R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

The Call

Happy Agent Day card from my daughter. Not pictured: roses and dinner at Salute from my husband

Yesterday was not a bad day, mostly because I got THE CALL from Linda Epstein at The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

Exclamation points are so out right now, but I don’t care. This requires a lot of them. Like this many!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At least.

If you’re a non-writer type, getting “the call” means somebody at a fancy literary agency in New York doesn’t think you suck and they want to be your agent. It doesn’t mean you don’t suck, of course, but it’s always good to have an agent who believes in your writing enough to take you on as a client.

The grueling process goes something like this: Agents get thousands of queries from hopeful writers every year. From those, they ask to see a few manuscripts. And from those manuscripts, they decide to offer representation to a few writers. Literally, just a few.

It’s a major milestone for writers seeking traditional publication. It’s something we dream about, because it’s pretty impossible to sell a book to a publishing house without an agent on your side. Major publishers rarely deal with unagented authors–especially unknown newbies like me.

In the wake of this process are hundreds of thousands of writers getting our neurotic little writer hearts broken over and over by rejection. I’ve had my share. Mostly because, like a lot of writers, I hoped I was the exception–that I could write a first draft and send it off and then everybody would definitely fall in love with it and fight over it.

Uh, they didn’t. I am not the exception. I am not special. Even though my mom promised FOR SURE that I was.

I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie over the last few years (let’s call it key lime humble pie), minus having to actually apologize to anyone, because agents don’t want that–they just want you to go away and learn something. And I’ve learned that I have to keep working really hard if I want to compete for a book deal with some of these crazy talented writers.

Maybe I’ll get my ass handed to me, but right now I’m just so, so happy to have entered what’s known as the second circle of hell. Where my agent (!!!!!) helps me get my manuscript super-duper submission-ready and then she sends it off for the next level of terror and waiting and crying and chewing my nails ’til my fingers are bloody nubs. Oh my God, that sounds like so much fun. Why everybody doesn’t want to be a writer, I’ll never understand.

Check out The Jennifer DeChiara Lit agency at www.JDLit.com so you can see that I’m agency-mates with those Elf on the Shelf people. My agent (!!!!!), Linda Epstein, also blogs at www.lindapepstein.wordpress.com.

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Getting a better pair

"When I'm wasted, nobody notices that I jack up my breasts with my arm."

I’m finally getting some work done. My husband got tired of my constant complaining and self-criticism, so he and our cherished friend, Aetna, are buying me a sexy new set of twins.

Don’t get excited–I’m not talking about a fantastically perky new rack. It’s even better than that.

It’s double knee surgery, baby! And if all goes as anticipated, those puppies are going to swell up bigger than Pamela Anderson’s ridiculous pre-reduction knockers. I’m talking at the height of her confidence crisis.

And then a few days, okay weeks, later, I’ll be back in my tap shoes. Unless there really is zero cartilage left, in which case I’ll still wear my taps on principle, because they’re new and attractive. I just bought them after 19 years with my old ones.

I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll audition for the Rockettes after I get my knees fixed, though. Although it’s totally an option, especially if I gain seven inches during the surgery, as I fully expect will be the case. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to make big, Radio City-sized decisions right now while I’m operating on high emotion.

Actual taps. Are these not the legs of a Rockette?

The highest emotion I’m experiencing at the moment, by the way, is unbridled terror. Like any decent practitioner of Internet medicine, I’ve Googled myself into hyperventilation with accounts of how I’ll never walk again, let alone open the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes next winter. Why are people only compelled to share their bilateral lateral release and chondroplasty stories if they end badly? It’s not knee replacement. It’s just a tune-up and alignment.

So, I’ve backed away from the search engine, because I’m going to do this and I’m going to be fine. My orthopedist is, quite literally, one of the best in the country, and can probably perform this surgery drunk. Drunk and sleeping. On a roller coaster. This surgery is that common, and this guy is that good.

It seems like at least a quarter of the population has had knee surgery of some sort, so I’m hoping you people will share your experiences with me.

This is the part where you email me at RhondaSaunders@gmail.com (or comment below if you don’t mind the world reading it) to share your very positive story and to tell me how knee surgery changed your life for the better and how you’ve never regretted it and that I should not just skip it and start saving for all-new titanium knees 15 years from now, instead of just fixing the originals in March.

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Neil Goldberg: a happiness project

The original Sunlion Jewelry

Have you seen Neil Goldberg riding his bike around town? He glows like a pregnant woman. I think he might be the happiest person alive. Which is amazing, all things considered.

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Everybody in Key West knows who Neil Goldberg is, but for readers who live in the real world, here’s a brief history:
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Goldberg was a talented, prominent local jeweler and a respected member of the Key West community for decades. He had a beautiful wife, three kids, and a shop on renowned Duval Street.
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Then in 2005, allegedly amid divorce and custody battle stress, he plowed his vehicle into three vacationing college students on scooters. In 2008, he was convicted on three counts of DUI causing serious injury and was sentenced to restitution, community service, and 104 days in jail followed by probation. Lucky, really.
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On the four-year anniversary of the accident, though, he violated the terms of his probation by smoking weed. And for that, he earned 12 years in the big house. He was attacked several times in prison and generally had a terrible experience, despite trying to make good use of his time by teaching other inmates to read and helping several work toward GED completion. I guess that’s the whole point of prison; it’s an ugly place.
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But in a strange twist of fate, Goldberg was released from prison after serving 16 months of his 12-year sentence. As it turns out, crucial ICOP video evidence had been excluded from his trial and the court decided that wasn’t fair.
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So here’s Neil Goldberg today. He’s a 60-year-old ex-con who’s lost his life savings, his home, and everything he owned. He also lost a good portion of whatever respect he’d earned in this town over the past 40 years or so. His kids moved away with their mother. And he’ll never drive again, which is why we see him biking to his sales job at a sandal store on Duval (not far from his former shop), like he’s the luckiest man on Earth.
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I’m not writing to debate the details of Goldberg’s conviction or release. Or to discuss the legalization of marijuana. Or to ponder saving for a new wedding ring since mine came from Goldberg and now I think of his mess every time I look at it. Nope, none of that. I like Neil. My interactions with him were always positive. Plus, I’m a sucker for an involved parent, which he absolutely was before he flushed his own good fortune down the crapper.
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I’m simply writing because seeing Goldberg reminds me about the incredible power of attitude. He can’t uncrash into those kids to unalter their lives forever, and he can’t untoke that anniversary reefer. But he can serve as an example of the degree to which choice influences our happiness or misery. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to admire his ability to carry on with his chin up, and to do it on the same little island that witnessed his string of fuckups.
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But I could be wrong. What do you think?
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