Query letter never to be sent

query-letter31

Dear Someday Agent or Editor,

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve got something you would really like. I just don’t know who you are. I know that to get your attention I have to write a knock-out query that grabs your attention. Good writers do that.

But I’m the kind of person who upon a first meeting will trip over my two left feet, wear spinach between my teeth, and knock myself out trying to go out the in door. First impressions terrify me.

Dear Someday Agent or Editor, I don’t write because I want to get rich. My goodness. I spend everything I make from writing and much I make from my full-time job learning how to be, not a good writer, but a great writer. I wish I could make you believe in me. I’ve always been a worthy investment.

In the past, it seems as if almost everything I tried turned to gold. I didn’t understand what a rejection letter was. God has been so good.

But God knows how to temper his child. I walked into my first ACFW conference thinking I would walk out with a contract. I walked out acknowledging I had a lot to learn. But God is good like that. He didn’t humiliate me. He surrounded me with other Christian writers who shared wisdom about the craft. They weren’t arrogant or condescending. They were compassionate and encouraging. Someday, given the chance, I will do the same.

And so I joined a writers group who patiently taught me, and I entered the Genesis contest. I was a semi-finalist. The next year I finaled with a different manuscript!

But Dear Potential Agent or Editor, the bottom of my world dropped out. I lost my mom and dad. Becoming a semi-finalist just wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped it would be compared to my grief. I entered again this year, but the pain still hasn’t gone away after two years.

Dear Potential Agent or Editor, I feel as though I can’t find you. I’m like a traveler who missed the train. I’m sitting at the depot, wondering if I should board the next train or just go home.

I wish you could find me, but it doesn’t work that way. All of my writing friends have gone on with their lives, and I’m still at the station, watching the clock. To board or not to board. That is the question.

Dear Agent or Editor, I don’t want your sympathy. I just want to board that train, and I hope that when I will arrive, you will be at the station.

Please overlook the spinach and my two left feet. May it be my head that the door bops and not yours when I go in the wrong way.

Very sincerely yours,
Teresa Lockhart

Mood and drama

door

When I was earning my Master’s degree from the University of Missouri, one of my many writing classes required me to read and write from Julia Cameron’s Right to Write. I liked the book so much that I now require my creative writing students to read particular chapters and to respond to Cameron’s Initiation Tools, in other words, her writing prompts. Our last lesson covered mood and drama.

My students expect me to put forth as much effort as they do, so here I am. Writing about what else? Mood and drama. What can I say?

Well, for one, I can admit I’m guilty as charged.

Mood? Yes. My moods definitely affect my writing.

Drama. Ugg. I can’t stand it. But drama, nevertheless, affects my writing because it always affects my mood. I don’t want to write when there is drama in my life.

For the last two years my life has been an uphill journey similar to what one might find on slippery slope of a Scottish crag. I have always been pretty good at keeping my emotions tucked away. But eventually, a person has to face emotions head on. It’s normal, just not pleasant. And on the worst days, I don’t want to write.

Nay, let me rephrase that. I WANT to write, but I don’t feel like it. I’m not in the mood to write. How many times have you said that, comrades? Julia Cameron challenges her writers to write for ten minutes and then to check their moods.

Writing is kind of like exercising. Maybe writing releases endorphins as does exercise. But then again, so do crises and stress. Back in the day, I used to work with students who got a rush from meeting deadlines. We would stay late and work nonstop until we met deadline.

Not so much anymore. But I do remember what an adrenaline rush feels like.

Writing for me now, however, is more therapeutic and cathartic. It brings about a cleansing, purification. I can release whatever negative emotions I have onto the page, and I feel better. But first I have to get over my “mood.” And the drama.

Cameron says we need our own space to write so that we can shut the door to the world—and the drama—so we can focus on our writing.

Amen. Preach it, sister.

I used to have a closed door at my house, but I moved my writing station to the “music” room. I like the vibe that comes with being surrounded by guitars, a piano and drums. But the room is a thoroughfare to the upstairs and kitchen. And you know what that means. Boy/boys in. Boy/boys out. Lots of noise. Questions. Sometimes hugs. But I’m NEVER too busy for hugs.

Even my warthog Scottish Terrier creates a disturbance with her scratching and scavenging the cat’s food.

But Cameron says, “Keep the drama on the page.” Focus. Focus. Focus.

And then there are the characters in my life. I love me some protagonists. But antagonists? They don’t have to be in the room. They just have to be in my head. They may be relatives, friends, co-workers or acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. Whenever these antagonists antagonize me to the point that I can’t write, it’s time to take a tip from Cameron.

“Keep the drama on the page.” Cameron says personal drama is “creative poison.”

The antidote?

Focus. Focus. And more focus. And three simple words for whoever is driving me nuts—leave me alone.

We have the choice to let other people’s negativity into our life. We must close the door, if not literally, metaphorically, and keep the drama on the page (not in our heads).

Cameron also suggests we write a list of 100 things we love, and every time we feel stressed we pull this list from our pocket and read it. When we do, we’ll settle down in our spirits and think about our blessings instead of the negatives. I won’t indulge myself with 100 on this blog, but I will give you 10 if you will give me 10.

TEN THINGS I LOVE

  1. My guitars
  2. Horses
  3. Ireland
  4. St. Patrick’s Day
  5. Sunrises
  6. Coffee shops
  7. Blues
  8. Mosaics
  9. Candles
  10. Campfires

Feeling stressed? Want to keep the drama on the page and out of your life? Take a moment and write down ten things you love.

Gimme control of something

This is Magic, the Tennessee Walking Horse I used to own. She was like a big puppy dog.

