Tag Archives: Coming Up from the Down Low

When does the editing process stop

Letter from Lady Helena Gleichen addressing th...

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I think getting rejected by literary agents has made me a better writer.

My first rejection came two years ago. I was waiting on my editor to send me his inked up thoughts on the last five chapters. I had the publishing bug. I couldn’t wait any longer. I wanted to be published no matter what my editor thought. I submitted a query letter to an agent at Writer’s House. I studied some website I googled on how to write a query letter and wrote what I thought was brilliant.

Hardcore rapper 50 Cent meets Zane and realizes he’s gay

Dear agent,

Xitonce (pronounced existence), my novel, is an urban story about a young African American male caught in a love triangle with a man who suffers from panic attacks and a politician on the down low (dl) running for public office. From their story, a gripping story unfolds from a love letter that catapults the reader through an unforgettable tale of Detroit’s Black upper class community, homophobia in Peru, faking a marriage to gain citizenship, and two detectives trying to find a sadistic killer.

Like all urban novels Xitonce includes personal reflection, sex, crime, and revenge. However it veers from other works such that five very different characters reveal through their own stories how there are no coincidences in life but a single line of events that connect people.

Xitonce is one of few down low fiction works that is literary first, where many down low books falter and written to appeal to the mainstream literary audience. The result is a roller coaster showing how emotions can lead people to the lower depths of society.

As a young writer, I am looking for an experienced agent and I am thoroughly impressed with your agency.

The novel is 48,338 and fully complete. I am sending you the first five pages of Xitonce as stated in your submission guidelines.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

The agent responded less than five yours later.

Thanks, but I’m afraid this isn’t right for me.

By the way, the manuscript looks too short. Most novels should be closer to 70,000 words at least.

I was upset at first but relieved too. It wasn’t time for my book to be released.

I started sending out a new query letter two years after I sent my query to Writer’s House. I have received about five rejection letters. With each letter, I have thought over some of the dialogue and descriptive paragraphs that didn’t flow or fit well with the rest of the story. I have revised almost 20 chapters since I thought I was finished with the book.

Last week, I sent off an updated query letter to my editor. My last query letter was a little boring. I let my editor reader it. He said it wasn’t suspenseful enough. I rewrote it and rewrote it. The final current version is more suspenseful than the other versions have been.

I wanted to get my editor’s approval before sending off the new query letter to another agent. One agent I was interested in sending a query letter too requests that new writers send her the first 50 pages of their work. I reread chapter 3 (pages 30-49) and realized that I didn’t love the chapter.

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alkebulan: a poem

Day, Fred Holland (1864-1933) - 1897 ca. - Bla...

Fred Holland

(for Rodney)

he poses in the bathroom mirror
head tilted left
benson and hedges cigarette pressed
against dark lips

white towel around his waist
he smears foam shaving cream
little strokes, cut
memories of our mothers

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the wink and the nod: a poem

Singapore Night Club

Copyright Abrilon

I wait for it
the wink and the nod

hand to waist
it’s dark enough
for this to be ok

come this way
no come this way
he walks his way

if I walk his way
we might be seen

he walks back by
hand to waist
a nod
come this way
no come my way
he walks my way

he takes my hand
and we’re dancing
this is the first time
I’ve done anything like this

is this the right place

for two men to stand

so close

like

this

dancing

(Updated May 14, 2011)

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Gay Black Male Writer in Search of Literary Agent: A how-to story on query letters

“Thanks so much for your query.” The response came one hour after I sent it. This agent was a backup. I queried ten. Five who publish gay and lesbian fiction and five who publish new authors. “Unfortunately, though, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for your work.” Polite. To the point. Unemotional. Still painful. It’s my third rejection for my novel. My first novel titled the Taste of Scars.

The day I finished my novel I created a vision board in my head. It’s not really a vision board if it’s in your head. I didn’t have time or the resources to go out and buy an actual board. In The Secret, the author suggests that the key to getting anything that you want is to imagine it, write it down, and have a visual representation of it. I thought if I imagined securing a literary agent I’d have a literary agent within a month.

The query process wasn’t what I expected it to be.

I queried a literary agent at Writer’s House a year ago. My best friend who is a writer and actor suggested I get a literary agent. I had planned to submit my book to a publisher. I didn’t know literary agents existed. I didn’t know how to go about getting a literary agent. I googled literary agent and found an article on how to write a query letter.

I absorbed and wrote a catchy attention grabber. Hardcore rapper 50 Cent meets Zane and realizes he’s gay.

Rapper 50 Cent in concert sporting Bling-Bling

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My full query letter:

Hardcore rapper 50 Cent meets Zane and realizes he’s gay

Xitonce (pronounced existence), my novel, is an urban story about a young African American male caught in a love triangle with a man who suffers from panic attacks and a politician on the down low running for public office. From their story, a gripping story unfolds from a love letter that catapults the reader through an unforgettable tale of Detroit’s Black upper class community, homophobia in Peru, faking a marriage to gain citizenship, and two detectives trying to find a sadistic killer.

Like all urban novels Xitonce includes personal reflection, sex, crime, and revenge. However it veers from other works such that five very different characters reveal through their own stories how there are no coincidences in life but a single line of events that connect people.

Xitonce is one of few down low fiction works that is literary first, where many down low books falter and written to appeal to the mainstream literary audience. The result is a roller coaster showing how emotions can lead people to the lower depths of society.

As a young writer, I am looking for an experienced agent and I am thoroughly impressed with your agency.

The novel is 48,338 and fully complete. I am sending you the first five pages of Xitonce as stated in your submission guidelines

I thank you for your time and consideration.

P.S. Xitonce is marketable to today’s gay African American audience, the African American audience that craves information on the down low (since the success of On the Down Low and Coming Up from the Down Low by J.L. King and Beyond the Down Low by Keith Boykin), and the non-African American gay audience.

E.N.D.

Writing it I felt like an excellent query letter. Like whoever read it would sign me immediately. I know see its faults now. The attention grabber wasn’t an attention grabber. The first sentence has “novel,” “urban story,” “young male,” and “caught in a love triangle.” Those words lack detail and the punch needed to get an agent’s attention. I wasn’t selling my product. And if I can’t sell my product how can an agent sell it.

I stared at my computer for about ten minutes. “Thanks. But I’m afraid this isn’t right for me. By the way, the manuscript looks too short. Most novels should be closer to 70,000 words at least.” The by the way was what killed me. It felt like he was telling me to rethink my novel and sign up for creative writing 101. It was the best advice. Honestly, I can say when I started writing my book I knew nothing about writing. The sample chapter that I sent him was not well written or thought out. It took me a week to figure that out. At the time, I had about fifteen chapters and 40,000 words. A year later I have forty chapters and close to 90,000 words.

This time around. My query was a lot more polished. With this rejection I feel more confident. I’m four more rejection letters from getting an agent.

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