off the bat we’ve got him setting up a scenario in which I’ve sensationalized my portrayal of him.

Yes, I am “a self-professed compulsive liar, an unrepentant cheater, and an egomaniacal, manipulative boob” in your story. But I take umbrage with “boob.” I’m much worse. You give me too much credit.

Got whiplash yet? Imagine the pain in the neck you get from living with this shit 24/7 for five long, miserable years. The early part of our relationship did the most damage to me because I was completely ignorant of Rodney’s condition. And I don’t just mean I couldn’t see he had it because the relationship was shiny and new. I mean that at 23 I still had no clue being self-centered reached clinical levels in some people.

Aside from your medical problems, I’m glad you’re still writing.

I’d like to remind everyone that I am not a professional, but those who are say people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder lack the ability to identify with the feelings of others. Raise your hand if you think bringing up my brain cancer this late in the game and in such a dismissively unapologetic manner ought to go in a text book.

But, you know, thank Jesus he’s glad I’m still writing. I suddenly have a reason to live.

And, I hope you unblock me to read your next chapter.

I don’t think I’ll ever hate myself that much, but time will tell.

There are really two advantages: 1. I could write something like this message and my previous one, which gives you more material to work with and gives your readers more reason to hate me, which will give them more reason to read your work. (You don’t want to tell them that, because it’s a propaganda tactic that comes from the research done on compulsive lying in social settings.) 2. Following from (1), you’ll likely increase your following, reach, subscribers, etc. I know you know what happens with more subscribers. Give it some consideration.

I know you know what happens? Give it some consideration? Almost sounds like someone with delusions of grandeur just finished watching The Godfather.

I will never, ever hate my readers and subscribers that much. But it amuses me Rodney thinks he’s so good at this he can manipulate me into manipulating others all while making my platform (a platform I worked very hard to build over the years) susceptible to his treachery.

Despite all the horrible things that make his dysfunction worth academic study, he’s still just a mediocre white guy at his core. Trying to get out of doing the work. I welcome him to build his own platform if he’d like to show us the alternate reality in which he lives. I never considered at the outset that Who You Gonna Believe, a non-fiction webserial with humble beginnings on Patreon, would one day inspire fanfic—how flattering.

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