When Stephen King was writing Carrie, he became so frustrated because of rejection letters he threw the manuscript in the trash. He was ready to give up. Fortunately, his wife Tabitha pulled him through his period of hopeless. She dug the novel out of the trash and encouraged him to keep trying. Since then, King has sold more than 300 million copies of his books.

We all need someone like Tabitha. Without a Tabitha in our lives, we have to resort to Plan B. For me, Plan B involves walking away from it all and finding something else I might be able to conquer.

I think I need to ride a horse. There’s something to be said for a little woman who can control a 1500 pound animal with just a piece of metal and leather.

I tried kickboxing, but it kicked my butt. I could blame my near fainting spells on my low iron, but truthfully I know it’s because I’m so out of shape. I need to get back to the rec center.

But I can ride a horse. Not well. But sufficiently. Sometimes. Sometimes not. I’ve had my moments.

As a kid I always dreamed of owning horses. I used to draw stables in art class. I read every horse book in the library. I even saved pennies for a pony and bought one from a farmer all by myself. The pony didn’t last long. He was mean.

When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who had a ponies named Oscar and Henry. We used to ride them through Old Stone Fort and in the hills of Beechgrove. When the fair came to town, they offered to let me
ride one of their ponies in the horse show. It was their new pony, Tootsie Pop, a beautiful bay hunter jumper.

All went well at first until Tootsie Pop decided to do her own thing in the show ring. My feet slipped out of the stirrups, and Tootsie took off around the ring, passing up every other equine. It was like the Kentucky Derby. I knew I was going to die. All the other contestants were walking. Tootsie and I were in a full gallop.

My friend finally came to my rescue, and she led me and Beelzebub around the rest of the class and in front of the judges. I felt like a fool.

Then there was the time I decided to go horseback riding in the Smoky mountains. I love to ride. I even like riding fast. But I ride so rarely that I am ever bit the novice.

Finding a riding stable that allows trotting and galloping isn’t easy. Most have horses that move at a snail’s pace. Boring.

But I did find a place that offered rides for all abilities, and I ended up going to this place every time I went on vacation to the Smokies. The trail leaders were nice guys and made the ride fun by always allowing a little fast riding just to keep thing interesting.

I also owned a small spotted saddle horse and a white...horse, not sure of breed. Misty and Brandy respectively.

But the last time I went was a different story. It was just me and the trail leader. Nobody else had shown up. Mr. Nice Guy wasn’t leading the trail this time. No, the trail leader was a thin, hard-faced woman wearing a cowboy hat, a tank top, and muddy boots with her jeans tucked inside.

She eyed me up and down. “Can you ride?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Some.” She looked over her horses to match one up with me, and I made the mistake of saying, “I just don’t want a pokey one.”

Big mistake. She mistook me for one of “those” tourists, the know-it-alls who think they can ride a bronc bareback because they never fell off the carousel horse on the merry go round.

“Let’s see about that.” She matched me up with a beautiful animal that seemed to have a bit of spirit in him.

I checked my saddle and my stirrups. Not slipping. Just right. Heels down. I was ready to go.

“You ready?” She looked over her shoulder.

“Let’s do it.”

The next thing I know the woman let out a rebel yell, and we were off in a full gallop.

I prayed.

We galloped a bit, just enough so that both horses and this rider were lathered in sweat, and then we slowed down. She looked back over her shoulder. “I’m impressed. You know how to ride.”

I said nothing. I was alive. I prayed again, this time with thanksgiving.

I expected the rest of the ride to be slow and easy, but Calamity Jane had other ideas. We neared the steep trails of the mountain. Again, she looked over her shoulder and rested her hand on her horse’s hip. “Too tricky to run the horses down hill. Could trip. We’ll gallop uphill instead. You got to lean forward over your horse’s withers. We’ll go faster this time.”

Faster? Have you lost your mind, woman?

She didn’t let out a rebel yell this time, she just kicked her horse, and they took off. My animal took the cue, and off we went. Up the hill, the steep, steep hill. Faster, faster, faster. I was getting the hang of it. I was having fun. I leaned over the withers and relaxed to the rhythm of the hooves pounding the dirt trail.

Then it happened.

I won’t go into detail due to the fact that this is a G-rated blog, but somehow as I leaned over the withers, the saddle horn became lodged inside my shirt and somehow hooked itself on an inner part of my clothing.

I was trapped.

Crazy thoughts flooded my mind as I rode full force up a hill toward the bluff with my chest strapped to the saddle horn. “I’m going to die, and when people ask one another how I passed, THIS IS THE STORY THEY’LL HAVE TO TELL!” I prayed some more. “Oh, Lord, please don’t let me die this way. Spare my dignity.”

My horse did indeed make it to the top of the ridge, but it stopped short of the bluff and opted for a mouth full of grass, giving me enough time to detach myself. Calamity and I rode our steeds the rest of the way home in silence, keeping that slow steady turtle pace that wins the race.

I never did ride that trail again. Last time I went, the place was boarded up and deserted. I wonder why.

What’s the moral to this story? I’m not really sure. I just know that right now in my life I don’t feel like I’m in control of anything. I need to be in control of something. The writing is where it should be, but I am not. I’ve lost my focus. I’m weary. I want to move forward with music, but my fear is holding me back. I want to be able to control something in my life. Why not a horse? Surely if I can master a 1500 beast, I can take on fear and fatigue.

I’m open for ideas, though. Tell me? What do you do when you need a boost?

Okay, so the Spitfire convertible is not a horse. But it used to be mine until I sold it to buy the land for the horses. Fun little car. I kind of miss it.