Life is a Cabaret

Revisioned by Marilyn Wolpin

With apologies to John Kander and Fred Ebb

What good are stories unread in your files?

Go make an agent’s day.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

Put down the journal,

The phone and the broom,

It’s time to send WIPs away.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

Come on hit “send,”

And then again.

Throw fear away,

Start speculating.

Right this way,

Your “nos” are waiting.

What good is writing

A story or ten

That sit in a file at home?

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.

I used to have a girl friend

Known as Glorie,

With whom I shared

A page or two of my kidlit stories.

She helped me make my words

Better for a while,

But then she went out

And published her own pile.

The day she won the writing prize

My nerves began to fluster –

So that’s what comes from

So much bravery and muster!

And when I saw her stand up

And take all the applause

I knew no matter what might come,

This was my new cause.

I think of Glorie to this day

I remember how she’d turn to me and say,

“What good are stories unread in your files?

Go send them out today.

Life is a Cabaret, my friend,

Life is a Cabaret.”

Being My Own Best Agent

by Marilyn Wolpin

I just spent a most disheartening hour researching agents. The agent I’d been stalking for almost two years sent me her latest “no thank you” yesterday and since that’s the third strike, I’ve decided it’s time to move on.

I have a database with 175 agent names. I love databases. They are orderly and have lots of information. But they are not static things. They are always in flux – agents leave the business, move to another agency, open their own agency, stop accepting submissions. So it’s a thing that must be maintained, managed, and manipulated. Databases don’t complain. I can massage them without a peep of resistance.

I researched twelve agents in my database today. Not one turned out to be someone I would or could reach out to. Here are my results: Four are closed, three don’t want picture books, two were illustrator only, and I rejected three for other reasons (cavalier attitude on MSWL, not enough information on what she’s looking for, and, let’s just say, other). Can I relate that to my work? If I have a dozen stories, is any one publisher or agent out there going to be interested in just one of them? Or conversely, if I send one story to twelve editors, will not even one editor fall in love with it?

I will wend my way through this maze of information and research more agents tomorrow and the next day until I find one who seems simpatico. But until then I will continue doing what I’ve been doing: Being my own best agent.

I am NOT an Aspiring Writer

by Marilyn Wolpin

I am NOT an aspiring writer. I AM a writer. I write stories for children, haikus, letters to the editor, blogs, and queries. I don’t aspire to write these. I just do it.

According to Webster’s to aspire is to hope to achieve something. Do you “aspiring” writers hope to achieve writing? I don’t think so.

I think the hope is that we become published writers. We believe this feat is validation that we are indeed writers. This victory must mean that our words have won over the gatekeepers: an agent, an editor, a team at the acquisition meeting. Oh, how our hopes have turned to reality. Now we are truly writers.

It also means that since I am published, I can remove “aspiring” from my Twitter or Facebook profile. No.

You are defeating yourself by saying you are an aspiring writer. You know the art and craft of writing. You use luscious language, you leave room for the illustrator, you use a combination of short and long sentences, you have a theme, an arc, all the elements. You go to your desk every morning or when you can. You type words into your computer. You revise. You revise some more. You think about your work in the shower, on your walks, in the grocery store, in your dreams.

Guess what that means? You are a writer. No “aspiring” necessary. You don’t need validation from the gatekeepers. You only need it from yourself.

Saying you are an aspiring writer is begging. It’s a psychological deterrent. A writer’s block. Does a musician call him or herself aspiring? When she practices a Bach two-part invention over and over, does she say I am an aspiring pianist? I hope she does not. Does an artist call herself aspiring before she has a show or sells her art? I think not.

So don’t ASPIRE to be a writer. Just DO it. The joy is in the doing. Stop hoping that you are a writer and start believing that you are a writer. I promise it will give you strength.