Thursday, October 13, 2011

intestinal fortitude

A week ago I twisted my knee while muscling around a rug shampooer rented from my local hardware store.

I decided to shampoo the rugs because my wife's father and step mother were coming up for a visit and I felt the spots and stains left behind by two careless children reflected poorly on my qualities as a husband and father. At least that's what I thought. Turns out I was being vain and I would pay for it.

The first shampooer (laughing as I write p-o-o-e-r) did not work, so back into the car it went, more lifting, turning, straining. The second one worked fine but halfway through the living room my knee started to hurt. Like a marathon runner who collapses within sight of the finish line after crapping their pants, I worked through the pain (no, I did not crap my pants) and finished the job.

The next morning as I tenderly struggled to get to the bathroom on a very sore knee, I wished I had just crapped my pants instead. It was as though someone inserted pencils into my knee joint and I could feel them rolling around as my knee would bend. Being the ignorant man I am, I did not take it easy on my leg. That weekend we walked all over Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and by the time we were done, my knee felt like Tonya Harding's boyfriend had worked on it. 

Sunday afternoon I finally rested. I put my leg up on pillows, watched the Bears Game, and hobbled back and forth to the bathroom and kitchen as needed. Monday morning I was back on the stump, wrecking my knee. Stupid, right? You bet! Why, oh why, do I not just get off of my knee already? Simple answer, I have stuff to do and apparently my elevator doesn't go to the top floor!

Oddly enough, at the same time as I am ignoring the tender insides of my knee, I read a facebook friend's post about her physical therapy issues. I asked what happened and she informed me this was damage she incurred in Baghdad during an insurgent rocket attack. She was diving for cover and tore her pectoral muscles in the service of our country. Then she, an air force lieutenant, asked how my knee was. It was embarrassing. Bin Ladden's cousin rips her pecs apart with a rocket while the Rug Doctor took out my knee. Why couldn't there have been an IED in that rug shampooer. That would have been a story to be proud of.

I soldiered on. If she can make it with a war wound, I was gonna make it with my carpet injury.

It is definitely Autumn in Northern Illinois and time to button up the house and get it ready for winter. This includes splitting wood for the fireplace and stocking the freezer with beef. What a perfect way to therapeutically heal my knee, right? Nope!

Tuesday night my wife was at a dinner meeting with her enrichment team from school, so I was on my own with the two boys. This meant a trip to Culver's for Butter Burgers, then the Super WalMart for groceries, unload at home and get the youngest in the shower, jammies, stories, and bed, then pester my older son to make sure he had a lunch made and homework packed. By 9pm, I was sure my knee loved me enough to murder me in my sleep. Pass the glucosomine and stay out of my fall-zone everybody!

Finally my very patient and very beautiful wife came home and found me in a mood. Honestly, my knee had the mood, I was fine. She and I had a terse conversation. There was nothing even mildly newly-wed about it. She was pushed away by my attitude and I was fed up. We sat at our adjoining desks looking through the day's affairs when she asked, "Are you gonna query that agency I sent you?"

How dare she? How dare she ask me to pursue my dream when I was injured and looking for soothing and maybe a little sympathy sumpthin sumpthin that required me to simply lay there on a couch or ... well I was looking for sympathy. "Oh, no, I haven't queried them yet." was what I said.

She had e-mailed me the agency's website two weeks before and I ignored it. I just wasn't in the mood. She thought the agency would be perfect for a picture book series I wrote but I am consumed with a YA novel I am working on. Why would I want to complicate my life with another rejection, right?

"Oh, they aren't taking picture book submittals right now." she said to her macbook screen. Great. My knee is throbbing and not comfortable no matter which way I hold it and to top it off, my picture book series she fell in love with has no party invitation. I responded, "Should we query Silver White?" She paused and thought for a moment.

I continued, "We have to give it some legs. It's only been to one agent." Then to my surprise she said, "You know, I am starting to like that one a little more." This is an odd turn of events. She had not been that fond of this work before. Maybe she was fixated on the picture book series and hadn't considered this piece until now.Silver White is a new-age science fiction novella I wrote which started out as a flash fiction piece I couldn't trim to less than 1,000 words.

Now at 30,000 words, it is a little light by some page count standards but the story is intriguing and it would be a great foundation for a series. The publisher's website has a very comprehensive submission form which got me even more behind completing the query. This one asked me questions about my submission. One of the questions was, what's my favorite line from my work. Another one asked what I though a good tag line would be for the book.

How exciting! They made me and my wife bond over searching for my favorite line and coming up with a slogan that would catch the eye and imagination of prospective readers. My wife and I reconnected as she poured over a printed copy and I scanned my laptop. As a topper we both admired my tag line, "Pray you have a soul."

Thank you guys! Thank you so much for taking my mind off of my knee pain.

Thank you for giving me back what is inside of me while forsaking what is outside.

Who said agents only bring bad news?